Monday, November 3, 2014

Revisions/Edits - Your Fifteen Words of Fame

Have you had your fifteen minutes of fame yet? How about your 15 words of fame? Huh? I'll let you in on a little secret: A few of the words in every book come from other people--"Authors" in the form of critiquers, beta readers, and editors. Let me explain.

Two revision opportunities came my way last week, and it set me to thinking about how many printed words of an author are actually theirs. 

First, my critique group decided to take a break from sending one another our weekly ten pages to sending all the revised chapters of one manuscript that we have seen thus far, about 90-100 pages worth. This way we could better understand the upcoming chapters because we know how the plot was fixed, etc. (Some people's manuscripts change more than others.) 

Reading through, I found a phrase, sentence, or idea here and there used from each of us that had critiqued them earlier. At one point I thought, Hey, I'm in her book. Cool. I realized that those who critiqued my pages left their own mark there as well.

Secondly, I got my manuscript back from my editor (hooray!), and looked to see how much I would have to change. Mostly minor things, but I could see a couple places already where it was more than replacing three words with one, or placing the first sentence later in the paragraph. The editor had put in her own choice of words. Another light-bulb moment. Hey, my editor is in my book. Cool? 

Yeah, it's cool. These "suggestions" often work better than the original. Just because we sent off our precious and perfect manuscript to an editor or publisher doesn't mean further edits should feel any different than what early critiquers or beta readers had to say. Really. It's all for the cause of improvement. 

Don't get me wrong. An author is entitled to take the entire credit for his/her book. If there are fifteen words from someone else, who's going to care or know (besides them)? Edits start with the writer's words and ideas anyway. In most cases, the author will have the final say or can see wisdom in the revision. Quality is the goal.

What aha moments have come to you in your writing journey?

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