I don’t mind most aspects of the editing process, but there is one thing that really bothers me: when I’m editing my own work, I become extremely critical of other people’s.
In a way, it makes no sense. These are published books I’m finding fault with, so obviously they’re doing a lot of things right. Most things, even. Who am I to criticize? Me, way down here. Hi.
And I’m not- at least, not where anyone else can see. It’s not that I’m huffing and puffing and throwing books against the wall (usually), then taking to the internet to rail about how I could do so much better. Not at all. I have so much respect for the work that people put into their stories, that their editors do to make it the best it can be, yadda yadda.
All I’m saying is that when I’m editing my own work, it makes it very difficult for me to enjoy other people’s, because I’m subconsciously analyzing everything, evaluating it the way I’m evaluating my own work, spotting the things I would consider fixing if the story was mine, things that work and things that don’t. And it’s really, really annoying.
Right now I’m reading a book I got for Christmas, and of course I’m not going to mention the name of it here. It’s an interesting book- fresh take on the vampire thing, I think (I’m only a few chapters in), where they’re monsters and not love interests. Yay! I should be enjoying it, but it’s hard when my brain won’t just shut up about “uh-huh, jumping right into the main conflict,” or “yep, slipping backstory in there, very smooth.” And that’s when things are going well. I got to page 53-ish and found out (because it’s actually stated outright) that one character is on a mission to save the world, and another is THE KEY TO SAVING ALL MANKIND OMG, and I wanted to put it down and read something else.*
Are those bad things in and of themselves? I guess not. It certainly sets the stakes high, doesn’t it? Now it should matter to me whether this guy succeeds at winning over the special girl who doesn’t know she’s special. But I was disappointed, and that’s probably not fair. Is the “savior of the world” thing overdone? Yes, but that’s no reason to think that a new take on it can’t be exciting. But all I can think is “well THAT was clumsy… Try to save the world, please, but don’t tell me you’re doing it!” If it was a library book, I’d probably have quit. Again, unfair, but I’ve done it before.
And the little things, like a character frequently saying things like “I felt the wind blow my hair” rather than just telling me that the wind blew her hair (obviously you feel it…). Things that I can see people picking on if I wrote it, and that I therefore try to be careful not to overuse. But when I’m reading, I’d like to be able to not notice that, to just see the wind blowing her hair (and/or her feeling it).
At least this one’s not overdoing the adverbs. I recently put another (very popular) book down because the writing style bothered me, and that was a big part of it. Effective when used sparingly, irritating when every time he grinned it was wolfishly, and every time she hurried is was quickly.
I read so much about what works and what doesn’t in writing and why that I pick it out in everything I read. My life has become a high school English class, and it’s driving me insane.
I wish I could let it go when I step away from the computer. I know my work is as bad as or worse than anything these people do, and that I’m probably doing a lot of the things I’m so critical of. My writing certainly has flaws that I’m blind to. I don’t mean to be critical. I just want my brain to shut up and enjoy the effing story already.
Does anyone else have this problem, or are you able to compartmentalize, to leave work at the office, so to speak?
*I’m still hoping that it turns out he’s wrong, that she can’t save the world through her powers and they’ll have to struggle together to find another way. How fun would that be?!