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Will I ever learn to enjoy the editing process?

coiled tight like a chinese knot

© 2011 Chelle Ang. All rights reserved.

Once again I’m embroiled in editing my first full-length WIP and it’s no surprise, I still hate the process. Yes, I know, hate is a very strong word. Please, allow me explain.

After receiving my MA Creative Writing degree last December, I continued with school and went straight into studying for the MFA Creative Writing degree. Redundant you say? Well, no, not at all. In the great state of Florida, an MA allows you to teach from kindergarten to junior college and an MFA will let you to teach all levels including University. Hence continuing my studies. Plus I wanted to finish editing my WIP and have it in agent-ready condition before re-submitting it to the agent that showed interest a while back.

I’ve been editing my WIP for almost a year now. I’ve even changed mentors which by all accounts is good but the process doesn’t seem to be getting any less stressful for me. I’m a visual learner, you show me, I learn, but if I’m thrown in and have to learn as I go along, then I’m prone to bouts of frustration because I don’t seem to be able to grasp exactly what I need to do or see clearly the mistakes I seem to make constantly. Now I know this is frustrating my new mentor and believe me, no one is more frustrated than I am. Unfortunately, my mentor is not the “let me show you” kind. He’s the “you’ve been taught, now apply what you’ve learned” type. Yes, he’s aware that I’ve already completed my MA degree and believes that I should already understand the editing process. And I did with my previous mentor. I understood what she looked for, what my mistakes were, and I was getting better at “seeing” it when I edited my work.

Of course, at the onset of the new semester, I also got a new mentor. Don’t get me wrong, I’m ecstatic. I’ve wanted to work with this mentor from the moment I decided fiction writing is what I wanted to do. For whatever reason though, it wasn’t to be until now. As with all new teachers, I’ve got to get up to speed with the way they teach and adjust myself accordingly. Alas, there was simply no time to do that with my new mentor. I was thrown in and had to figure out how to swim. Initially, he edited one chapter of my WIP and in reviewing his notes, I began to see my pattern of mistakes. Then to my horror, he told me to use that one edited chapter as a guide to edit the rest of my WIP before sending it to him. To say I was speechless, is saying it mildly. And for the rest of the semester, I stumbled and fell along the editing path. By the time the end of the semester rolled around, I was so beat up, I refused to look at my work. I can’t even begin to tell you if I’ve learned anything at all. To my utter surprise though, my editing half of the WIP garnered me a stellar 4.0 grade and minimal corrections from him. Yes I ran the gamut of emotions from shell shocked to utter elation.

Now, I’m in the final semester of the MFA degree and I suddenly feel like I’m back to square one. Being thrown into the deep end of the editing pool is hard. I can’t say with certainty just what his method is or how best to execute what I need to do. I just know it’s imperative I either re-create the same level of work that garnered me a 4.0 or elevate my editing game. So why haven’t I spoken with my mentor about this persistent problem? Well, quite frankly, I’m afraid to sound stupid. I know that’s a dumb excuse. It even looks dumb as I write it, but this fear of letting my mentor down is paralyzing and I’m not sure what to do about it.

Anyone who knows me will tell you it takes a whole lot for me to ask for help. I’d rather try all that I can to the point of making myself crazy before bothering anyone for assistance. But, when I do ask for assistance, I tend to expect that if the person agrees then he/she will be able to really assist. Alas, that’s not what I seem to get. Incredibly, I share this mentor with a schoolmate but I’ve asked her for help and she has said in no uncertain terms that she is not interested in my WIP because she has no desire to learn about the culture where I’ve chosen to set my story. Time and again I’ve asked her for editing help but she only does the basic grammar stuff I’ve missed so its really no help at all. Ok, ok, I know, I’m whining and it seems like I’m blaming everyone else. Believe me, I’m not. I’m exasperated. So, back to the issue at hand — editing my WIP and will I ever learn to like the process? I sure do hope so. And something tells me I feel this way because I’m editing for someone who expects a certain level of work and there’s nothing wrong with that. It has actually helped me when I edit/critique work for other writers.

Writing is what I do and I love it like the delicate air I breathe, so at least liking the editing process is necessary because it’s part and parcel of this world. Now, how do I learn to recognize the mistakes I seem to make constantly? I’m not sure. But one thing’s for certain, I’ll keep trying like the dickens until I get it right.

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5 responses to “Will I ever learn to enjoy the editing process?

  1. Yeah, I probably AM a glutton for punishment. I love the editing process. It’s where everything comes alive for me. The work breathes, it sparkles. The writing part is where I feel useless.

    I wish I could volunteer to help, but if I do, it would be as an attempt to get away from my other responsibilities including starting the next novel. Sigh. You dread editing and I dread DRAFTING. If you wanna swap places, I’m there!

  2. I sooo agree with feeling vulnerable. Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment 🙂 then again if I don’t edit who will? Thanks for the encouragement.

  3. I hate the editing process soo much. Makes me feel far too open which I find really disconcerting. Good luck, though!

  4. Sorry, no, that’s not my mentor. I study at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania. However, I will take you up on your offer. Yes, I’ll hang in there because I believe all this pan will make me stronger or at least a kick-butt editor 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement. I be in touch.

  5. You mentioned Florida and for some reason I thought of Robert Olen Butler? Is he your mentor?

    Anyway, my offer still stands, if you want me to take a look at your WIP.

    Hang in there.

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