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?

giphy.gif

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.

8f5.gif

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

giphy

When a Writer You Admire is a Jerk

A few years ago, my novel writing class had a high-profile guest speaker talk to us: the award-winning author of a YA book we had been assigned to read about a week prior.

I was pretty jazzed about it considering how much I’d enjoyed the story. I’ve had predominately good experiences with meeting published authors in the past and have always learned quite a bit from talking with them, so I thought this would be a positive encounter.

My first impression of her was not a bad one. She glided into the room on a cloud of confidence, cool oozing from every pore. She made us laugh, told us a bit about her writing process, and then she opened the floor for questions.

I was the first to raise my hand. She called on me and I asked her how much of the book was based on her own life.

I knew she was an army brat from the bio on the back cover of her novel, but I was curious as to how much of her MC’s life mirrored hers. I had a hunch there were quite a few parallels since most authors derive minute details from their own experiences, but I didn’t want to assume that everything was a perfect representation of her youth.

“Oh,” she replied, “that’s a tourist question. That’s not a good question at all.”

Me:

jontron-gif.gif

Her:

giphy-1.gif

It’s always disappointing when you discover someone you admire is a jerk.

However, it can be a beneficial lesson to learn. It’s a reminder that, in spite of all that someone may have accomplished, they are still a human being, capable of fallibility. Some foibles are more significant than others, but we all have them. Even the most gifted of us. Especially the most gifted of us.

I’m happy this woman could teach me this lesson. So… very… happy.

AubreyPlazaNo.gif

In fact, I’m so happy that I’ve been inspired to write the ultimate novel that will earn me critical praise as well as sacks and sacks of money. I will then use those sacks of money to create a giant pyre and burn all her books in a ceremonial fire.

Beware, jerk writer, I will be avenged through the power of literature!

0aa.gif

 

My First Car is Dead: My Car Accident

I’ve had a difficult time writing recently because I have had two crappy events occur in a single week. The first I won’t discuss here, but I hope that my writing about the second event will help me get my mojo flowing again.

I was driving home from school after dropping off some camera equipment and I was feeling pretty good. It was Thursday, my last school day for the week, so I was looking forward to taking it easy.

Somewhere down the line, the car in front of me came to a stop so I carefully halted behind them and waited for them to turn into a residential neighborhood.

That’s when I saw this jeep speeding towards me.

It took me all of a second to realize he was not going to stop. There was a car in front of me and there was no time to get out of the way.

I slammed on my horn, all but honking in morse code for him to stop.

He didn’t.

The jeep slammed into me going 45 miles an hour.

The glass from my back window exploded and I was thrust forward. I must have blacked out for a second because when I opened my eyes, part of my nail on my pointer finger was peeled back and the finger beside that had a chipped nail.

img_8761

I peered in the rearview mirror and horror and rage consumed me. My trunk was crumbled like an accordion and all the glass in my rear windows was smashed into fine shards.

I would later learn that the reason my windows had been broken out was because at one point this guy’s jeep was inside of my car. He had hit me so hard that he flew up into my back window and had to reverse the jeep to get out of my car. 

Jenny totalled.jpg

I made eye contact with him as soon as he got into the lane beside me to pull over. For a moment, I thought he was trying to flee the scene and I lost what little control I had.

“YOU ASSHOLE!” I screamed, beating my fist against the steering wheel. I was hoping that each pound would produce a shrill honk from my horn, but it wouldn’t.

I was hysterical. I couldn’t even tell if I was hurt considering I was still in shock.

Turns out the guy that hit me was 17 year-old boy that had been texting and driving.

He tried to sell this cock and bull story to the cop about how he had been changing lanes and that’s why he hadn’t seen me.

However, I can still see him charging at me in my mind’s eye and I know for a fact he did not have his turn signal on. And I distinctly remember seeing his left hand raised upwards as if he had been looking at something.

I tried to take solace in the fact that I was okay and that no one had gotten hurt. No one had been in the car with me at the time so I didn’t have to worry about anyone else.

But that still didn’t change the fact that my car, my baby, would never be driveable again.

IMG_8746.JPG

Jenny, as I called her, was my very first car. I’d learned to drive with her, drove to my first job with her, had my first kiss with my first love in her, and made countless other memories. I decorated her with nerdy decals and hood ornaments. She was part of my identity. She was my car. She had style and personality.

Sure, this kid’s insurance (which is already high because he’s a teenage boy) is going to go through the roof and he’s probably going to get into deep crap with his parents over this. But I still didn’t have Jenny.

I never thought losing a car would be this heart-wrenching. There are people out there who have lost friends and family members in horrible ways. I shouldn’t be this distraught over a car. It’s a machine for crying out loud.  And yet I was. Still am, if I’m honest.

She served me so well over the years, been with me through so much, it was like I was losing a bit of myself in the process. A part of my identity had been stripped away.

How could this happen? I hadn’t done anything wrong and this punk had destroyed something I cared deeply about.

All because he just had to see what one of his friends wrote.

img_8759

The worst part is, I don’t think he gets how bad this could have been. I could have had a baby in that backseat. I could have been an elderly woman and had a heart attack or thrown out my back. He lucked out by hitting a young twenty-something. I don’t know that any of this will effect him or his future behavior. I doubt our paths will ever cross again.

My mom and I visited the wreckers where they took Jenny after the car crash one last time and…it gutted me. We threw away some trash, pocketed some CDs I’d unwittingly left in the glove compartment, got some spare change from the floorboards (occasionally cutting ourselves on the glass as we did so) and removed the steering wheel cover.

I took a few photographs for posterity. Even though she was a wreck from behind, from the front she looked just like her normal, chipper self. Don’t ask me how a car can look chipper, she just did. Her headlights were like large eyes and when I glanced back at her one final time, it felt like I was leaving the family dog at a pound.

It was like I was abandoning her.

She stared back at me, looking as new as the day I got her, silently crying out, “Don’t leave without me! Please!

img_8767

But I did. I had to. I knew from the moment I had regained consciousness from that accident that there was no way I could ever get her fixed. She was totally obliterated and her design had saved my life. Her bumper had absorbed most of the impact so I wasn’t seriously injured.

So I’m fine. Everyone’s fine. Nevertheless, I still feel like I’ve lost a loyal companion. Someone I travelled with from place to place on a daily basis. Jenny wasn’t a pet or a person, but she was a part of me that I’m going to have to let go of. I have to remember my memories aren’t confined to her. I’ll always have those moments. But I’ll never have another first car.

I miss you, Jenny.

Thanks for saving me.

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.

tumblr_o2v9ai2jyo1um01uyo1_500

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:

giphy

My characters:

tumblr_n2k5j5mrkr1qjvcyho1_500.gif

cat-throat.gif

Me:

arya-stark-twins

My friend:

giphy-1

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.

A Most Photogenic Cat

My boss went out of town to a business conference in another state and asked me if I wanted to watch her house and look after her neighbor’s cat while she was gone.

She had forgotten she told her neighbor she would look after the tabby while he was out of town, so she would need me to make sure his pet was taken care of as well.

It wouldn’t be difficult, she assured me. The cat spent most of its days outdoors but had a food and water bowl in the garage that needed to be filled regularly.

When I first met the cat, I noticed he was different from most of his kind in that he was unusually friendly.

I named him Barnaby and we became best friends.

I ask you, is there anything more beautiful than a low-maintenance relationship?

All I had to do was feed him and he would treat me like Cat Jesus.

IMG_4939

We had a good thing going.

I’d take care of my boss’ house, make sure Barnaby had enough food and water, and then we’d hang out and take a bunch of pictures at his place.

IMG_4953

I remember when we sat by the pool for the last time. He stretched out on my lap and I thought this would be a perfect time to snap a photo.

My instincts were correct.

The wind picked up at just the right time, causing my hair to fan out to the side. It would seem the tiniest bit of dust got into Barnaby’s eye at that moment because, when I examined the photo afterwards, I saw that he appeared to be winking at the camera.

IMG_4964

My brief friendship with Barnaby taught me a lot of things that will follow me throughout life.

However one lesson stands out above all the rest:

I am horribly allergic to cats.

Prior to this experience I had no idea. While many of my friends have owned cats, their felines typically just eyed me suspiciously and flounced away.

Barnaby, however, was intent on killing me with kindness and I didn’t even know it.

I’d go over to the garage, take care of him, then I would come home and feel like I’d been hit by a semi.

My head would feel as it it was grow exponentially and congestion would make it impossible to breathe. I thought I was coming down with the flu.

But I put the pieces together as soon as I realized I always felt worse after coming to see him.

So thanks for the memories, Barnaby, I forgive you for trying to kill me.

At least I have photos to remember you by.