Editing is the Worst Thing Ever

Is there anything quite as beautiful as writing the first draft of a story?

Every moment is primed with intrigue, wonder, and mystery.

You just paint everything on the metaphorical canvass as you see it in your mind’s eye. Ideas pour forth from you like a soda fountain filled with Mentos

You pat yourself on the back for every clever line, every twist and turn, every unique character.

Then, once the dust has settled, you must look back on your writing….

And realize that literally everything is horrible.

There are plot-holes everywhere, nobody’s motivation makes sense, the action is either too slow or too fast, the plot is too predictable or disjointed. The list goes on and on.

The worst part is realizing you’re actually going to have to fix this crap.

All it takes for your hard work to be torn asunder is the word “why.”

Why didn’t they just do this? Why didn’t they do that? Why didn’t he ask her this? Why didn’t she stay at home instead?

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You will have to answer these questions and many, many more 😀

Not only that, but you may have to remove some of your favorite sequences in order for the new continuity to make sense. That means hacking away at that razor sharp dialogue and those gorgeous descriptions, leading you to meander down a road rife with uncertainty.

Well…you could ask someone to be your beta reader and get their opinion, but then they may question your literary genius.

You can’t have that.

But really there’s nothing for it.

It’s just another stumbling block on the road to success, or, as is often the case with writing, another mine in a minefield of never-ending despair and disappointment.

Perhaps in between drafts you should take a break. Let it sit for a while and then come back to it when it’s had time to cool. Then you can turn your keen eye to the festering pile of dung that is your first draft with a clear perspective and can dispose of it accordingly.

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Regardless, I think this may be one of the hardest parts of writing. Besides… everything else.

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Rewriting: Once More with Feeling!

I experience a mixed bag of emotions when I’m rewriting a piece.

One emotion is excitement because I’m fixing things I had problems with in the original draft. Another is trepidation because I’m worried that the things I actually did enjoy about my original draft will have to be cut out.

Each thing you change in a story has a domino effect. One little paragraph can completely change the tone.

You have to choose what you change very carefully.

There’s also the humiliation of realizing you actually let another human being read this when it doesn’t remotely resemble what you hoped it would be.

I’m going to attempt to do something I’ve never done before.

I am going to literally take it page by page and rework as much as I can in my favor. Every word I don’t like, every clumsy sentence, every image that isn’t just right is going to get the hedge clippers.

Just the thought makes me want to drink an entire bottle of whisky straight out of the bottle, but it seems as though this is the only method that will make this venture worth while.

How else will I justify spending months on this thing?

Editing My Novella, or the Red Pen of Death

I’ve put it off long enough.

I must edit the third draft of my story.

It’s been a while since I looked at this novella and, to be honest, I’m kind of terrified. Is it going to be better than I remember? Worse than I remember? I have no way of knowing until I reread it.

Will it stay a novella? Will I have to hack away at it until it’s a short story, or pile on it until it’s a full-length novel?

There are so many questions.

Unfortunately, there are no answers. 

Only the Red Pen.

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The Red Pen snorts at your characters’ backstories and your obvious social commentary. 

The Red Pen cares nothing for your need to impress your friends. It scoffs at your attempts at fictionalizing yourself and rewriting your high school years so everyone thinks you’re great and you date that hot guy from your chemistry class. 

There is no hope.

Only copyediting.

Remember that character you were going to develop, but then abandoned? The Red Pen does. That awkward sexual metaphor you made in the third chapter? The Red Pen noticed.

The Red Pen sees.

The Red Pen knows.

Wish me luck…

Letting My Friend Break My Kneecaps, or Getting Constructive Criticism

I am happy there is someone who is willing to give me their honest opinion of my work. It can be difficult to a) find someone who is willing to read anything, let alone something I wrote and b) find someone who will not pull punches when it comes to problems with plot, story, characters, etc.

I gave one such friend a manuscript for a short-story/novella I am writing and the response I received went a bit like this:

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My characters:

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Me:

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My friend:

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Okay, in all seriousness, it was for the best. Sure, she wrote a diss track on my story, but none of her critiques stemmed from hatred or toxicity. She even told me she liked the story in spite of its many, many problems. Most of the issues she commented on I had seen for myself and agreed with.

I don’t get writers that won’t take any type of criticism. I’ve had many writing classes and in each there is at least that one person who insists they are the next J.K. Rowling and refuse to believe that anything negative said about their work is be true.

The teacher is just jealous or that editor didn’t “get” the story, etc.

This may be condescending of me, but I have a nagging suspicion most of these writers aren’t going anywhere.

How do you expect to get any better if you don’t even know if you’re doing something wrong? Would it be better if your sky diving instructor didn’t tell you how to properly jump out of a plane?

Having a beta reader is undeniably crucial in my opinion. It’s so much easier to see what elements require further explanation, or which characters need more development.

Everything I type comes from my own head so I have the benefit of all that background information. The reader does not.

That doesn’t mean I’m immune to saltiness when it comes to remarks made against my babies, but I have learned that most thought-out criticisms have merit.

In the end, it’s worth all of the blows to the ego in order for my story to become the best that it can be.

The Third Draft of Redemption

It’s not perfect, but it’s done.

After several long weeks, I finally finished that pesky third draft that has been plaguing my every thought.

Remember how a few posts ago I wrote about how a second draft was like a forest fire? Well, this draft was like trying to put the forest back together after the flames and then attempting to make it look better than it did before getting torched.

I kept rereading my previous draft, wondering how I could possibly repair the damage I had wrought without overdoing.

In some cases, I have been able to fix certain errors in my work, however, the result is that it becomes completely sapped of all personality. Personally, I’d rather have a project that’s zanny and nonsensical than boring.

Luckily, I think this draft is neither A nor B.

It’s adventurous!

It’s full of action!

It’s 68 pages long….!

Crap.

Oh, well. I’ll worry about that later. For now, I will relish in the fact that I have stuck with this project for so long and am planning to see it through to the end. Whatever the fate of my story will be, I will not stop giving it the love and affection it deserves!

Abandon Manuscript!: The Diary of a Quitter

I’m notorious for jumping ship whenever a story becomes complicated. Friends ask me frequently how a story is going and my blood goes cold.

Oh,” I think, “just imagine a sinking boat that suddenly catches fire only to be extinguished by a humpback whale, leaping from the water and crushing it into splinters with its girth. That’s how the story is going.”

I frequently write myself into corners.

I create plots that are too complex to unravel.

I design characters that don’t do what I want them to do.

Then there’s the constant feeling of being adrift at sea, wondering “now what?”

Creating an outline works for about a day. Then, my brain throws something else into the mix that creates a disastrous domino effect.

I reread the manuscript for a novel I’ve been working on since January and made the decision to abandon it. I consider this an accomplishment since I deserted it after completing the first draft in its entirety rather than rewriting a specific chapter ad nauseam as is my custom.

I decided to begin again on a manuscript I discarded a year previously. I think the premise is still solid and the characters, once fleshed out, will be interesting and memorable. It will require quite a bit of plotting and a great deal of motivation.

Oftentimes I lack the latter because I lack the former.

I have confidence in the story. Maybe I just need more confidence in my abilities.

If I keep a steady course, perhaps this will be the one that makes it into port.

Re-reading Old Drafts

Is there anything more horrifying than reading something you wrote years ago?

……Or two days ago?

I’m pretty sure if a Boggart were to appear in front of me one dark and stormy night, it would take on the form of the manuscript I wrote in high school.

It was your standard paranormal romance, only with a ghost and psychic rather than a vampire. The genre for the blood-suckers had already been pimped out to the extreme so I was going to write one about ghosts who were depreciating in popularity.

I was so convinced this was going to be my magnum opus I spent literally years on it. I even took it to a writer’s workshop to have it read by a mostly adult audience. Unfortunately, I never finished it because I progressively outgrew the message I was trying to convey.

A couple of months ago, I revisited it to see how I’ve progressed as a writer over the years.

It was unquestionably the most unintentionally funny thing I’ve ever written. That’s including the novel I wrote on a notepad when I was 9 years old that featured a holocaust victim and the daughter of a Nazi general jumped out of a helicopter with no parachute and somehow landing safely on the ground.

I blame Peter Pan for giving me false exceptions of gravity.

When I become rich and famous, I’ll bury all my old writings in a secret tomb underneath my house. It’ll be guarded by a dragon that sounds like Benedict Cumberbatch and speaks only in German.

If there’s anything embarrassing you’ve written feel free to share.

I’ll cry with you.

Dear First Draft: a Breakup Letter

Dear First Draft,

Remember how I said I needed some time away to think about our relationship? Well, I’ve given myself some breathing room and I’ve finally come to the conclusion that we should see other people.

I know this must be heartbreaking for you. It’s difficult for me as well. In the beginning, our love burned so brightly. I was completely beguiled by you. I thought you were the most unique snowflake in a snow storm of literature. You were so strong, so smart. I’d even go so far as to call you sexy. But now that I’ve allowed our little fling to cool off, I realize that we can’t maintain this relationship any longer.

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For one thing, you’re more gabby than I remember. In the past I was absorbed by your every word. Each sentence was tailored like a tapestry. You were beautiful and intricate. Now that I’ve reread you, you just dither on pointlessly about scenery and give a bunch of exposition nobody cares about. I don’t know why you thought giving the custodian five pages of backstory was good idea. Considering he only does one thing that has any bearing on the plot, this seems more than a little pointless.

Secondly, you’re unstructured. You don’t know who you are or what you’re doing. You’re like a goldfish with Alzheimer’s. You can’t seem to remember what the main character’s motivations are. Sometimes you’re lucky to remember what day of the week it is. You said it was Friday one day, and then the next day too.

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Also, as much as it pains me to say this, your grammar sucks. Seriously, it’s bad. Maybe it was the wine that made me see a comma where a period should have been. Who knows? Perhaps it was my love for you that blinded me to your faults. In the past, I wanted to show you off to everyone. Scream my love for you from the rooftops. Now I want to keep you in a closet where you can’t embarrass me anymore.

This is hard for me to admit, but I’ve been seeing another draft behind your back. I feel horrible about it. Nonetheless, I can’t deny there is more chemistry between he and I than there was with us.

Sure, he has his flaws too. He isn’t quite sure what he wants either, but he doesn’t write “your” instead of “you’re” and he doesn’t talk forever about birds or how much the sun is shining.

I feel like he understands my train of thought more. We’ll be seeing a lot more of each other in the future.

In fact, I think he might be the one.

I know this is difficult for you. But we had fun, didn’t we? It was chaos. It was messy. Nothing made sense. But it was fun.

Though our love has come to an end, I will always remember you. And you will always have a place in my heart…..

And in a desk drawer where you’ll never been seen by another living person again.

Sincerely,

Writer