Editing & Anniversary


mea culpa

Disclaimer: Every writer experiences writing differently. There are some common threads and experiences, sometimes to the point where you suspect that others are psychically keeping tabs on odd corners of your experience. (I’m looking at you, Sarah…)

I so want to tell you everything I learned from editing.  Yes, it’s a pain. Part of that is you start learning things about yourself that are less than flattering. You look at the raw sewage of your own output, and it’s really not as nice as the fertile compost that is the end result.

Though to be fair, what I’ve got now is compost, and after its’ tended and grown out a bit, it will be a nice little garden for you to waltz through, take pictures or point and laugh. Actually, I’m not being self deprecating at this point, because I am resigned to the fact that this is a farce with a sort of mad-cap sensibility. This means laughter is good.  But back to the editing show.

My first reaction was to be incredibly overwhelmed by the huge pile of noodles that involved the threads from at least 6 different people. I thought that this was far too much.   I divided it by thread. It was a painful, but useful exercise even though I never completed the original aim of the project. I couldn’t, really, because most threads of it were necessary for the story and there were certain key transitions that were impossible to extricate. Though by doing this, I discovered that I do need to divide it, but along a different axis than I’d originally intended. It’s also possible that this is more than one book.  I have to figure out if I can resolve that many conflicts at the end of a reasonable number of words– or if a series of shorter novellas would suffice for telling this tale of madcap good– fighting a far too        serious evil.

Correcting flow and grammar by doing dramatic readings of my own stuff actually turned out to be fun! Just as long as I break it up into small doses, it can even stay fun. I can’t do it for long marathons the way I do draft writing.

While I may still be dubious about the pomodoro method for draft writing (I’ll probably try it anyway later) I think it’s a necessity for accomplishing anything meaningful during the editing phase. The editing phase  has been the mental boneyard where my novels go to die, sad enough to say. In edit-land, my CDO [OCD, for those who don’t get the joke] is eclipsed by my ADD, thus I start chasing chickens, squirrels, and the odd housecat. Moments later, I make the breathtaking discovery that my hair is on fire. Perhaps I will find some paint to watch dry. Really, anything to do but edit my work is on my hindbrain’s agenda.  This is my usual editorial landscape– even if I rather enjoy doing commentary and idea bouncing for other people.

Historically, editing is the kiss of death because I start doing so too soon. This, followed immediately by trying to do too much– like change the plot drastically before I know what it is, entirely. This early editing can also lead down the rabbit hole of making multiple changes at once. All this at the same time gets horribly tangled, and the original thrust of the story is lost.  This is particularly dangerous because those world shattering changes are things that don’t need to be changed, so much as incorporated into the novel at the section I’ll be writing next. They surface, not so much as a current that forms in your narrative mind, as some kind of  brain ferret on PCP that nibbles on the knobs of your thinking bits until the internal pressure of the lack is resolved.

Which is why I’ve decided I can’t do editing in the middle of the first draft. I have to get an approximation of the first draft done, and then start editing, and adding what I’ve missed, and cutting out what I don’t need. But cutting has to come later for complex reasons involving how addictive wielding a mental machetti can be. Also, I don’t know which bits need to be cut until all the connectors and transitions have been edited in.

This is not an absolute rule, because there are ‘suckers’ of story that clearly serve no purpose and have no redeeming quality.  Usually they stem from the beginning of a writing session on a less than  inspiring day, or just a throwaway scene that literally goes nowhere. Though I save some of those, because they might have something I can use later.

The anniversary I mention is not Husband’s but mine for WordPress. There were some false starts, so it’s not the same day I started writing this blog… but it’s rather shocking to think I’ve been staring into a WordPress screen for four years yesterday.


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