How and Why I Went Hybrid, Part 2 (or, the Origin of Novel by Means of Editorial Selection)

“To do something by ourselves, without copying others, is to become an example to the world and the merit of doing such a thing becomes the source of all wisdom.”      Kyojukaimon


I was going to continue this story by talking about why I chose to go the self-publishing route. Then a reader asked me to say more about editing one’s own work, so in this post I’m going to talk about that.




First I want to clarify my circumstances as a writer. I don’t write novels for a living. If I did, I’d be barely surviving somewhere way below the poverty line. I’m fortunate to have a good full-time job that allows me to look after my family and pay the bills: I teach creative writing at a university. My goal is to help the emerging writers who take my courses become better writers, and that’s a fulfilling task, much of the time. So I don’t have to publish and sell books to put food on the table. I write because I love to write. Because I need to write.



So, editing. I have to say I didn’t even consider hiring an editor to help me prepare the manuscript for Kindle. The reason being that I’m a slow writer who’s always revising and editing as I go along. People who’ve never written a book often have a misconception that it’s a fairly straightforward process of writing a rough draft, then writing another draft, and maybe another, before the book is finished. With each of those drafts being its own distinct version of the manuscript. That may be the case for some writers, but for me the process is a lot messier and maybe a little bit like evolution by natural selection, if I can misuse that concept. I don’t think in drafts as a writer. I think in terms of days.

Even during the very first rough draft of something, I’m already going back over what I’ve written and tinkering with it, changing words, phrases, sentences. Adding or taking away. Altering the DNA of the work. At the end of a working day I save the manuscript as a file with that day’s date. The next day I do some more writing, as well as some more revising and editing, and save the manuscript with the day’s date. And so on. This way I have a more or less complete record of the manuscript’s development, should I want to go back and look at a previous version of a scene, let’s say, or resurrect something that got cut several revisions ago but I now decide I want to put back into the manuscript. I say “more or less” complete because some days I don’t remember to save the work under a new filename with the current date.

I don’t think of these “day files” as drafts, because often the only thing to change may be one or two sentences. Or I may add a lot of stuff and then, at the end of the day, realize it didn’t work and take it out again. Once in a while I will print the whole thing and read it, to get a sense of how it all hangs together. Sometimes I’ll call that printed version a draft — it’s like a distinct species on the long gradual evolution of the novel. Most of the time, though, I’m not thinking in terms of “species” but in terms of parts of the book, the inner workings, the details. And so the novel keeps changing, very gradually, the goal being that what works survives and what doesn’t work gets weeded out. And then, finally, the single-cell idea that started the whole thing will have developed (I hope) into a complex, functioning organism that (I hope) finds its niche and thrives.

Anyhow, back to editing: for me a manuscript and its editing grow hand in hand. I’m always editing and proof-reading as I go along. Revising. Re-visioning. Finding typos and fixing them. So when it came time to ready Every Blade of Grass for e-publication, I felt confident I could complete the editing myself.

Of course a few typos and infelicities remained in the manuscript, but diligent readers pointed them out to me, and I was able to make changes and re-upload the novel. In a strange way it’s as if the book is both published and still being written.

The other reason I chose to edit my own work is actually part of the reason I chose to self-publish in the first place. So on to WHY in the next post…


Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.