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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Editing, Editing, Editing...

I was reading an email loop the other day, and a couple of writers were saying how much more they enjoyed rewriting than writing. They said, now that the book had taken shape, it was much easier to work with the raw materials they had. It kind of makes sense. Now that the back-breaking frame of the story is done, doing some of the smaller things to fix it up should be much easier. After all, which is easier? Framing the studs or painting the walls?

I'd like to point out one thing. THESE PEOPLE ARE INSANE!!!

Just kidding... well mostly. I'd imagine that all writers differ, and that's fine. But I couldn't agree less. I hate editing.

First of all, editing brings some striking new revelations as soon as you begin. Revelation number one: what I have written is not perfect. There is nothing like finishing your work, and approaching it after it had rested for a little while, to make all your mistakes loom large and menacing on the horizon. Cue the scary music. Not only is what I have written not good--it's dreck. And I would do better service to the human race if I burned all the paper copies, and deleted all the electronic ones. Hey, why not throw the laptop into the flames too, and take up needlework instead. Yeah, that bad.

Second of all, not only is the work not perfect, but I can't seem to get a handle on the whole thing. After all, a novel is not an essay or a short story--where you can line up all the pages on the dining room table and see it all in one view. I have to admit, I've forgotten half of what I have written. There are passages in my book that I only have vague recollections of--which is why Patty is also Pattie, and Mrs. Golanka is Mrs. Golenka, and Michael changes abruptly from being a health food nut to a junk food junkie. It wasn't long after I had typed "the end" that I realized I had dropped several red herrings without even developing them.

Third of all, even the passages that I have edited several times still have mistakes in them--mistakes that I cannot see. (After all, if I could see it as a mistake, I wouldn't have made it, would I?) But I spent hours poring over critiques, and reading the chapter out loud--making changes until I thought it was perfect. I printed it out. My husband picked it up casually off the couch, glanced at it and said, "You know, you have a typo here." Grrrr. Yeah, that kind of crazy.

Fourth of all, no one has a definitive manual on how to edit. I wish there was one--"Thirty Days to Perfecting Your Novel." So, I'm just doing what I know--getting critiques (which are often contrary to each other--what one person hates, another person loves), and reading through every chapter carefully. There are things I know I need to check--for example, I still have my random apostrophe problem. So I'll do a search for apostrophes and double-check that they are all used correctly. And I also did a search for 'ly,' in an attempt to reduce my adverb usage. Perhaps when I'm done, I'll write that book about how to perfect your novel. But I have a feeling it is going to take a lot longer than thirty days.

Especially when I don't want to look at my manuscript ever again. Have I mentioned that I hate editing?

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