As “first day of school” photos start flooding social media, it’s a sure sign that summer is unofficially over. Even though it’ll nearly be a month before autumn begins, for most people in the U.S., the school season marks an end to all the plans, an end to all you hoped to accomplish during the “break” and “summer months”, and a time to start thinking about a new season. This change is actually reflected in the publishing world, also, where September and October are considered to be the last hurrah before the holidays take minds off books for a while.
Like so many people, I had grandiose plans for what I intended to accomplish this year. My plans actually got fried long before summer started—with learning in the winter that I was expecting another baby (due in a few weeks) and the pandemic shutting down plans in the spring. I hoped to blog a book and record audio for it, start a podcast for creatives who are mothers, get another first draft written, and edit two of my manuscripts to final drafts. Here’s what I did instead:
Given that I said I wanted to edit, you’d think that would be good, right? Except the manuscript I edited wasn’t one of the two I planned. No, instead it was the one I thought I had finished. The one that I promised myself I would take a break from. At some point we all do have to decide when we’re “finished” with something and put it aside, and this has been the manuscript that I love too much to just stuff in a drawer. Here’s link for more on the editing process: Editing: You Need a Plan.
So when Covid moved one of my planned writing and editing retreats to a virtual conference, I opted out. Unfortunately, much as I would have loved to connect with that group of writers, what I needed most from the retreat was the time away from my rowdy kids to focus solely on writing. That wasn’t going to happen virtually. With the extra money in my writing budget, I decided to hire an editor to work on that aforementioned manuscript.
And what happened? It reminded me of why so many writers have drafts labeled “finaldraft20.doc” or “FINAL final.doc”. Remember: When you say you are absolutely, totally finished editing something…chances are you’re wrong.
Lessons I Learned this Summer
Though I’ve hired editors in the past for partial critiques and even developmental editors, the one I hired this time gave me insights that completely blew me away. So I took her advice to heart and went back through the entire manuscript, getting feedback from her along the way on plot, pacing, character development and then, later, on what to cut.
Here’s what I learned:
- A good editor is worth every single penny. They have a keen eye for things you wouldn’t think to look for and will help steer you in the right direction.
- Even though writing is thought of as solitary work, collaborative efforts can help hone your skills. This makes sense if you think about it: critique groups, editors, beta readers are all important sources of feedback. But you do have to get a thick hide and learn to take critique.
- Editing can be fun! Even though it’s not usually my favorite task, I actually really enjoyed this revision in ways I didn’t expect. I got to know my protagonist on a totally different level and approached her motivations and arc with a much greater sense of her emotional state throughout.
After slogging away at my revision for months, I am actually thrilled with the final product. The word count might still a bit higher than I intended, but now that summer is winding down, I’ve realized I need to set this one to the side and be happy with what I produced. I’ve got a baby coming soon and kids to homeschool and, despite the craziness of it all this summer, I put together a book I am proud of.
So I didn’t blog a new book. I didn’t start a podcast. And there’s no new first draft, or two more finished manuscripts. But that’s okay. I put my heart and soul into a project I’ve loved doing. Anyway, a writing career is a marathon, not a sprint. Maybe these alternate summer plans were just what I needed to bring closure to a project that’s been long on my heart.