Tag Archives: editing

The Monday Muse: Even a Muse Needs a Makeover!


A writing friend and I were discussing our manuscripts the other day. She’s a bit newer to the whole path-to-publication madness than I am, and she was bemoaning what she perceived as the shortcomings in her Work In Progress. “I read mine,” she said, “and then I read your manuscript, and I just don’t think I’ll ever be able to write that well.”

Now, I am not telling you this story to shamelessly brag on my writing. Rather the opposite, in fact. Because my answer to my friend was basically, “I don’t think I’ll ever write that well either.” You see, my manuscript, which my agent has out on submission to several publishers, is not what I wrote. My writing, quite frankly, is not nearly as good as what ended up in my manuscript.

So, what happened? My writing appeared in the first draft, lo, these many months ago. Then I edited. And re-edited. And sent it out to beta readers. And re-edited. And then did some major rewrites. And more re-editing. What the editors are reading (and hopefully falling in love with!) is not exactly my writing. It is my writing after extensive plastic surgery, weightloss, and a professional makeup job.

Really, have you ever seen those photos in the grocery store tabloids — Celebrities Without Makeup? Some of the most gorgeous women in the world look a little — or a lot — less appealing in the cold hard light of day, sans makeup, hair, and designer clothes. For example, take the incredibly gorgeous, incredibly talented Sofia Vergara. I love her in Modern Family, where one of the running jokes is how her over-the-top gorgeousness affects men. But I recently found a photo where Sofia was — how shall I say this? Not quite over the top. Here it is:


After you get over the shock, though, you can see the improved version of Sofia lurking somewhere in there. The woman in the first photo has great bone structure, good hair, and all the other things she needs. At this point, though, those natural attributes need to be polished to bring her up to the level we know and recognize as “Sofia Vergara.”

Your manuscript, hot off the first draft press, is the unmade up, greasy-haired, sweat-pants and tee-shirt version of your story. Don’t compare it to other people’s writing until you’ve hired it a stylist, done its makeup and coiffure, draped it in borrowed jewels from Harry Winston, and shoved it into Spanx and a beaded evening gown. When it’s ready to hit the red carpet, it’s ready to submit.

Pleasantly Surprised

I approached the computer with trepidation. It was here, at last. The email I had longed for, had dreaded, had thought about deleting without reading. I could do that,  you know. If I just ignored all emails, letters, and phone calls from Champagne Books, eventually they would decide I had died or joined a convent to repent my sins and I wasn’t gonna publish my baby. I mean, wouldn’t they? Of course, there was that nasty bit of business about a contract, but surely, speaking as an attorney now, they wouldn’t sue me. Would they? Yeah, they might.

So I took a deep breath and hit the “read” button. Nice friendly letter from my editor, Nikki. (Thank God she has good name. I have two close friends named Nikki/Nicky. I couldn’t have coped with an Edna or a Gertrude.)  She said I had a strong heroine, and that I had good insight into how her childhood had affected her personality.  SQUEEEEEE! Okay, that’s a good start.

Then a couple of points about what’s wrong. Is she saying something is WRONG with my writing? My soul screams in despair, but since it is after midnight and the babies are asleep, I just whimper and settle down to read what she says. Hmmm, my timeline is unclear; if they met in October and married in December, when was the London trip?  Dammit, I thought no one would notice that!  Yeah, she caught me on a plot point that I thought would get lost in the lovely flow of my prose.  And my heroine  Susan seems less than sympathetic for partying hearty with the Haute Ton whilst back home her stepmother is being abused by Susan’s crazy father? Well, yeah, I guess she ought to write home once in a while.  She knows Dad’s a nut, and if Susan’s not there to beat on, Julia is in the line of fire. Yeah, good point.

And then I scroll through the MS itself.  I’m expecting a sea of red ink to flow from my computer screen, and sure enough, there are some changes right there on the first page. Gee, why does Nikki think it’s a problem to say “this evening” three times in four paragraphs?  Picky, picky, picky.  Okay, yeah, I then say it again on the next page. Maybe I should run a find for that.

Luckily, she does not mention anything about  using “ing’s” and “ly’s” on occasion.  (Take that, Judge-who-must-not-be-named!) She does notice that my heroine and her brother sometimes have the same last name, and sometimes they don’t. Yeah, I changed the family name as the story developed. Thought I had caught all of those.

Skimmed through a couple times, and you know what? She’s right. Absotively, posilutely correct about the stuff I need to fix. And the things I thought I would have to fight for — a couple of scenes, a historical fact or two — she didn’t even mention.

So, despite months of chewing upon my nails and cussing at the cat, my anxiety was for naught. I can live with this. Given the horror stories I’ve heard about editors from Hades, I feel like I hit the jackpot.

And so to work . . . .

Thursday Thought – Ernest Hemingway

Write drunk. Edit sober. Ernest Hemingway, American author.

Stop Playing with It!!!

So I have a request for a partial from Scott Eagan of the Greyhaus Agency. Great! But I can’t seem to stop messing with my manuscript!!!

I keep trying to improve it, make it perfect. Of course, you have to edit and improve things — everything you send needs to be the best it can be. But where is the line between editing and fidgeting?
I’m not sure I’m improving it. I am just changing it. But until the darn thing goes in the mailbox, I think I am going to be worrying at it like a sore tooth. I wish it was morning so I could take it to the Post Office and then it would be beyond my control.
Of course, for all the playing with it and fiddling with it, as soon as I mail it, I will find a typo. Never fails.

Let’s see if the gods of computerdom will let me upload the incredible Billy Zane from Titanic (bad boys are always so much more interesting than the hero!)250481~Billy-Zane-Posters

Excellent book for writers

I found an old book at the library — Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King, copyright 1993. It is fabulous! It actually explains why things work and don’t work, and gives you examples of good writers doing great things, and great writers doing bad things, so you can see for yourself. I am about to go through my novel and rip it apart and rebuild it with this book by my side.
Cannot recommend it highly enough! See if you can find a copy. Then again, if you write Georgian/Regency romance, don’t find it. Leave it for me to use — I need all the advantages I can get!

And now I will go find todays treat for the visual —

Captain Kirk!

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