Can Outside Editing Hurt Your Story?

“Your stance should be lower!” “No! You’re wrong!”

You are the architect of your own universe.  You are the president.  You are the general.  You are king and queen.  You are the alpha and the omega. As such, you have veto power.  You can say no.

This is especially true in first-round editing.

My understanding of the writing process is in the following six stages:

1. Vomit letters onto the paper.

2. Arrange the letters into some kind of cohesion.

3. Walk away.

4. Come back and look at them again, edit until it all makes perfect sense.

5.  Hand it off to someone else to read and comment on.

6.  Get it back, make changes so that the picture in their head matches the picture in yours.

Everyone I’ve given my manuscript to has a different view on it.  I’ve received corrections from all angles from grammar, sentence structure, stylistic suggestions, and organizational suggestions; all the way up to core concept ‘problems’.  Of the five people I gave it to, only two of them liked the story.

Constructing each edit is like learning a new kata. You need to learn the moves before you learn the sequence. Once you have the sequence, you learn the rhythm, and once you have the rhythm before you learn nuance and application.

If you do all that without mastering your footwork you’ll be left without a leg to stand on.

Your foundation determines the changes you must make. Whether it’s a sense of balance, a core plot idea or a solid character, all of your decisions should remain true to that foundation.

If you want a graceful, flowing story, and your critic only likes explosive performances, then you must take their criticism with a grain of salt and move on.  Hearing that you should yell louder won’t serve you, but suggestions that smooth out the transitions will. You have a responsibility to your story to train and condition it so that it can be the best it can be. Use your edits to refine and clarify what YOU want to say.

If the image in your head matches the image in your reader’s head, you are exactly where you need to be.

“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.”
– Dita Von Teese


Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.”
-Bruce Lee


4 thoughts on “Can Outside Editing Hurt Your Story?

  1. Andrew Toynbee

    A useful analogy – editing and martial arts. I love the peach quote – so true.
    I sent out my MS to a dozen or so beta readers. Two comments that stick in my mind are;
    (Reader 1) ‘There’s too much dialogue.’
    (Reader 2) ‘The dialogue is wonderful – it keeps the early story flowing, made me smile and told me a lot about the characters.’
    I think I will take Bruce’s advice on this one… 😀

    1. Setsu Post author

      Hi Andrew! Thank you so much for your comment, I’m glad you got some use out of the post. The best way to handle that situation is to put the MS in the hands of someone whose dialogue you love. An accessible expert, as it were. If you love their work, and your work meets their standard, you’re gold. I highly recommend making friends with other writers if you haven’t already.

      1. Andrew Toynbee

        Hi. I am still working on expanding my circle of friends – and already have many bloggers that I would be proud to call good friends. Some of us now exchange almost-ready MS for sanity-checking.
        I did debate this very issue on a posts back in August 2012 (extra-genre readers – the ideal solution?) about whether to send the MS to genre-relevant readers, or those outside the genre for a more honest appraisal.
        But I like your solution – find those whose work you love and exchange ideas.
        BTW, Wish I’d known you two years ago when I was putting together my sword-fighting. scene… 😀

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