Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Editing is HARD!

Back in high school, whenever teachers would insist we turn in a first draft and a final copy, I never did it right. I always thought the first thing to hit the paper was my best work. I'd write it, fake a few typos, grammar errors, rearrange things a bit, you know the deal. My first draft was the final copy, and the second draft was the dumbed down "first draft". And you know, in all honesty? It usually worked. I may have gotten called out on it once, but I usually didn't face any problems with this method.

And now I'm looking down at my first draft, my baby, my precious, and for the first time ever, I'm having to take the red pen to it. I'm having to admit to myself, "Okay, this dialogue is actually weak", "This bit of information doesn't belong here", "I know the background, but the reader doesn't, and that ruins this scene." I could never have imagined it would be this hard, and I'm not even going it alone. God of Ephemera did an amazing job as my first editor, leaving me pages upon pages of notes. I actually went through a few months ago and did a lot of minor fixes she recommended. Those typos, grammar errors, rearranging things. I just scrolled past the big things, reading them and saving them for later. Well, later is now, and I feel so much like a fish out of water.

I think it's helping that I haven't looked at it for a while. The first time I read GoE's notes, I was...kinda defensive, and very vain. This scene was perfect, why didn't it work for her? This didn't REALLY need to be changed. It's fine as it is. But it wasn't, and I'm seeing that now. I'm REALLY reading what she wrote, going back and forth between the comments and the scene to see what she saw. As the writer, it's so incredibly hard to step back and try to see your novel from the perspective as the reader. You know all the secret little details they don't that make things make sense to you. You know the motivations, the history, the future. You read your novel through completely different eyes, and no matter how hard you try, you can never see it the way the reader will. I can't help but wonder if, because of that, I will ever be able to edit without an outside perspective first. Will I ever reach a day where I can write a book, look at it and know what's wrong without someone else pointing it out? Or will I spend the rest of my life sending each draft to someone else to pick apart? I know I'm probably being too hard on myself because this is new. This is new, and scary, and difficult. I'm dissecting my precious, taking it apart, and trying to put it back together in a way that leaves it better than it was before without changing anything necessary.

I said I was going to be done by the 16th. "I already did the little things," I told myself when I set that goal. "It's just going to be a matter of figuring out where GoE was right and what's honestly just fine as it is. I can do that in a week." ("But Maxwell," you say, "Why didn't you start at the beginning of the month instead of Saturday night?" Well, friends, because I am a lazy butt. And I got gripped by that old "scared to open it" feeling again. But mostly because I'm lazy.) I was completely certain that a week would be more than enough time to finish the editing process.

Aha. Haha. Hahaha.

I've spent the last three days doing at least two to three hours of editing a day, and I'm on about page 10. Page 10 of 102. And now it's even higher because I wrote a 1000+ word scene yesterday that was necessary to explain the main character's history, and I had to do it in a way that seemed natural. I had to bring in a character I wasn't planning on introducing until halfway through the book, and now she's on page 4. I know the fact is that there's a lot more editing to be done at the beginning and the end. The beginning has the "writer knows" syndrome, and the end has the climax and the set-up for the next book. They were the parts I knew best going into them, so they suffer from my knowing too much. I don't think the middle has quite as much to fix, but we'll have to see. I'm not reading ahead. I'm taking it as it goes. I may not be done by the 16th, but I'm not going to let that stop me. I want this finished. I want to be able to feel the gut-wrenching terror of sending a query letter to my first agent, editor, or publisher. I want to be able to start getting the rejection letters, because it means I'm almost there. I just need to get to the second draft first.

1 comment:

  1. You can do it! Edit's are hard on us, because like you said, it's our baby. I understand the whole first draft is the final draft in school. I was similar. I thought so much about the first draft in my head that the true first draft rarely ever saw the paper. I hated the editing process. I think I enjoy the process a bit more now because I teach it to students. I can now see that even a well written first draft isn't perfect and red marks indicated things that need fixed aren't failures... just growing pains. What we write needs to grow from draft one to the final draft to become the best story it can be.

    I like to look at it as learning a new song. First time through it is always a bit rough, but with practice and time invested it gets better. Even a song I know well has room for some polishing.

    The other thing I try to remember when staring at red ink (my own or notes from someone else) is that this will make it so I have fewer issues that will toss the reader out of my story. I find typos in big name books and sometimes it's enough to pull me out of the scene and that means it might be a while before I go back to that book. I want as few of those moments in my story as possible, because I want the reader to love the characters from my head as much as I've come to love them.

    Editing is a labor of love. So keep on going and let me know if you need another set of eyes.