Thursday, April 21, 2011

Edit Letter Fun: Are You a Butcher Or a Coddler?

I've been spending a lot of time in the revision cave lately, but have crawled out for a while in an attempt to blog more often. Plus it's dark and there are spiders in there.

Last week I went to Austin with critique buddies Christina Mandelski and M.G. King for the Texas Library Association Conference, which was all kinds of awesome. It's so much fun to see what books are coming out later this year, and I caught up with some writing friends I don't get to see often enough.

During a conversation with one of those writer friends, I discovered that we were both working on editor-requested revisions, but her attitude was...what's the word? Healthier? Sane? Not completely twisted?

Here's a dramatization of the conversation. (We weren't dressed as bunnies, but bears in bunny costumes make adorable stand-ins.)

I hope I'm not quite as bad as Lavender Bunny, but I do feel a little stabbing pain in the heart when I hit "delete" over a scene that might not be working.

That's normal, right? (Right?) We spend a lot of time with these words, so it hurts to toss them out. They look so sad out there, all alone in the rain, faces pressed against the window...

But, we have to be practical too, and think about what's good for the story. Maybe it's a nice scene, but it's not moving the story along or it's taking the reader out of the action. Editors are good at spotting those things that we overlook because we're too close to the story and the cuddly words.

So which writer are you--the butcher who sees the cutting as part of the job, or the coddler who wants to cling to your words?

And those of you who've been through it before, share any tips you have for getting through the edits! Don't forget to put on your bunny costume first. It's the best way to deliver difficult news.


  1. HAHAHAHAHA! I love this, Lynne! The silent pauses are the best. I hope you're squishing your words right now.

    I think I'm sort of a butcher, but that's because I really like editing (as opposed to writing first drafts). Good luck in your edits. I seriously cannot wait to read your book as I know for a fact it will be fabulous.

  2. I love this so much! I'm both. I'm a coddler of about my first 5 chapters. After that, I can butcher with the best of them but I have such an unhealthy attachment to my beginnings. I just slashed one up today. It actually feels really good when I can finally bring myself to do it. Hope your revisions are going better, Lynne.

  3. I'm a total butcher. I am almost completely unsentimental about revisions, because I've learned over and over again that once I let go of something I was attached to (in response to wise guidance, of course), the story is SO much better. So that's the positive reinforcement I've needed to be merciless in revisions. Good luck with yours!

  4. Hahahahahahahahahahaha. What an adorable bunny! I loved the pauses too.

    I'm a bit of both, I suppose. On the butcher side, it helps when I've put some distance between me and my manuscript. If I try to revise the week after I wrote a scene, I usually think that it's too funny to touch. But if it's been a few months, then I can slice it gleefully and without remorse.

    But there are some scenes and moments and lines that I look at and think, If anybody tries to mess with this one, it'll be over my dead body. But I have to think long and hard what battles I want to fight just because I luv the scene/moment/line so much and what battles I need to fight because the scene/line/moment is integral to the story I'm trying to tell.

  5. But wait. They're my poor, darling babies and I must go cuddle them now. I'm hugging them in a corner, right now, as we speak. Shhh, you might disturb my little perfect ones. ;) Butcher them? With a knife? *shudders* NEVER!!

  6. Thanks for the comments and support, everyone! Interesting to see everyone's revision styles. I also noticed that for my work-in-progress, I was fine with the revision suggestions from my agent that will lead to the cutting of some scenes. So either I'm not as close to that work yet or the scenes we talked about don't feel as important to the story as the ones I've cut from the first book. I try to keep in mind too that they could show up in a different book later on.

  7. OMG that is absolutely hilarious *wipes away tears*