Saturday, December 08, 2007

Elusive Perfection

I've been editing this week. [Okay, Ursula has been editing] Some of my stuff and some for other people and it's got me thinking how far should we go in the pursuit of the perfect copy?

Don't get me wrong, I think a manuscript should be as clean as possible. If you're submitting to an editor or agent, you don't want them sidetracked by typos or stray punctuation or stumbled by copious backstory or passive verbs - BUT no manuscript is perfect.

If authors could create perfect manuscripts, we wouldn't need editors. Editors exist because there comes a time when an author cannot see their own errors anymore. How many times have you read over a manuscript and skipped by an obvious mistake because your brain told you to see what you wanted to see? It's a normal function, really. Our brains are actually wired to try to make sense of things that don't make sense. That's why we see shapes in random images, that's why abstract art works, that's why we can comperhend wrods taht are not speled rihgt.

It's not just about typos though, or poetic license that allows us to sometimes skip a comma or toss in a semi-colon in order to make a sentence read exactly the way we want it to read rather than the exactly grammatically correct way. Language of course should be fluid and adaptable as well as having reliable rules to follow.

But I digress. What I'm really interested in is, how much time do you spend in the pursuit of perfection? Do you edit your own work once, three times, ten times before submitting it? Are you grateful for nitpicky CPs and anal retentive editors [Ursula takes offense at said comment, btw] or do you appreciate every single tweak in a manuscript even after you'd read it over until your eyes fall out? Or...and I know there are some of you out you finish writing, kiss your ms goodbye and feel that it's up to the editors to polish your work until it shines, that you've created the bones and muscles of a story and the editor will be putting the cosmetic touches on for you? [Don't feign shock! There are such authors out there. I know it.]

Do you think the pursuit of perfection is your highest responsiblity or a waste of time?


Karen Erickson said...

Oooh sometimes I work so hard on a book and have a couple of CPs read it, I read it and read it...the works.

Other times I'm so anxious to get it off my hands I just submit it. LOL! I'm never consistent.

Bernadette Gardner and Jennifer Colgan said...

Interesting, Karen. I can understand it depends on the book. Some of them warrant a lot of detailed care and others, you just want to get them out there.

Gwen Hayes said...

I tend to go over what I wrote each time I open my ms, which makes me slower, but prolly a little tighter. By the time I sub it, I've been over it 100 times too many and I'm sick of it. That said, there are very few things I hold onto as unwilling to change, so I hope that means I'm not my editor's nightmare author, lol. (Be nice, Ursula) Once I submit it, it doesn't really feel like mine anymore, and I take my cues from the other person who wants to make as much money as they can from it too.