Thursday, October 27, 2011

Don't Edit The Heart Out

With all the conferences, retreats, workshops, and advice out there writers run the risk of editing the heart right out of their novel. You can end up second guessing every chapter, arc, and even the entire plot. Those of you who've attended more than one workshop, conferences, retreat, or have received conflicting advice, know what I mean. It can seem like you're being pulled in every direction at once. The worse part is, that conflicting advice can come even come from agents or published authors.

Rather than allowing yourself~and your novel~to be torn in two, you need to take a step back and evaluate things. Write down all the advice you’ve received. Write down who gave you the advice and why you value it. Then write down your goals for your novel. Not publication and sales, but what you wanted your novel to accomplish internally. That includes the arc you want your characters to make, the major plotlines, and the overall message you're trying to communicate. Now~and here's the really important part~make sure the advice you received doesn't conflict with any of that! Some of it probably will, don't be afraid to throw out that advice. Go ahead, you'll feel liberated.

"What, are you crazy Heather? These are experts, they know what they're talking about!"

Yes, of course they do, but it isn't their book, it's yours. If advice conflicts with the major points of your novel, chances are it will change it so much that it will no longer be your novel. This isn't always the case. There is advice that will change some elements such as smaller plotlines or message and not make your book look like a foreign piece of work that someone else wrote. In that case, the changes may be exactly what you need.

The bottom line is, don't edit the heart out of your novel. You can send it to the gym, feed it healthy food, even give it a facelift or a blood transfusion, but if you cut the heart out, it will die.



  1. Heh, love the last paragraph. Let the heart beat!
    In my personal experience, I find it's worthwhile to give major change suggestions some time to swirl in my deep mind without me thinking about them consciously. At least a couple of weeks. If it still doesn't work for me, I know it's not right for my ms. But sometimes, it's funny how you can suddenly see how a change works to take a ms. to a whole new level and DOESN'T require heart surgery.

  2. Huzzah Heather! I agree 100%. In trying to follow all the "right" advice, we often forget the heart of the story.

  3. Linda, it can be really beneficial to give things time to grow, but you're right, it's so nice when you just KNOW they fit.

    Tina, so very true!

  4. I love don't edit the heart out! Thanks for some great thoughts.

    I've come to this editing thing from a whole new perspective over the previous year. I love it.

    And I love to hear what others have to say. I'm finding the psychology of behind what we write, what people read, what they say, and what we intended, to be a fascinating circle. So... for the sake of not writing a book here, you've given me a post for tomorrow. Thanks!

  5. Great advice, Linda. It seems like everyone in the book industry has an opinion about editing but yours is truly valuable. I love that you remind us to "take a step back and evaluate things".

  6. Well said, Heather. It's quite true that you will wind up with someone else's book. I've been there.

    Good post!

  7. So true! And watch out for editing the voice out, too!

  8. Agreed. I had edited the hell out a novel and it turned into a very grammatically correct, but boring, story. I had to add in the voice and break some of the "rules" to do so.

    Nice post!