It’s one of the prevailing truths of the universe: the toilet paper will always run out when you need it most, the phone will always ring when you settle in to watch a movie, and writers hate editing. I am a writer, therefore I hate editing, right?
Writers are put on this planet to create in an inspired frenzy that leads to a completed work where every word is a work of art, and each plot point is a sublime delight. Changing even the smallest phrase would diminish the whole. It is perfect as it flows from our fingers!
Of course after we walk away from a project for a while we find these small things that need… repairing. Does Frank have three or four fingers on his right hand? Is Sally’s husband named Larry or Leroy? Did they really have cell phones and Facebook in the 1700’s? As welcome as a fly in the pudding, we find that our mortal flesh has interrupted the flow of the perfect story that lived in our brains and inserted all this… wrong… stuff in our work. Like fishing the invading insect from my dessert, removing such detritus is a manual effort. And so with a heavy heart we writers begin on that horrid progress called editing.
This is what much of my time is involved in right now. Just yesterday I finished the first pass edits for Stolen Time, the sequel to Borrowed Time. It’s a great feeling to get that done, but the reality is I plan to do two more passes before I turn it over to the Pianoeditor and her dreaded fourteen-inch long Pencil of Doom. Then there will be at least a couple of passes out of that. Oh woe is me! Will this torture never end?
For a while there I would have that same lament when I sat in the dentist chair. Having a dentist in my formative years who went to the Josef Mengele School of Dentistry gave me a rather negative view of the profession as a whole. So for a while I just didn’t go. Then after I got married I started going to a new dentist, and hating every minute of it. I would sit there with my white-knuckled hands in my lap and endure. As the years passed I found my time in the chair got easier and easier, although I would always anticipate a visit with fear and trepidation. After a while I began to notice that my time at the dentist wasn’t unpleasant, and that the men and women who worked on me were competent professionals who were concerned about my comfort. I finally realized that the reluctance and fear I felt about a visit to my dentist were not based on my recent experiences. I was able to put aside that angst and the whole process became much more pleasant.
I recently made a similar mental breakthrough in regards to editing. Ignoring my writer’s mantra of “I hate editing,” I realized I enjoyed getting back into Ness Relevant’s world. Even though I was fixing, trimming, and sometime adding to my story as opposed to downright creating, the emotions I had wrapped around the process did not match up with what I felt while doing it.
Now I am not going to strike up the violin music and proudly proclaim “I LOVE EDITING!” While I’ve realized that I enjoy the process of making my novel better, it is a different feeling from outright creation. Also, there still are some things that I downright dislike, such as:
- Time – This is probably the biggest complaint I have against editing. It took me just 30 days, and probably a minimum of 60 hours, to write Stolen Time as part of NaNoWriMo 2009. It will take much longer than that to get through this editing process. Since I will be podcasting this novel, which is a whole other time-sink, I just wanna get this done so I can move on to the recording!
- Repetition – Being someone who writes time travel stories where my characters might experience the same events from different vantage points, the repetition can be mind boggling. Did he bite the apple the first time through this scene, or the second time? Both times? After a while it all seems to blend together.
- Killing My Babies – Without a doubt Pianoeditor will find some stuff to cut in this book, and as sure as God made baby poop stink she will inevitably pick my favorite scene or a section that contains my favorite line.Then begins the subtle dance of whining and pleading before I finally give in and do what she recommends.
So I will do my best to stay away from the blanket statement “I hate editing” in the future. Just as I don’t appreciate the needle when the dentist needs to numb me up, I shouldn’t let the aspects of the “E-word” I don’t like color the entire experience.
And now, I think it time to begin round two of my editing merry-go-round. Back to the chair I go…