Monday, 25 June 2012

Weekly Drudgery

This post was supposed to go online on Saturday. And it didn’t for the same reason my battle against the ‘hads/coulds/weres and the lys’ took a back seat. It was the war of the laptop crash.

My laptop had been put to sleep while I took a nap. I woke up but my laptop refused to. Now I agree I subject it to almost the same waking hours that I endure myself, but hey, it’s a writer’s laptop. It’s meant to journey with me and my travails of writing and other shenanigans. But I guess it decided it wanted a bit more than that. Besides a two day rest, it also wants an acknowledgment in my novel, which after much duress, I have given into. (Suggestions are welcome as to how it should be framed when my novel gets there). So I had to bear the agonising pain of checking everything on my Iphone and watching TV, which I hadn’t done in almost a decade.

It also had put into me a seedling of horror. What if the hard disk had corrupted and all my work was gone? I do keep a copy of manuscript on an external drive and I suggest everyone should have multiple copies of their MS as well. But the editing of the past couple of weeks had not been uploaded on my back-up and I prayed to the Gods of Atheism to protect my hard disk. And boy did they deliver!

Which brings me back to what this post was originally intended to be about. Editing. I am a new author who knows very little about writing a good book and consequently, my first draft sucked like a black hole. The second draft isn’t much better and sometimes I feel my first was better. When I finally feel happy, warm and glowy (yes, that is a word and I say so!) about just the first chapter, my beta readers and CP’s descend like a hungry swarm of locusts and tear it apart. And they come back and dump the whole thing back to me saying – ‘What sort of crap are you trying to feed us? We may be locusts but we aren’t going to gobble up this trash’. (Side Note before I get killed: Locusts are like angels. I love them, don’t you?)

Most of it is kind and helpful, some of it is harsh and helpful, some are brutal and helpful and a very teeny tiny portion I disregard because as an author I cannot strive to please everybody. The basic rules for editing have been laid down to cut extraneous words. They make your MS shine with its tightness and without losing its flavour.

Editing is painful and I can only hope the road will get bearable as I travel down it again and again. Or atleast my feet will be like a Hobbit’s and I will be impervious to the pain.

As far as critiques go, I think I am thick-skinned. It comes with being a lawyer. How do you think lawyers survive a hundred bullets a day? I love helpful advice but cutting out every single ‘ly’ word crushes my narrative instead of speeding it along. Ditto for telling me to use American spelling instead of British. I agree it may be a bit of an eyesore but please don’t be put-off my story for that simple reason. And if you are please keep your critique. Because filtering the good advice from the worthless in that is painful.

I am absolutely useless when it comes to spelling, grammar and punctuation but I will tell you when a story flows well or not. If you are a Grammar Nazi, by all means blitzkrieg my writing. I love it. But please refrain from trashing anybody’s work simply because it isn’t your kind of writing. The audience, genre and writing style may be completely different from yours. That doesn’t necessarily mean it sucks.

I realise this has been a long rant and I know most of it has been brought about from the severe effects of laptop deprivation. Any thoughts on laptop crashes, editing and sucky crits are welcome.  

Signing off,


  1. I've been planning on making a blog post about doing crits on books you aren't really a fan of. It is hard! And it is hard to know what to say about it and to keep yourself objective, regardless of the genre or plot of the story.

    Also favourite, neighbour, colour are all correct spellings. Don't let the Americans take our 'U'!

  2. Oh, editing is painful. But it is so helpful. Don't worry if you have to reread your MS many times to get it tightly written and all that stuff. I've reread mine about 10 times (and so many other people have done even more). The second draft is an improvement, but don't count on it being your perfect one :)

    Good luck! Revisions are hard, but they are so helpful. They help you fall in love with your MS again.

  3. It's hard to say, because when I number things I often skip over the numbers I don't like, but I think I'm up to around revision #12 at this point. Good times.
    The UK/ US spelling differences are easy to deal with, just leave them as is, I can still tell what colour means with the u, but it's the phrases and slang and other such stuff that can be hard for critiquing (not because I think they necessarily should be changed (the world would be much less interesting if we all spoke American English))
    but it can be hard sometimes to tell if something is a mistake or just a cultural difference sometimes. Because there are some phrases that just don't make any sense to me at all,not because they are wrong and should be changed, but because I have no clue what they mean. So I know I like to point those things out, not because I think the author should change the, but just because A) I can't always tell what's a cultural difference and what's a mistake, b) also just to let them know that a certain segment of their readership may not understand it either, and they can make their own choices as to how much to teach us 'mercuns some nifty new turn of phrases, and how much to make concessions to a certain demographic.

    Because it would be a mistake for anyone to assume people should automatically make everything Americanized. Often times it can be really cool to learn some new phrases from a book you're reading. (And it happens with more than just other countries, as a northerner, I often times don't get half of what southerners are saying.)

  4. This post cracked me up and made me cringe for you and had me nodding along. It's really hard to know what crits to take to heart and which to reject. I always say, STICK WITH YOU GUT!

    Also, don't lose the u's - American English is overrated, I'm sure.

    Also, if you want more critiques (of the nicer variety), you can check out my "Critique My Query" hop going on now in preparation for the Tricia Lawrence pitch contest!

  5. I guess I had an opposite experience of most people. I'm kind of insecure, so I get surprised that my beta readers don't point out MORE things wrong with my novels. I enjoy having someone who's actually read them now and who will warn me about the kinds of things people might complain about if I don't change them, whether they are preference or more factual. And I love reading their novels because I love to read!

    But sometimes I just want to be done with editing and have a finished product because I want to have accomplished more by now. That part is frustrating. Also, I'm still scared every day that I'll miss some HUGE thing in my edits and that people will read my novel after I've published it and point out this huge horrible thing that somehow everyone else missed and I'll feel like a big idiot.

    I'm actually more scared of the readers who paid to read my novel than anyone.

    And if you're struggling, don't be afraid to talk to your betas about it. Honestly, they are rooting for you. I root for all the people who I've read the novels of and know they are more supportive of me than other readers will be. Sometimes you just need to hear it from them.

    1. Sometimes if I'm getting really caught up in the story I feel like I'm probably more likely to miss some small little mistakes.
      I know what you mean with the wishing I was done and had a final product already.
      And it will be cool to see when someone I was beta reading for gets published. Party! (The Gatsby kind where I stand on the balcony in my tux far away from everyone.)