Posted by Kathleen Pooler/@kathypooler
“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” Vincent Van Gogh
Seven Tips For Hanging On To Your Voice Through the Editing Process.
In Sharon Lippincott’s excellent post, “It’s All About Story”, she shares that members of her memoir writing group claimed that if they are engaged in the story they can overlook any writing flaws. This gave me pause. Story is crucial but the thought of grammatical errors laced through out my manuscript makes me cringe. Her post provides an interesting take from readers/aspiring writers that’s worth your time. It also served as a prompt for this post.
This got me thinking about the editing process for my current work-in-progress memoir, The Edge of Hope: A Mother’s Journey Through Her Son’s Addiction.
I have begun the beta reading phase and am knee-deep in soul-searching edits. You either despise or love the editing phase. I find it to be the most daunting, yet rewarding part of writing.
I value this beta reading phase and am very grateful to beta readers who volunteer to take time out of their busy schedules to provide me with their honest feedback and guidance. I blogged about lessons learned from using beta readers for my first memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse this post.
To this end, I have developed a list of guidelines for my beta readers in hopes of making the job a little easier.
The beta reading process can be grueling because you want constructive feedback, but not everyone will agree with the content or quality of your writing and it does sting. However, I’d rather find this out before rather than after publication. I have learned to filter out the feedback that makes sense and disregard the rest. I try to keep an open mind because what I want most is to present my story in the best possible way.
The next phase, down the road after working on edits will be to hire a professional editor, including developmental, copy editors and a proofreader.
The question that always comes up for me in the editing process is:
How do I hang on to my voice with so many other voices giving me their feedback?
Here’s my plan for getting through with my voice intact:
- Remain open to areas where my story needs work.
- Be clear on my purpose for writing my story and make sure the scenes move the story along.
- Take time to absorb and reflect on suggestions from beta readers and be clear on what you expect from them, i.e guidelines. Their feedback may or may not fit. If more than one beta reader has the same feedback, listen very carefully and consider either changing or omitting those sections.
- Claim and honor my story: Know when to listen to feedback and when to stand firm and not take a suggestion.
- Step Away as needed, which I have done a lot. Memoir writing is a process, a grueling one, as emotions are dredged up.
- Trust myself: This is my story to tell, in my voice and my writing even if others who write better than I do disagree. I accept not everyone is going to like my story or voice.
- Hire professional editors to help polish the manuscript until it shines.
The Power of Voice:
Our voice is unique to each of us and I believe we need to embrace this uniqueness. That is the power of voice, to tell our personal slice of life as only we can tell it. It will be up to the reader to decide if they connect with our story and our voice.
As far as story trumping writing, as Sharon’s group suggested, I think they’re equally important.
I want my voice and story to shine as mine, without the technical flaws.
How about you? How do you survive the editing process? Do you have any tips to share? How do you hang on to your voice?
I’d love to hear from you. Please join in the conversation below~
“Opening Doors to Surprise: Finding My Muse by Merril Smith.”
Merril is an historian-turned-poet and has an inspiring story on how she found her poetic muse.