A little back story, after several years of toiling, I finished a SFD draft of After Life (AL) in July 2015. I let it set on the back burner until March 2016 and have started the process of editing in earnest. Adventures in Editing is an occasional feature that chronicles the travails of trying to bring a bunch of muddle into a more cohesive draft. Thanks for reading!
I do believe in the adage that to write is to be a constant student of the craft. I see this as I discover new writers or glean some nugget of information in the writing blogs that I peruse. However, while all things can be good in moderation, I have found that too much information causes creative paralysis. I rediscovered this as I started thinking about how I was going to approach the editing process on AL. My current draft is hovering around a chunky 113k mark. I feel OK about the beginning, I’m a little meh about the ending – it’s there, but it needs some loving, and the middle? Uff da – don’t get me started on the middle. There’s good stuff there, but there’s flab. Oh sweet Lord, there’s flab.
But as I’ve purchased my red pens and have mentally been gearing up for the editing process, I found myself paralyzed. First and foremost – do I have the tools to accomplish my goal? This goes beyond red pens and Post-It notes. Do I have the knowledge to bring draft one to a better second draft? That question tends to paralyze me. It’s not only do I have the knowledge, it’s also a question of efficiency. Gestating a book and getting it ready to send it off into the world takes time, but do I approach the editing process correctly? Are there things that I should be considering as I read my draft that I don’t know about? Should I take a(nother) class where I learn more about the editing process?
There was one concept in particular that kept me procrastinating on the start of my current round of edits. Somewhere along my journey, I read you should read your draft from stem to stern in one sitting at the beginning of the editing process.
I don’t disagree with this concept and I think that the intent behind this is so that thoughts and perceptions remain fresh in the author’s mind and that any mental progress isn’t interrupted by having to read your draft in several different sittings.
And I really, really tried to do this with my latest draft of AL. I did. So how long did it take me? Four days. So do I think that my novel is now doomed because I wasn’t able to follow the advice of the experts? Nah. I think in my dream world, I’d have endless amounts of time to chase my dreams of fiction and publication. But in my real world, the world that fills me with ideas and introduces me to potential characters and … well, pays the bills … it took me four days to read my draft and rediscover my old friend Kate and her father Simon. I realized that there were a couple extraneous characters that could be jettisoned. I saw plot threads that were started and then fizzled out. I got what I needed. And now I’m crafting my action plan to go forward.
So the moral of the story? I’m learning to cut through the noise and I’m finding what works for me on this creative journey.
I’ll leave you with the following thought. I came across this status update in November on Facebook from Louise Penny. I liked this … this encapsulates my hopes as I hop from a shitty first draft to my second draft and beyond: “Started the second draft of the next book yesterday. The first few chapters are, of course, the ones that need the most editing. When I started this book, I knew the outline of the plot, and some of the themes, but as the book went on things evolved. These first chapters drag their knuckles on the ground. Need to have them stand upright. And in the next draft will make them lean and strong and swift. And, if I do a fourth draft, will see if I can teach it to make cappuccino.”