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I recently tried to color my hair red again. The red turned out way too intense, not the color I wanted at all. But, it’s what I did the next day that reminded me of editing.
I had two options. Option one, leave it alone and let it fade, but eventually I would have to fix the shade. I chose option two, to pull out the red, knowing my color would get worse before it got better. I was right. My hair was now orange and patched with blond. There may have even been some blue tint on some of the blonde pieces. Even worse my hair was damaged. And the brief thought that I should shave my head crossed my mind.
What happened next surprised me though, I didn’t cry. I’d been through this before and I knew orange hair was part of the process to get my hair back to a more natural shade. I conditioned my hair with coconut oil and made a second trip to the beauty supply store with all my hair tucked under my cap. I needed help.
Editing is much like this process. You’ve finished your manuscript but it’s not right yet. You need some advice, some critiques, and feedback. Finally the email arrives with what you hope are praises. You stare at pages and pages of overwhelming notes. You may even cry. You may want to quit writing all together. Your manuscript looks like a bad hair color. A really bad hair color and you feel like you may not be able to fix it or are even qualified to fix it. You want to ignore all the comments, and say forget them I’ll just leave it. But, how will you ever learn. I was able to laugh at my orange hair because I knew it was part of the process. And so is this mess of notes you now have.
So now what? You fix your manuscript, just like I fixed my hair. To be a writer you have to be willing to edit and change things. The secret is to know what you are willing to change and what you can’t live without. My hair is now a color, not the best color, but it’s way better than it was. I still have a few more steps to get it back. First, I need to condition it every few days and wait 3-4 weeks before doing anymore coloring. And getting a trim is necessary. I may lose an inch or two, but it’s better than having dead ends and unhealthy hair. Your story probably needs some trimming. You may loose characters and cut scenes, but if you want your story to be done well, this is part of that process. Even worse you have to change the whole story line. Editing is a big part of what makes you a writer. You have to be willing to strip away pieces and pour in the new gems if you want to become a stronger writer.
So now you edited and worked hard on the plot holes, built up relationships, and enhanced your world, it’s time to send your baby out again. But, hopefully when you get your notes back they will be way less frustrating and you can add the highlights. Just like my hair will need to be highlighted in a few weeks.