Saturday, August 6, 2011

IS It Good to You?

Hello Fans:

You've finally completed your manuscript and so you ask yourself, now what?  Well, before you can publish your masterpiece, there is the much dreaded task of revisions, revisions, revisions!  The easy part, for me, is always the writing, but it's those pesky revisions that I absolutely loathe.  And, I don't care if you're an accomplished author or not, there is no such thing as writing it all out, and it's publish perfect.  No way no how.  Trust me, there is always room for improvement.
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Fast forwarding, let's say your manuscript is polished and you have your editor take one last look at the finished product, only to be told there's a problem with the dialogue between some of your characters.  I was taught that using slang as dialogue for characters is one of the worst offenses a writer can make.  But you took the time to write out what you wanted, and your editor feels you need to change what some of the characters are saying.
Ok, now you have a decision to make.  Do you stay true to your characters and let them speak the way you know they are to speak, or do you take your editor's advice and amend the dialogue?  Well, if this has never happened to you, consider yourself very lucky, but, unfortunately for me, this is an argument I get into quite frequently with my editor.  Her position is that the slang may be too difficult for some to comprehend.  Some readers may find the flow of the story held up because it's not proper English.  My argument is, if I have two African-Americans speaking, and there's a heated discussion between the two, if I write it in proper English, any African-American person reading the words will immediately be insulted because they know all too well that isn't the way some of us speak.

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If you read Push by Sapphire, anyone with an 8th grade reading capability or higher clearly knows that book was not written in proper English.  And there was good reason for that because the main character was uneducated and the author would not have been true to herself nor her main character had she made her speak in proper English.  I've read countless books wherein characters spoke broken or poor English and the story read just fine, but for whatever reason, my editor feels as though you should write words the way they were intended to be used.  So needless to say, we bump heads quite a bit because I disagree with her views on this.

There are times when we compromise with one another and play the give-and-take game and I sometimes will take into consideration her revising of my dialogue, and other times I stand firm and flat out refuse to change my words.  We really had a tough time when I wrote Mello and June because she felt June's harsh profanity was unnecessary.  And of course, I totally disagreed.  June is June and there wasn't any room for compromising on that.  We also debated on my doing a sequel to M and J, and I decided that that was not going to happen.  The story spanned 50 years.  I felt my readers could decide for themselves how the characters lived out the rest of their lives.
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We then had a small controlled argument about the location in which the musical romance took place.  She felt I should name an actual location, and I felt the music told the period quite well, which is why I turned the chapters into 'songs' with the title and artist who sang it.  With the Internet, all one has to do is Google the name of the song, and the year it was recorded tells you the rest, which I might add, I told to her, and she bent a little on that.

Silent Knight presented its own share of problems.  I was happy with the story, as I always am, and of course, revision time came, and we went around and around about the content of the storyline, and about the location in which the children lived that told the story.  Please do not get me wrong, my editor is really good at what she does, but she doesn't understand urban living, nor the dialogue that comes out of the ghetto.  But having said that, she loved my story and gave me her blessings on it, as she always does.

The reason I shared this with you is for a very good reason.  Being a writer, you're excited about what you've written and you are gambling that your readers will feel the same way, and in most cases, they do tend to like your work.  But your editor can be a whole 'nother story.  (smile).  She'd hate that I just wrote that.  However, there comes a time when you have to really know yourself well enough and put your foot down and simply state, this is good enough for me.  Sometimes you just cannot compromise writing 'correctly' just because that is the way people should speak.  Every person has a story and he/she will tell their story in the way that suits them.  So, no matter what happens, you have to trust your gut, go with your instincts and just go for it, and whatever happens, happens.

But, and that's a big one there, please remember, that can also work against you.  There will be many factors your editor may point out that really does need to be heard and acted upon.  After all, editors do not run cheap and if you've got a professional one, and they are truly good at what they do, you really do need to take some of the risks and put your I'm-the-writer-and-no-one-tells-me-what-to-do attitude away, and listen to what they are telling you, because this is why you are paying them, so don't forget that (if you hired a professional editor). 

Editing is a huge part of the publishing world and one of the most important, next to writing itself.  Many times when I'm in the writing zone, my fingers are flying a mile a minute and my mind is racing and I'm concentrating on getting the words down and you're not always thinking about continuity, or the characteristics you wrote on page twenty about your character, and then on page sixty-five you wrote something completely different, or the timeline doesn't match the way you initially started out.  Those things are critical to a story, and it's the editor's job to find those errors and correct them, and anything else he/she feels you need to address, which is why it can take weeks, if not months to edit your manuscript.  Now you see why I absolutely loathe revisions, but you must do them!

We as writers tend to take it personal when someone rips our manuscript apart, literally, page by page.  Cause if you're like me, you're thinking, hey, it took me months, hell, years even, and who are you to tell me this isn't going to work?  You get defensive and take every little critique personal, and trust me, your editor has your back (that is, if you have a good one).  I know my editor does and she always guides me the best way she knows how, and I applaud and appreciate her efforts.  But when you've done dozens of track changes and redlining, emailing the manuscript back and forth and it gets to the point where you can't stand your own manuscript anymore, there just comes that time, when you, the writer, must say, okay enough is enough, and I'm happy with the work.
I don't believe anyone truly masters writing because it's one of those talents that always transitions.  What I do believe is that you will get better with more practice, knowing yourself, trusting and believing in your own abilities as a writer and listening, not only to your editor, but to your reading audience because it helps you to grow.  This is why criticism is a necessary evil, as we ventured down that road on a previous blog post.  It's all apart of being a writer, and no, it's definitely not easy and no one said it would be.
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And, of course, you know what's coming next. . .writers never quit.  For if you quit, you are not a writer!  Also, writers always write.  If you do not write down your thoughts or begin to start or work on your manuscript, you are not a writer.  My profession is called 'writing' for a reason, it's because of what I do.  So, if you aren't keeping up with your writing, don't call yourself a writer.  Only those who stick with it and are truly dedicated to the writing profession are the only people I take seriously.

I'm only interested in those who do, and not those who dream they do, but never put their dreams into action.  And did it ever occur to some of you that maybe when you put forth some effort on what it is you enjoy doing, perhaps more doors would open for you?  Just some food for thought. 

By the way, I've taken off some time from writing seriously to enjoy my favorite authors' books and catch up on reading and enjoy what is left of summer.  But I force myself to write on my blog each and every Saturday because that's what I conditioned myself to do.  So when fall comes around, I'll delve back into my manuscript and get back to it, but make no mistake, I never stop writing totally.  I just take little breaks in between. 
With that, fans, I hope you've had a great summer thus far and continue to enjoy.  School will be back in session soon, so make sure to make the best use of the time left to summer, and stay cool.  It's been record-breaking hot.  Until next weekend, continue to Write ON! writers!
Kimberly Ranee Hicks, Author/International Poet