After publishing Write Every Day in the for writers category, I had to go back and edit out a mistake. Thirteen mistakes. I used the word everyday wrong every time. Thirteen times. All incorrect.
Everyday – ordinary. Not special.
Every day – doing something daily.
Boy, is my face red.
Why am I telling you this?
Eventually, someone will tell you that you’ve made a mistake. You’ll learn a new grammar rule or an old grammar rule and recognize the dozens of ways you’ve mishandled the English language. You can be embarrassed. You can get angry (at yourself). You can run and hide and vow never to publish again. Or, you can be teachable. You can hear, apply, learn, and grow.
Being teachable might be more important than being perfect
I am not a perfect writer. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time you already know that. But, I continually learn and apply new knowledge so I can improve. I lean less on editors today than I did yesterday, but I still require LOADS of instruction.
I’ve discovered that most other writers will share their knowledge with a student eager to learn. Many editors will graciously explain tricky grammar rules when the student responds to their correction and advice with a teachable spirit. It’s not always about being perfect. It’s about being teachable.
Being teachable involves learning
When I learn something new, I write it down on the white board near my desk so I can refer to it easily. My editor or writer friends do not want to continually correct the same mistakes over and over again. They want me to improve. So when someone is teaching, LISTEN. Then, APPLY their advice to all drafts before sending them back for another critique.
It takes multiple passes and multiple eyes
I don’t catch every POV slip in one edit. I don’t correct every telling scene on a first pass. However, there should be a marked improvement with each pass and it is helpful to organize your edits.
I do multiple edits, each one focusing on something different. The first edit focuses on the big picture/main plot line/ does it make sense/and do I answer all the questions. The next is an edit in the heroine’s POV. I focus on her emotional/spiritual growth and her story arc. The next edit is in the hero’s POV and I focus on his emotional/spiritual growth and his story arc. I devote an entire edit to the romance, making sure the pacing is right. I take my time, addressing things one at a time. Finally, the last edit is grammar and punctuation. My weakest area.
I do my best to ensure I send my editor the cleanest draft possible. I have friends, further along in this writing world, who graciously look over my work at various points to help me see the story with fresh eyes. They always see things that I have missed. Always.
Slow down and enjoy the journey
After completing a first draft, I take a long break and celebrate the victory of having the bones of a book on paper. Then, after a rest, I start the long stretch of edits. If you give yourself some distance from the story, you may find yourself enjoying the edits rather than hating them.
You’ll send your best work to the publisher. You’ll send it after rounds and rounds of edits. You’ll send it after it has been critiqued by others in the writing community. You’ll send it when it is the best you can make it.
Then, be teachable when it sells and the publisher begins the editing process afresh.