Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Editing by Spouses

As I mentioned almost a week ago, I've figured out the plot details for the next segment of my book. However, for whatever reason, I've started looking back at my prior content again. I'm just neurotic that way, when I (by nature) can't have a lot of feedback on my WIP. Fortunately, my wife is a terrific editor, and is looking at a lot of the content, so that really helps. She's catching up on her reading of the chapters, and making a good number of small suggestions as she goes.

Now, I know a lot of professionals in this business immediately scoff at writers who have their spouse, or some other close friend or family member, as the primary reader/first-editor of their work. I can certainly understand that point of view: if the person really cares for you, the first order of business should be bolstering your confidence, right? What sort of person would tell their spouse that their work sucked?

Point taken. However, a spouse with an eye for editing can definitely help fix awkward sentences, identify weak or pointless passages, and tell you what works for them and what doesn't quite come across. Rarely is a WIP all-good or all-bad. For me, having my wife point out what really worked for her, as well as all those things that didn't, is a huge help. The former does help my confidence, of course, which is something that every aspiring writer needs, and the latter helps me refine my work and keep my ego in check (haha). My wife is better-read than me, and has an even better understanding of certain aspects of style and grammar, so there's definitely things that I learn by working with her, too.

There are a number of published authors who I have heard use their spouses as early readers, in this very same manner. Stephen King's wife, who is quite a novelist herself, reputedly reviews his earlier drafts (or at least he mentioned that she did earlier into his career -- I presume that she still does). Orson Scott Card has talked several times about how his wife, who is not a writer so far as I know, reads and comments on everything he writes chapter-by-chapter as he writes it.

What is the difference between what these writers (and myself) are doing from what some aspiring writers do? Well, the spouse may be the first reader and editor, but they can't be the last. Critique Partners, Agents, Editors, and/or writer-friends should be the next step. Even if your spouse is brutally honest at all times (hopefully in a nice way), it pays to have someone else look at your ms before you start sending it off to decision-makers (or asking your agent to send it off if you are already agented). To most, this last part is probably just common sense, but I wanted to point out that having multiple critical readers is not incompatible with having great editing done by a spouse, first.

At some point in every writer's career, he/she will start valuing brutally-honest feedback far above compliments, and a spouse who's reasonably "in the know" about this profession should know to respect that. And how to couch that honesty so that it comes across as constructive.

The stats as of today:
-38,250 estimated words.
-45,523 actual words.
-Six-and-a-half fully-revised-and-expanded chapters (114 pages total).
-Eleven completed chapters in all (153 pages).

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