The last few days has been rough when it comes to working on the book.
I find that I will do just about anything else to avoid editing. I tend to look at the book with the discerning eye of someone who is considering a steaming pile of garbage that has been discarded on the side of the road.
This last particular chapter…hooo boy. I know in your first draft you are just supposed to get the words down. I wrote what happened, but it wasn’t a scene. It was a report. It wasn’t a story, just a string of events and feelings. I went from point A to point Z. And the steps in between were just watching paint dry.
This is why I wish I had an editor. I’m not talking about someone who can tell me how to use grammar. Jeez, I just paid off student loans that show that I am trained (and more than capable) at editing. The kind of editor I need is some kind of Maxwell Perkins who will show up and say “You use language very well, but you are losing the story! Try this!” and wave his magic wand and a story is carved out of a rough chunk of marble and people look at it and say “oooh” or “aaahhh”.
Maxwell Perkins is dead and rotting in his grave. There’s only me, and in the climate of publishing these days, unless and editor gets a perfect story that just needs some cover art slapped on it and a wheelbarrow ready for the cash that comes in, they don’t give a fuuuuuuuuuck.
So, I’m editing this steaming pile of garbage.
Today, I needed groceries. Mostly dog food, dog biscuits, and some incidentals. Which turned into a grocery run. I don’t mind these trips so much, because they give me a lot of time to think. Today, I had a lot of time to think about this particular chapter, and about twenty minutes in to my 60 minute drive to the store, I decided I needed to rewrite it totally.
I did my shopping. Drove home. Made dinner. Took a nap. Woke up and made a cup of black tea and got to work.
Damn it, I thought. It was hard enough to write the friggin’ thing. Now I had to just melt it all down to slag again and make something else out of it? But tonight I sat down and began with a moment in the scene and I was off to the races.
A couple hours later, I got a text from a friend checking in on me and I realized I was nearly done with the chapter. I had completely lost track of time. The chapter was…good. Dare I say that? Or is that a jinx? It accomplished everything its earlier incarnation did and it did it in an oblique way that just described a string of moments in a scene, rather than a report of events. There was dialog. Description. Character development. Jeez, almost like I was a real writer or something. The chapter was better. Like much, much better. It felt good.
So, the next chapter I am looking at is a mess, and it is a moment where things progress in the story. It is necessary, since it is the introduction of some characters and some important events. Plot. That’s a big problem I’ve got. Plot vs. character. I’m great at pretty words in either case. I love poetry and have a flair for it in my prose. But I need to figure out how to plot without having such a heavy hand. It’s okay to let the reader fill in the blanks. When they read it, they will know the natural progression. They will know where I’m going and when they look back, they will understand where they have come from.
That kind of trust is hard for me. But in my Editor hat, that is exactly what I have to do.
Sometimes you just need a good drive to clear your head.
One thought on “Editing and trust”
Self-editing is hard work. I’m glad you’re happy with the first chapter you edited. I found your assessment of editors to be interesting. Not all editors are concerned simply with grammar, punctuation and so on. There are editors who will coach writers through a revision, or help show them where the story itself could be stronger. This often involves helping the writer to understand how certain story fundamentals show up in their manuscript. These kinds of editors are usually story coaches or developmental editors. Anyway, best of luck with your revision!