Monday, November 06, 2006

Why Do We Edit?

If I had my way, I would write perfectly from the very start of the manuscript and I would never have to edit. I don’t like to edit. After about the fourth pass, I get a very “been there, done that, want to throw it under a train” feeling and I start to get sick and tired of the story. That’s always a good time to take a break, but I know that I have to come back and edit it again. Why?

I was explaining the “why” to a friend the other day, and in the back of my mind I heard a little voice that sounded surprisingly like me saying, “This would make a great blog.” So, folks, here’s the why.

When you write a book, your job as the author is to create a world for your reader. You pull them into it from the first pages, wrap them in cords of suspense or in warm fluffy blankets of romance, and you keep them there. You feed them with plot and dialogue. You entice them with twists and turns. You make your book a place they want to be, and they hate to pull themselves away for any reason. You want to keep their attention riveted on your words, on the spell that you have cast. You don’t want anything to interrupt that hypnotic state you’ve so carefully crafted.

Nothing throws a reader out of a hypnotic state like bad grammar, a poorly constructed sentence, or a mislaid historical fact. Your reader is floating along on a blissful sea of literary loveliness, and suddenly BAM! Smack up against a poorly constructed sentence. The spell is broken as the reader tries to figure out what you meant. It will take at least two pages to get them back under your spell, and in the space of time that takes, they may get up to make a sandwich, answer the phone, or run an errand, and you might not get them back for days.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the most important reason to edit. Yes, it pleases the editor. Yes, it makes your manuscript more presentable. Yes, it’s the professional thing to do. But what it all boils down to is this: if you so successfully entrance your reader that they feel they have escaped to your world for a blissful three hours, they will want you to entrance them again and again. They will come back for more. They will recommend your books. They will buy your new releases. They will rant and rave about you to everyone they meet. Best of all, for those precious three hours, you will have granted them the gift of relaxation and you send them back out into the world better able to face their day. That’s powerful. That’s worth all the angst of editing, isn’t it?

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