Editing 101: On Objectivity…

So today, we’re going to talk about objectivity in writing. People often treat their art like it’s their baby. They see it as perfect and beautiful and wonderful and great just because they created it. I understand this mentality. Who doesn’t treat their novels like this at some point?

There’s a reason I don’t draw very much. There’s a point in the drawing (and I mostly do portraits so I’ll reference that) where the subject looks like a great big mess. They might even look alien. And since this isn’t what I’m going for, I wonder if maybe I should just give up and scrap it. Then I fill in all the details and suddenly it’s like, “OH! A person.”

Writing is like that. It’s like building a house. The first draft lays the framework. You paint and decorate and furnish (and sometimes tear down the bathroom and rebuild it) in revisions. The first draft kind of looks like a house, but it’s not pretty yet.

One of the ways to gain objectivity is to get distance from your story. After the first draft, set it aside, let the high wear off, do something else. Once the high is gone, it’s safe to return to your story. This distance allows for the transition from seeing it as your baby and seeing it as a project. Technically, they will always be your babies. But you can’t look at them like that when you’re working on them. Because people think their children are beautiful. There’s a reason we have the saying, “A face only a mother could love.” When they become projects, you see them as something that can be improved upon. A blank wall. An old kitchen. An unfurnished office. An empty basement.

You don’t go on editing forever, of course. We need a stopping point. A point where we can sit back and look at it and be proud of what we’ve done and unembarrassed to let the whole world see it. Not because it’s perfect. Because it’s the best we could do. ^_^

One of the ways to hone your objectivity skills is to engage in something else, like drawing or sewing or acting or whatever. Things that at some point, don’t look at all like the finish project you’re shooting for. The thing that keeps me drawing is that I know what I want the finished project to look like, because I’m often drawing off something else. I also keep a picture of it in my mind, and if I’m sewing, I may reference the picture I drew or the envelope the pattern came in to keep me on track.

Stories are made up of pieces. The pieces all tied together make a book. Know what you want it look like, and keep working until the house is complete, furnished, and pretty. Then you call it your baby again. Because you baby is beautiful. ^_^

before
before-after
Before and After pictures courtesy of HGTV.com: Before & After Income Property Renovations
Isn’t it amazing? It just blows me away. 🙂

12 Responses to Editing 101: On Objectivity…

  1. Yes, perspective is absolutely necessary and for me, distance is the only thing that does it. I tend to take a long time to write a novel (historical) so I generally take the summer off, do some gardening which I love, spend more time with friends etc. By autumn I'm itching to get back at it. I reread everything up to where I left off in the spring and it's amazing how quickly the stuff that doesn't work stands out like a sore thumb.

  2. Yup, definitely important! I've been away from my hist. fic. novel for a few months and now that I have a beta's crits, I'm thinking of ways to revise it again…after NaNo. Perspective and distance is giving your brain a rest, right?

  3. I agree. A good friend of mine is an artist and I've been meaning to write a post about how similar our creative processes are as well as the trials and tribulations. Taking a step back is something I'm doing right now. The trick is not to stay stuck in the background. (:

  4. Distance is crucial for me, too. That is really cool that you can keep your hands off your work that long. Unfortunately, I've gotten impatient of late, but I'm slowly making my way back to something's that longer than two weeks. 🙂

  5. Totally! You HAVE to rest your brain from your work. And in general, too. I did nothing writing related yesterday finally but jot down some notes for my NaNo project and my brain is almost giddy from the time off.

  6. They are a lot alike, right? I would love to read that post. ^_^ We definitely have to get back to our projects. Fortunately (or unfortunately in some cases), once I finish a draft, I have to finish it. I need to learn to let go. Lol!

  7. I’m about to start reworking a novel. I keep procrastinating. Is this because I’m lazy or because the manuscript is still my baby? Should I take more of a break before going back to it? Hmmm ….

    • I always have to ask myself what I’m afraid of when I can’t get myself to sit down and work on something because that’s usually the issue. I’m afraid of the hard work (which is a form of laziness, Lol!) or I’m afraid I can’t do it or that I’ll ruin it or it will tank or something.

      Good luck! I hope you figure it out. 🙂

Hi! ^_^