This article was contributed by Ekta Garg, a professional writer who edits manuscripts, writes for TheBollywoodTicket.com, numerous other publications and her own site The Write Edge. To learn more about Ekta and her work, visit http://thewriteedge.wordpress.com
“You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.” Arthur Plotnik
Celebrated author Arthur Plotnik shared these words about the meticulous, painstaking work editors do. And while most aspiring authors may cringe at the thought of allowing someone else to touch their manuscripts, the fact remains that a good editor can help bring out the best in your work. The trick comes in trusting your editor’s instinct and understanding that while s/he isn’t perfect, your editor wants to help you and your story shine.
As a writer myself, I understand the apprehension in allowing someone else into the world you have created. After all you’ve spent months—possibly years—with these characters. You’ve stayed awake late at night outlining key chapters and living through your characters’ trials and triumphs. In some cases you’ve gotten to know and love these people and their situations more than your own family. You’ve argued with your characters, cried with them, cheered with them, and sighed in relief as you wrote those important last two words: “The End”.
And then, all of a sudden, a real-life person comes along and introduces himself or herself as your editor. You watch as your editor eyes your manuscript with something akin to glee. And you start to feel the hairs rise on the back of your neck as you realize this person actually wants to make cuts to your story. How can you possibly leave your baby in the hands of this person, this, this…editor?
The key here is to understand exactly what an editor does. A good editor does not want to make cuts to your manuscript simply for the sake of making cuts. An editor’s job is to read carefully through your work. S/he looks for the necessary elements, those essential descriptions and sections of dialogue that help your story fly. And then s/he takes out the rest. And if your editor has done the job right, you won’t even be able to make a distinction between your work and your editor’s careful paring of your story.
That’s not to say allowing someone else to evaluate your story is a comfortable process. At times the edits can almost inflict a physical sensation. Imagine a snake that has just shed its skin. The snake has left the old skin behind, but how does it feel immediately after disposing of the unnecessary article? The wind probably chafes and makes its body prickle. Yet after a short period of time, the snake feels comfortable and doesn’t remember the old skin at all.
Much in the same way, editing takes away layers of writing that no longer belong to the essence of the story. When you begin writing your manuscript, it’s important—crucial, even—to allow all the words to appear on the page. Don’t think; just let the words come. Keep them, and give your writer’s self a free hand to include as many words as you want.
Once the manuscript is complete, the editor has the mammoth task of searching through all the words, peeling back all the layers, to find the heart of the story. As your editor works with you and with your manuscript, you will feel—actually feel in your skin—the words being stripped away. The loss of the excess words will sting, but soon you’ll realize your editor’s handiwork. And you’ll realize those words were just that—excess.
An editor is an essential member of your writing journey. It is often said that good writing is actually rewriting. Writing a story from the heart takes courage; rewriting that story to make it the story it is meant to be takes audacity. And a good editor will give you the mettle to be audacious.