EDITING – SELF OR OTHERWISE

by
Larry Ivkovich

Editing
one’s work, whether it’s for flash fiction, a short story, a novella, or a
novel, can be frustrating and time-consuming. But, it’s a necessary evil for
all those who want to get their work as polished and professional as possible.
And, oftentimes, a much better story will be the result of it.

During my
thirty years of serious fiction writing and my tenures in a number of
writing/critique groups, an old discussion often comes up. It’s one which I
believe has no really right answer although the two schools of thought often
clash. That is, should a writer finish whatever he or she is writing and edit
afterwards or self-edit as he or she writes?

It seems
most writers I talk to and most writing “how-tos” I’ve read favor the
former–edit after completing the work. I subscribe to the latter–I edit while
I’m writing. The advice I give to beginning writers is to do whatever is
comfortable and natural for them. Everyone’s different and has different
methods and styles of working. There’s really no right or wrong way to
self-edit.

I’ve tried
to finish a work and then go back and edit but I just can’t do it. It’s not
that I’m compulsive about it or a Type A personality in that regard. I just
like to play with what I’ve written previously, to try and improve it or
completely change it based on ideas I come up with after I’ve finished writing
a particular passage. I don’t outline but I do take notes and jot things down
when I think of them but it’s just more fun for me to try an idea out on what
I’ve written right away. Writer and editor Anne Lesley
Groell remarked at a writers’ conference I attended that this was how she also
worked on her writing. So I feel like I’m in good company!

Of course,
this is more involved than just line-editing although that, too, is important. Spellcheck
and grammar-check are good tools in your word processing software but aren’t
always completely successful. My wife told me a story about an old boss of hers
who was looking for another job. His office assistant typed up his resume for
him on her PC and ran the spellcheck.
 Now, sometimes, you can misspell a word
into a different word that’s completely legitimate. This particular incident
happened in the eighties where a style of resume writing allowed you to put
down what you did in your spare time. My wife’s boss told his assistant to put
down “white water rafting,” as a hobby, which he’d done only once or twice. The
assistant transposed the “r” and “f” in the word “rafting,” which the spell
check didn’t catch because “farting” is a real word. Well, needless to say, the
guy didn’t get the job! But everyone in my wife’s office, after hearing about
this through the grapevine, had a good laugh.


So, it’s
important for someone else to take a look at your work, whether that person is
a professional editor or a fellow writer or a friend. A fresh set of eyes
always helps. This is where a writing/critique group comes in handy or someone
you trust to be honest with you about the work.

Still–mistakes
can happen. An example from my 
début novel, THE SIXTH PRECEPT, is a pretty glaring
one. Despite my own editing and that of my publisher’s editor, we both let a
few misspelled words and phrases slip through the cracks, which I discovered
after the book had come out. One of my characters is talking about “cruisin’
the Wet.” Say what? It should have been “cruisin’ the net (small case also)”. I
still don’t know how that one got by. The mistakes have been corrected in
subsequent printings and downloads but it was pretty embarrassing.

One thing
that’s helpful to do (whether you self-edit while you write or after) is to put
the story, book, article aside for a couple of months (depending on your
submission deadline, if any) and then come back to it after you’ve gained some
distance. It’s easier to pick out mistakes in both line-editing, plot,
structure, etc. once you’re not so close to it.

I recently
heard a story of an author who had left the small publishing company who had
published his first book because he didn’t like to be edited. That’s a pretty
extreme and, ultimately, self-defeating reaction. Writers have to develop a
thick skin and be prepared to take criticism. Such comments, no matter how much
you may disagree with them, will help your work to become that much better (although,
if you feel very strongly the proffered advice isn’t right, then it’s
absolutely your prerogative to ignore it). Though writing is often referred to
as a “solitary profession,” working with other writers and editors can be a
very positive experience and one necessary for future growth.

So, edit
yourself any way you want! It’s important but remember you may not catch
everything that can drag your work down. Trust in yourself but also in other
people to help you in bringing your creative vision to life.


Author Larry Ivkovich
Larry Ivkovich is an IT professional and
the author of several science fiction, fantasy and horror short stories and
novellas, published online and in various print publications and anthologies
including M-Brane SF, Afterburn SF, Penumbra, Twisted Cat Tales, Abaculus III,
Raw Terror, Triangulations, Shelter of Daylight and SQ Magazine. 

He has also
been a finalist in the L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future contest and was
the 2010 recipient of the CZP/Rannu Fund Award for fiction. 

His début urban
fantasy novel, THE SIXTH PRECEPT, is now available from IFWG Publishing,
Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. He is a member of two local writing/critique
groups, the Pittsburgh Southwrites and the Pittsburgh Worldrights, and lives in
Coraopolis, PA with his wife Martha and cats Trixie and Milo. 

The Sixth Precept


  
Amazon.UK
Amazon.com
In 16th century medieval Japan, Yoshima Mitsu, who is gifted with psychic
powers, uses her prescient abilities to send her young attendant, Shioko, into
the future. 
There, Mitsu believes Shioko will be safe from the purges of the
maniacal warlord Omori Kadanamora, his warrior monks and his half-human,
half-bestial Shadow-Trackers. 

In present-day Pittsburgh, police Lieutenant Kim
Yoshima is attacked by a creature out of someone’s twisted nightmare. In the
aftermath of that terrifying struggle, Kim finds a young Japanese girl named
Shioko, lost, confused and calling Kim “Mitsu” and her monstrous attacker a
“Shadow-Tracker.” Wayne Brewster dreams of the costumed hero, ArcNight. But
more than that, he feels bizarrely connected to the fictional crime fighter as
if ArcNight and his comic book world are real. And in all of his dreams,
Brewster sees one constant, one face repeated over and over–the face of Kim
Yoshima.

Empowered by a mysterious book, The Five Precepts to Enlightenment,
Kim realizes her destiny is in the past. Using her own burgeoning esper powers,
Kim, accompanied by Shioko and Brewster, travel by means of a temporal rift to
feudal Japan.

There they must assume different personas to fight Omori and
creatures of Japan’s mythological world to fulfill ancient prophesy and modern
historical fact. If they fail, history will be altered and the world will
change forever.

Twelve signed copies are up for grabs! 

 The Sixth Precept

EXCERPT – Pittsburgh, PA 2010

Kim
heard the shot just as she was putting her briefcase into her car. She didn’t
think twice, her instincts taking over. She pulled her Sig P228 and an extra
clip from her backpack, threw the pack into the back seat and headed for the
lot’s exit door.
The
door had a special keyed locking system on the outside to keep possible
intruders out. From within the parking lot, it was essentially an emergency
exit. She looked up at the security camera stationed above the door and thought
about contacting Joe, Lazo’s security head. No time, she decided. Besides,
there was no need for two people to be in a possible line-of-fire. Once she
took stock of the situation, she’d call for backup on her cell phone. She
punched the button and as the door shussed open, exited the lot.
The
humidity was all over her; heavy, moist air settling on her skin like a hot
towel. It had stopped raining but the streets steamed; the glow of the
streetlights cast an eerie luminescence throughout the empty block. She
blinked, creeping into the shadows at the side of the garage and then, quickly,
opened the section of gating outside the emergency exit and jogged out into the
street.
No
sounds. Nothing. The street was devoid of life.
That
was when she saw the figure walk out into the light.
~~~
It’s
her. The Yomitsu. The Eminent Lord be praised!
The
shadow-tracker felt a thrill of another kind as he saw his target, gun in hand,
crouching across the street. Her scent, even at this distance, filled him to
the bursting.
I
can take her, he thought, his head throbbing as he blinked the spots from his
eyes. I can bring her back to the masters myself! The hell with their rules!
The situation had become something entirely different. She was so close! Why
shouldn’t he take advantage of this? The masters would know then, that despite
his miscalculation on the three gang members, despite the wound he had incurred
as a result, that he had still served his purpose.
Yes,
he thought, rising to his feet. He would make his mark, no matter what. He
walked out of the alley.
~~~
The
silhouette was tall, lean, moving like a dancer, sinuous and mincing. The muted
light revealed some kind of tight-fitting garment clinging to its body. Its
hair was long, knotted into thin corn rows. Its eyes reflected the light
as…yellow?
Something
sharp glinted from the tips of its fingers.
What
in heaven? Kim raised her gun. The figure stopped, its form backlit by a
wavering glow from the alley behind it.
Trash
fire? This one doesn’t look like your typical street person.
The
figure began to move again, loping (yes, loping was the right word) toward her,
its motion controlled and precise like a gymnast.
“Stop
right there!” Kim cried. “Police officer!”
The
figure entered a pool of streetlight, its face briefly illuminated.
It
was the face of an animal.
“Freeze!”
Kim yelled, a chill running up her back. “Stop or I’ll shoot!”
The
creature speeded up, suddenly charging like a sprinter on overdrive. Kim fired
once over its head. No effect. It was only a few feet away now, its arms and
legs moving in a whirlwind of motion. My God! Kim thought, her fear building.
She aimed a kill-shot, straight at the creature’s head.
The
thing shifted to its right, dodging the bullet as if the deadly projectile was
moving in slo-mo. It reached a clawed hand out toward Kim, its suddenly visible
face stretched into a ghastly parody of a smile.
Kim
threw her body sideways. She fell, rolling on her side, the pavement smacking
her hard. She felt a crunching pain on her waist.
She
pulled herself to her feet, breathing fast, holding her luger with both hands
extended in front of her.
Her
breath caught in her throat. The creature was down.
Kim
blinked. The thing was fast, unnaturally fast. It should have had her. She was
positive it had dodged her bullet.
Yet,
it lay facedown on the street, struggling to get up. This close, Kim could see
the blood on the side of its head.
And
that face. Inhuman features glared up at Kim. Man? Dog? It looked a combination
of both—exaggerated bone structure, sharp teeth, high cheekbones, sloping
forehead, yellow eyes.
Kim
fell back a step, a sudden, unreasoning fear taking control. What is it? Both
her hands shook as she tried to hold the gun steady. What—?
The
creature suddenly leaped to its feet and flung itself at her, arms wide, mouth
open. Kim fired and fell back, flinging her arms up over her head.
What?
Kim looked wildly around her. The thing was gone. Where had it vanished to?
Have
to call for backup! she thought frantically. And surely Joe saw what happened
on the security cams! She started back towards the garage, hoping the gate
would open again as she fumbled at her belt for her cell phone, looking over
her shoulder. The fear was like a burning fire running through her system.
A
low moaning floated through the night air. Kim stopped and turned back towards
the alley. Someone’s hurt, she thought, licking her lips. Probably by that
dog-thing.
Taking
a deep breath, she jogged back toward the alley and stopped at its entrance,
the skin between her shoulder blades tingling. If this dead-ends, I’m trapped.
And yet I just can’t leave someone in there if they’ve been injured.
The
moaning increased, a desperate sound radiating pain and confusion. Kim got her
cell phone off of her belt. Got to call Lazo, she thought. Have to get—Damn!
She stared dumbly at the cracked  casing
of the now-useless phone. That’s what I felt breaking when I hit the street.
Cheap shit! The Captain’s going to hear about this!
She
snorted. Listen to me. Come on, Yoshima, get your act together!
Darting
another look back towards the street, Kim took a few tentative steps into the
alley. “Who’s there?” she called, her mouth dry. “Are you hurt? I’m a police
officer!”
A
gurgling, wet sound answered her, a barely recognized imitation of speech.
Gritting her teeth, Kim entered the alley.

Purchase
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