I’m back to that paper-wasting stage of editing, where I print out the whole danged novel, read it out loud slowly and scribble directly on the paper. As I’ve said in the past, this has always been the best way for me to get my thoughts out, and also to make sure I actually fix the mistakes I see rather than just let my eyes pass over them. I need it, so I don’t feel bad, plus I recycle everything afterward, so I feel even less bad.
I like this stage of my editing. I’ve gone through already to fix plot and character problems, I’ve already did the really hard parts of trying to make myself as clear as possible. So now, as I read, I find the little things. Weird spacing, misspelled words, changing the wording a little when I need a pronoun instead of a proper noun or I accidentally rhyme.
There are some times when I cross out sentences and paragraphs, because I can see where they aren’t needed, or I rewrite a phrase to make it sound just a tad bit better. But mostly, I find myself enjoying my story, feeling satisfied with the flow of the words, and with the emotions that it seems I just maybe finally got across clearly.
I like this stage of my editing because, for now at least, it feels like the hard work is done. I can enjoy what I’ve written, and feel confident that this is something that other people will like, that other people will read, that other people will publish.
And that’s why I have to hurry up and finish editing, so I can send this puppy out before my self-esteem comes crashing down again.
I’m sitting at my desk, staring at my screen. Specifically, staring at one paragraph in my novel. A paragraph that sort of gets at what I want to say…except, not really, no. The idea is firm in my head, but the words that will make it clear, understood, those are out of reach.
Or maybe, I’m beginning to suspect, they don’t exist at all.
I delete. I type. I write in my notebook. I write again. I stare out the window, flip through Twitter, pet my dog. Nothing helps. I don’t know what I want to say.
My water cup has run dry, so I get up. Go downstairs. The rain has stopped, so I open the door and stand on the porch. The dog runs past my legs, and I breathe deep the smell of warm wet grass and dirt.
And I know what I want to say.
Just like that the words are in my head, perfect — or at least, perfect for now. I write them out, plug them in, and with a little bit of jamming they fit into the story. Not a one hundred percent fit, but I can sand them out later, when they’ve settled more, and I’m not quite so proud.
Right now it’s a relief to have found something workable. I sigh, and take a satisfied sip of water.
I spend a lot of time on Twitter, so, I follow a lot of people. People that I think are great. Particularly, I love following my curated feed of comic people. Not only are they hardworking and talented at their actual profession, but they’re funny, passionate, and seem to just have a drive to find and create good art.
Some of these people I’ve been following for a while, some are artists I’ve found because of the other artists that I follow. If you’re on Twitter, and you love comics, I think all of these people are worth your time.
After so many days of staring at the file on your computer, you finally get over yourself and open up the critiques on your story. The comments are positive, but there are problems, you knew there were problems, and you’re glad that people are pointing out the things you can’t see on your own. You see the difficulty you’re going to have reworking parts of your story, but most of the solutions pop out to you.
Then, you see that one comment. The one that makes you think, the one that makes you realize that maybe you didn’t figure out your characters as much as you thought. The one you know requires changing more than a couple of sentences.
There’s no easy solution to this, but your brain starts sparking and firing. New ideas pummel you from the inside, so you can’t sit still. You jump from a chair, you walk in a circle, you move in a way that will actually match your pounding heartbeat so your brain can slow down for half a second, and you start to see it. You start to see your answer, and with that answer you start to see your story and your characters clearer than you ever have before.
Maybe you don’t see how to fix it… but you see how you can start to fix it, you see how if you follow through and do this right, your story will be better and more true than it was before.
Because of that comment that you finally took the time to read.
You take a deep breath. You go back to your chair. You pick up your pen, and you begin to writ.
That weird period, when you have just managed to finish a big overhaul in your story…
And now there’s a kind of break required to let things gel so you can go back with fresh eyes, with more inclination to snip or stretch or remold than keep it all the same, because what you just did was so hard and you don’t want to do it again…
But you also don’t know what to do while you wait to go back, so you keep staring at your computer, thinking there’s got to be something productive in your life…
Or at least you can catch up on those Netflix shows…
You can’t even think of a blog post to write to pass the time…
And then it’s noon, and you wonder where that morning vanished to, and you just want to have a big problem to tackle again.
I’ve gone back to my recently rehashed old manuscript again, after setting it aside for a few weeks to give me a break. One thing I’ve noticed: It’s really not that terrible anymore, which is nice. Another thing: There’s still a lot to cut.
On that last go through, I didn’t quite reach my goal of cutting 10,000 words (essentially a quarter of the book) and got to the end with ~8,000 words sliced out (it sounds like a lot, and it kind of is, but it wasn’t as hard as you’d think since most of those words were so, so bad). It was a big goal, but I was a little disappointed with my failure. But, luckily, now that I’m going back again, I’ve found sentences and phrases and single, weirdly placed words to ditch, and I managed to cut out ~200 words in the first three chapters. This leaves me hopeful that there are another 1,800 overripe sentences or misguided word placements I can extract.
Lesson learned here: you can always cut more.
In interesting (and flattering) news on my ramblings on the process of this whole thing, an earlier post on all the massive mistakes I noticed was picked up by Kath Temean and reposted on her blog, Writing & Illustrating. If you want to see it again, please go here, where you’ll also see a comparison of my old and new opening pages.