Saturday, May 8, 2010

Editor's Block

A picture is worth a thousand words. How appropriate this line is to me as I work to cut my childrens' picture book down to the prescribed 500-600 words. I know that along with the words, there will eventually be illustrations to tell the the story. A sage writing professor I had at McGill University once said that writing is recursive, words etched in my mind, often recalled and revisited like my own manuscripts. She impressed upon us how we need to take a break from our manuscript then revisit it with fresh eyes. Interesting how when we return to a written piece, editing happens seamlessly. It makes me think about the analogy to learning: learning is messy. So is writing. It doesn't happen linearly--we will veer off the path and come back to it. We learn as we blunder through the challenges of writing and editing to that final product.

Just as there is writer's block, I have learned that there is editor's block. We may be too close and perhaps hold too tightly to our manuscript to let go for the ultimate transformation from unpolished to polished. It struck me this morning while editing my manuscript for the gazillionth time that this exercise is a necessary one, and that I had to start out with over 1000 words to appreciate the writing-editing process and learn from it. So I leave it for a while. I take that walk or visit with a friend or do something with my family. Then I return with fresh eyes.

It's during these times that I appreciate the support of a wonderful writer's group--like-minded women who will take my manuscript to a place I may not be ready to go. Time to press "SEND" and post my work to our online group where I know the collectivity and objectivity will help me get my book to the next level. Looking  through their eyes, I will then be able to step back into my manuscript and add the final touches for a finished product.

How is your writing-editing process? Do you find yourself laboring over a piece only to put it away then return, editing it with a vengeance that drives it to the next level? Do you get editor's block? Do you have mentors and support systems for feedback? Do you find writing linear or just plain messy? Is it worth it in the end?

7 comments:

  1. blog joggin my way through the blogosphere. I've added you to my blog roll so I can come back and look around when I have more time.

    Happy Mother's Day!

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  2. Good advice Kelly and, for me, an introduction to the idea of editor's block. I guess I'm lucky in that, since I tend to leave my proper editing until I've finished the whole of a first (or several) draft(s), it's a relief to start doing it and it feels just nice to be playing with words and not trying to follow the antics of my characters. That doesn't mean I treat it lightly - quite the reverse. I think you're right to encourage people to take editing more seriously.

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  3. I appreciate what you say about not trying to follow the antics of your characters. To me that risks leading to censorship which can also block to our writing and editing. Some of the characters in my plays say things I might only think. We must not censor until it is really time to cut away in the interest of polishing.

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  4. Thanks V! And Happy Mother's Day to you! The piece you wrote on your blog about Mother's Day is poignant and as a mother, I certainly can relate! What a journey that we only understand our own mothers when we become one!

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  5. Hi Kelly,
    Thanks for stopping by my blog. Yours is lovely. I'm still trying to navigate my way through the word press jungle. What you said about the editing process is so true. It helps when you walk away and leave your work to "simmer" as someone said, but the finished product can never taste as good without the ingredients that others stir into it. I would be lost without my critique group.

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  6. Thank you for visiting, Angela, and for your comments! I love your analogy about the ingredients others stir into our work by giving feedback and your use of the word simmer. Cooking is such a powerful metaphor for writing.

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  7. you are invited to follow my blog

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