If the key to writing a book is continued focus, the key for editing is not letting the process hurt too much.
This is especially true when your wife is your editor. Watching hard earned words being crossed off, moved around, and replaced hits a writer hard.
So how did I survive the editing process? It went something like this.
The First Round
I handed her a printed first draft.
My wife took the book in one hand and held a purple pen in the other.
Pride filled me as I watched someone hold my book for the first time.
Then she made the first comma correction.
Ouch. My perfect manuscript was perfect no more.
Then she made the first sentence correction with words marked out, phrases reworked, and lots of purple on the page.
It hurt even more.
Then she DELETED an entire sentence!
What? I worked hard for those words.
She tried to describe why she removed the sentence.
I left the room. I couldn’t watch the purple permeating the page.
Even though I knew my first draft was not a final product, the pain of watching it marked up was too much to take.
The Second and Third Rounds
Eventually, I read through those first edits and realized how the edits made the book so much better. Sentences read cleaner and ideas flowed smoother. I can handle this.
Then my wife removed an entire paragraph. Poof, the work that went into that paragraph was completely gone.
The pain returned.
I calmed down and again realized the paragraph was un-necessary.
Ok, the book is getting much better. I know this and have to accept it.
Then came the edit to end all edits. One page in particular resulted in more purple pen marks than black printed ink. The words didn’t work even with the edits. My wife simply deleted the ENTIRE PAGE! Just one big X across the page.
By the end, we could laugh about sentences being removed, or my rigid attempts at dialogue, or my continued mis-use of quotes and commas. Frankly, this post would have been better as a conversation, but I didn’t want to be subject to more dialogue edits.
The editing process is a different kind of challenge from the writing process. One that involves checking your ego at the door and letting your hard work be shredded. It’s all in the interest of a better product in the end.
As I get closer and closer to publishing the book, I realize how much I owe my wife for transforming my jumbled mess of words into a real book. Purple pens still cause me to cringe, but at least I no longer have purple nightmares
Update - My wife provided her perspective on the Adventures of the Purple Pen. It’s well worth the read to see the process from her point of view.