Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Why Being Edited Is Like Getting Your Eyebrows Waxed

I only wish my eyebrows looked this good.

I have bushy, annoying eyebrows. They have a good general shape, but they develop extra growth all around the edges and sometimes decide they want to try to make a unibrow. It’s pretty annoying. I hate to pluck because it hurts, and I’m a huge wimp. I’ve tried threading, and got great results, but wow—I nearly passed out. My tattoo hurt less than that.

So my eyebrow grooming approach of choice is waxing. They let you lie down on a massage table, or sit in a comfy chair, and they put nice, warm wax on your eyebrows. Then they rip it off in one fell swoop. Yeah, it hurts, but it’s over quickly, unlike plucking and threading, where they just keep ripping stuff out in one horrifying stab of pain after another.

Oh, but then the waxers aren’t done. Because after they wax, then they pluck. They have to clean up all along the edges, get the shape just right, and get your eyebrows looking like they both belong on the same face. It’s a tricky business. And sometimes they take out too much, and you have to go to the grocery store and buy eyebrow pencils. Or they don’t take out enough, and you wonder why the heck you gave them your hard-earned $15, plus tip, just to wave the wax in the vicinity of your still-hirsute brow.

How is this like editing? If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m guessing you’ve never been diligently edited.

You start with rewrites. Not always, but often. You get a manuscript back that you thought was in pretty good shape, but it’s all annotated with bits about how you have holes in your plot, or your characterizations aren’t consistent. Scattered throughout are probably bits of detritus like spelling errors, grammar mistakes, typos, formatting issues, etc. So you grit your teeth and do the work, figuring hey, as much markup as there is here, there can’t be much more left to do after this, right?


The story comes back again. Move this word here or over there. Is this the right word? This sentence doesn’t quite make sense. I think a comma here would make things clearer. And maybe this happens two or three more times, until your eyes are watering from the pain and all you really want is for somebody to spread that nice lavender oil over your eyebrows so the pain will go away and everything won’t look all red and swollen.

But the tweaking is an important part of the process. It’s the fine-tuning that gives you just the right quirks so you can have entire conversations with the lift of a brow. You’re striving for—well, not necessarily perfection, but something clean and sleek that fits your style. It’s worth the pain in the end.

Beware, however, of the editor who plucks too long (and the author shouldn’t do this either). Too much tweaking, and you’re scrambling for the eyebrow pencil to get some semblance of your personality back. But perhaps worse than that is the editor who doesn’t do enough, and leaves your manuscript only partially shaped, its unibrow glaringly obvious for all to see.


angelaparsonmyers said...

Going through edits now, and this is a GREAT metaphor. But you didn't say anything about what to do if your eyebrows are shaped OK but are curly. : - )

Katriena Knights said...

Just shave the suckers and draw them on... lol