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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Rothstein

It's The Editing

When I talk to my friends and colleagues who write, most of us agree, the hardest part about writing, isn’t the writing. It’s the editing.

When I set out to write my first book, Heaven Sent, I didn’t have a plan. Not having a plan was probably the worst way to start out. Though there is a myriad of material out there for you, books, websites, online tutorials, etc., when I was starting out, I felt overwhelmed. I read everything I could as I was going through the process, but without any real direction I always went back to just writing.

I didn’t have a writing background; I went to school for Finance & Accounting. I would spend evenings and weekends in the library writing. I would just sit down at my laptop and let it all come out. I would write one chapter at a time, but not in chronological order. In the end, I had a plethora of material that I had to smash together. Though the experience of writing was a pleasant one, the linking together of material that I had written completely out of order was a nightmare.

Once I was done ordering and re-ordering all the chapters, I labeled it a final draft and set it aside. Several weeks later I moved on to what I had to do next, get an agent. I drafted query letters, using templates I found online and sent out packets. No one wanted my manuscript. Most agents and publishers didn’t even bother to send a rejection notice. Obviously, something was very wrong, but I had no idea what. Was it the topic, the writing, the characters, or was it just bad?

I ended up saving some money and sent out the manuscript to an editor I found online. The one take away from that person was that I had a POV issue. Essentially, I was head hopping. Before I re-wrote the entire book correcting the POV issue, I asked my enormously patient husband to read it. He agreed with the editors’ critiques, but had some of his own. He felt the book was haphazardly pieced together, to which I laughed and said “it kinda was.”

I ended up enrolling in an MBA program for Creative Writing. I started fresh and re-wrote the first chapter of the book. I knew what needed to happen in that first chapter, but I didn’t try editing my way out. I gave it to my husband, and he was almost afraid to tell me how much better it was. With all I had learned in school, and the critique I received from a professional editor, I ended up writing something much more polished and cohesive.

Thus began a very painful journey of re-writing the entire book. I started with an outline, I reduced the number of characters, and I labeled each chapter with the POV before re-writing it. I understand now how very basic these things are, but at the time I had no idea. There is a lot to be learned from the editing process, most of it will be tough. It’s like having a great teacher invest in you, push you, until you produce the very best thing you can. At times, it will be uncomfortable, you may even start to question your resolve. You probably won’t like that person very much. In the end though, if you are open and accepting of the critique for what it really is, then you will be much better off for having gone through it.

As I prepare to write the second book in the series, Hellbound, I am starting with my outline. I highly recommend visiting the Purdue Online Writing Lab as a resource on how to write an effective outline.

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