I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Dear Heidi...(A Letter From my Novel)

I got a letter from my novel today. Seriously. I opened my email inbox, and there it was.  It’s eerie, because I was just reflecting back on Roxanne’s writer report card post

Apparently my novel wanted some input on my assessment because this is what the letter said:

“I'm dying here, and it's all your fault. I know you can see all my flaws. Everyone can. My dialogue is too chunky. My theme is myopic. My characters are too flat.

“Oh, I know you loved me once. Once upon a time, we stayed up late into the night musing on philosophical connotations and thematic elements. There was a time you could love me in spite of my flaws. Those times are past. Because I'll never get anywhere in the world unless I undergo major surgery.

“The surgery is going to be painful. Liposuctioning exposition and undergoing characterplasty are difficult and expensive, costing time and energy. It's not like writing, where you get to work on a blank slate, build me up from nothing. Cutting me down is probably like cutting yourself apart. And it takes so much longer than mere writing ever could.

“Wouldn't it be better if I just languished in a desk drawer? Because after all, that way no one else will ever see my flaws. You'll be the only one who knows that I'm imperfect. I can't possibly be worth it. It's just too hard.

“Unless you think I'm worth the effort. Unless you think there are some gems between my fat, word-padded pages that need to be polished and allowed to shine. Maybe there's someone out there who could benefit from reading me. Maybe, just maybe, I still mean something to you.
“So, what are we going to do?

“If I could give you my advice, I'd tell you to read every word of me carefully, with pen in hand, and make notes on every page, both good and bad. Tell me where a sentence needs to be made clearer. Make a note of where I contradict myself, and don't let me get away with it. Remind me of that paragraph which was one of the reasons why you loved me in the first place. Build me up by cutting me down. Every mark, every star, every heart, every scribbled, crossed out line, every single one tells me that you care about my future.

“Then sit down at the desk and read me again, notes in hand. Change things. Rip out whole chapters, I can take it. And what about that section where the plot needs to completely change? I know it'll take stitching and sewing and rewriting, but we can get through it together.

“It'll be painful for both of us. Do you care enough about me to even try? Like all relationships, this one takes time and effort to foster, or we'll drift apart. But maybe you'll decide that I'm important enough. Maybe you'll realize that I am worth the time and effort.

“Maybe you'll realize that you are, too. 

"I'm waiting for you.”

Okay, so this note was in my email today, but I think we all know my novel didn’t write it. It was actually a post-NaNoWriMo pep talk written by YA author Anna Sheehan from the point of view of my novel. I pared it down a bit for the sake of this blog post, but the original message is still clear: it’s not enough to write. We must be willing to spend time and energy editing, and we must be willing to be honest with ourselves about our writing. The only way those manuscripts can make it to publication is if we care enough about them (and the message they contain) to make the hard choices. “Build me up by cutting me down.”

Your novel is worth it.

And so are you.

~Heidi Larson Geis

Your turn: How does editing make you feel? Do you have a novel (or two, or five) collecting dust somewhere that just needs a second look and some love (and maybe a little characterplasty) to be something great? Do you have any secrets or tips to make the editing process a little easier and less painful? 


  1. Good thought-provoking post. Love that line near end, “Build me up by cutting me down.” For me editing isn't bad, it's building up the ending to a true meaningful crisis & resolution. Here's to cheering all of us on!

  2. I'm with Dee--I love "Build me up by cutting me down." Good thing that applies only to our novels and not life.

    Heidi, you can do this. You have been gifted with a writing talent. I believe in you!

    I love the editing process. It's the rough draft that's tough for me to get through. But for me, the editing process allows me to polish my words and plot to create a story that resonates with readers.

    My tips for editing would be to use Susan May Warren's workbooks, From the Inside Out and Deep and Wide along with the Book Buddy to ensure your characters have dimension and your plot has fullness. The fast draft is to get the words on the page, but in the editing process, you need to make sure your scenes are SHARP and have FOCUS. But, most of all, you need to sit and do it.

  3. Heidi, I really liked this post. I'm nearing the completion of my fast draft, and I plan to edit and revise, and "build up my novel by cutting it down." It's gonna need a lot of work, but I want to do it. I look forward to reading yours one day soon. :)

    I'm going to be checking back here today for editing tps from those who have gone before me, since I'll officially be in that stage by June 1st a(at least that's my goal). :)

    Thanks, Heidi, for sharing this letter.

  4. Heidi,

    It's time to fish or cut bait. If you and I want this dream to become a reality, it's time to make it a priority in our lives because we're both busy, nurturing women who always accomplish what we must. Don't our novels deserve to become one of our top priorities? I think they're both worth it! Keep in touch with your progress.

  5. Talk about being able to relate!

    I now face cutting whole chapters out and all the above things as well. Through the pain, I think of that ONE person whose life WILL be changed by reading my novel. I write to her. I believe in God's plan for her life. I believe in the message that God will speak to her heart and renew her again.

    I believe.

    AWESOME post Heidi!

  6. Love this post, Heidi! And like Lisa, it's not the editing that's hard for me, it's getting those first words down. That's where I am now--in the first draft of my new WIP and it's like pulling teeth. But I keep telling myself, you can't edit what's not there. So I better get back to it. lol

  7. Dee~

    That was my favorite line as well! I think it actually applies to a lot of things in my life right now...so much to CUT OUT!! When I read it I could completely relate because we are taking this long weekend to clean out our garage and a storage room. We've been in our house for thirteen years, and we've accumulated SO MUCH STUFF, there's barely room for us anymore!! So we are trying to get rid of anything that doesn't somehow contribute to making our life easier. All the excess has to go. We've decided that since our house is so small, everything in it must EARN its place. I think our WIPs are similar...every scene, every conversation, every word must earn its place in the story!

    RAH! RAH! RAH!

  8. "But most of all you need to sit and do it."


    Right now, this is my problem. I need to sit and do it. Whether its the writing or the editing, I just need to do it. I appreciate your kind words, and I can't tell you how much it means to me that you are always cheering me on. You are awesome.

    I love SMW's books. I especially love her Book Buddy, and I truly think it is the only way to begin plotting any new work.

  9. Jeanne!

    Good for you!! What a feeling of accomplishment it must be to be so close to finishing. Congrats, and I'll be praying for your June 1st goal. Hopefully you'll be as fond of the editing process as some the amazing writers who have commented here today!!

    RAH! RAH! RAH!

  10. Oh, Roxanne, you are SO RIGHT!! There always seems to be something that needs to be done before I can write. For me it's our house. After so many years of Craig and the boys being in charge of clean up, there's so much clutter. I mean SO MUCH CLUTTER. I swear, we are one stack of newspapers shy of a starring role on Hoarders!! Unfortunately, it literally makes concentration so difficult for me. Because of my brain injury, the more cluttered my environment, the more scattered my thoughts. And because of my physical limitations, I can't just work all day every day for a week or two to clear it out. It's very frustrating.

    But, Craig and I went out of town for a few days at the end of April. We stayed in an apartment style hotel room, and we were both amazed at how clear-headed and detail-oriented I was! Not only was I able to think straight, I actually felt better physically. I think we both realized just how much of an effect our clutter has had on me, so we came home determined to do whatever it takes to clear it. In addition, I've had some awesome brainstorming sessions, and I am excited to get writing for the first time and a long time!

    You are absolutely right: our novels are worth it, and so are we. LET'S DO THIS!!

  11. Ginger~

    What a great focus. I know there are readers, and I know I want them to be affected by my story, but I don't think I've ever actually written TO them. Brilliant!

    I believe with you!

  12. Pat~

    You are a lucky lady to love the editing. I've never gotten that far so I hope when I do, I will love it as well. You've been a finalist in so many contests lately, you must be an amazing editor. (And your first, fast drafts must have pretty good bones, too!!) I look forward to reading everything you've written. Hang in there, and keep chugging along!