Editing, Voice, and Diminishing Returns
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Editing. Some of your lips just curled, disgusted at the very thought. Some of you cried metaphorical bittersweet tears. Others (me! me!) love it. We all have to do it. At least if we want our writing to get anywhere.
We’ve all heard/read we must edit our work to a high gloss. Kill every adverb! Slaughter those “to be” verbs! Gouge! Tighten! Repeat. And again.
But at what point do we transition from making our manuscripts shine and doing harm? With all of the advice out there, it’s sometimes hard to distinguish between the two. There’s a point when you’ve edited as much as you can. You begin carving out the things that make your manuscript yours. You edit your voice. You edit the uniqueness that is your prose. Our writing becomes something we think it should be instead of what’s best for our story and what comes from our hearts. We lose sight on why we started writing in the first place: we love it.
Example: I want to read the merciless efficiency that is Joe Abercrombie’s. I want to waltz over, through, around the metaphors of Chabon. Feel the pain and the power that is Suzanne Collins’s.
You know the feeling. You’re at your favorite bookstore. Coffee, couches, chairs, books. Heaven. You pick up a book and read the first page. What grabs you more often than not? For me it’s voice. I don’t want to read voiceless, generic prose. I want to hear you in your writing. Your passion. Your desire. The reason you started this book.
I’m giving you permission to leave that adverb on page 156 because you know what, sometimes a perfectly placed adverb gives your story life. Every story, sentence, word is different. Only you know the how it should be written. Until, that is, you get an agent or editor. Then (mostly) do what they say.