Even after announcing the publishing date for Return – The Survivalists my “final” manuscript is still roughly 99% done.
It seems forever “99% done.” After two rounds of professional edits, critiques, endless polishing and an untold number of head-to-desk moments, I’m still finding things I don’t like and things I want to change, tinker, improve and even fix. The script came back from my editor well enough, but as I was reading it aloud I found some things I wanted to add and needed to trim, which in turn, introduced other things that wanted adding and needed trimming.
Now, I’m not saying that all my effort for the past three months is for naught. I am, after all, mostly reduced to making very minor changes that better reflect what the characters are saying and doing. And as for what characters are saying, I will, hopefully, never try to put words in the character’s mouths. At this point, it is really more their story than mine. I’m mostly a historian, trying to get the facts straight while creating a narrative that doesn’t put people to sleep. But I digress.
There are a litany of complaints about the quality of self-published novels clogging the shelves, none of which I am going to reiterate here. From what I’ve observed, and read, it is not because us relatively inexperienced authors refuse to edit or even that we somehow fail to take editing seriously. It is that editing a book well is a much more difficult effort than any neophyte can even begin to imagine.
I admit that going into this project I completely underestimated the amount of work and attention to detail it requires to produce a quality book. There’s a reason that reputable publishers perform at least three different edits: development, line-editing and proofreading. Now that makes me wonder, are those three separate people or three people who do the same exact job? I’ll have to ask my editor. But again, I digress. It’s far too easy to get small but pertinent details wrong, repeat a word too many times, make a consistency breaking change, or even insert a typo when making an edit.
Moreover, I don’t think there is a single book in existence that couldn’t somehow be tweaked. You have to know when to let go which should usually be somewhere between coherently laying out all the plot points and excising all typos and writing the next Pulitzer Prize novel.
Either way, I’ll keep banging at this until the wire, because somewhere in this manuscript will always be something I hate and something that will completely embarrass me and something I love and something I want someone to hear no matter what.
My hope for the next book is that I use my experience to properly formalize the revision and editing process. Needless to say, I no longer find formalizing my writing process as “stifling” as it surely beats the sheer terror of getting picked apart on an Amazon review for clumsy dialogue, typos and inconsistent subject-verb agreement.