Breaking It Down

So the editing process is quite the trip. I expected a lot of what I’m experiencing, but some of it is rather surprising. 

From the first, I’ve always been someone sceptical of editing. I remember getting into arguments with my tenth grade creative writing teacher because she wanted me to write a rough draft first. “I don’t do that, ” I told her. She didn’t believe me. “I just write the story the first time, and then I’m done with it. I don’t go back through it a second time.”

sometimes you gotta take a break
sometimes you gotta take a break

Well, this was nonsense to her, and she promptly told me I’d receive an F if I didn’t cooperate and produce a rough draft. So of course I cooperated. I wrote my “final draft”, then I went back through and added mistakes intentionally, and gave that version to her as a rough draft.

I got an A.

I’ve changed a lot since then, and now not only do I wilfully participate in editing my own work, I actually enjoy it quite a lot and am fascinated by what the hell I was thinking when I went through the first time. I am really quite astonished to find how awkward I can write, without even realising it at the time. 

But six years of reading and writing will change you, a lot, and I’m happy to say I’m a much better writer than I was when I started. I’m constantly weeding out useless purple prose and long winded expositions that have no business being in a mature novel. Of course I know why I put them in there, because I’m in love with the world I created and I want to share every detail of it with my audience. But that just isn’t how it works. That’s not good writing. 

“My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way,” Ernest Hemingway once said. “Prose is architecture, not interior decoration, and the Baroque is over.”

Besides being one of my favourite quotes, that’s something that I try to live by as I write. Someone also once said to “kill your darlings,” in reference to phrases and passages you love most in your own work. It’s very true. 

So I’m very nearly done with editing at this point. I’ve had some professional obligations that have kept my attention diverted for the moment, but I plan to have the book fully edited by this weekend and ready for my agent on Monday.

The only frustrating part so far is that even though I’m nearly through editing, and having gone through the book with a no-holds-barred attitude, scouring every page and deleting over ten thousand words at this point, and adding nearly as many, I still find places I don’t like when I go back through and look at my edited sections. Still! I still see things I want to change. 

I guess I was really hoping that I would finally achieve an “ah-ha!” moment and feel satisfied with my work. In some places, that’s very true. In others, I still don’t know what I was thinking. It makes me very nervous to consider what I might be missing when I do eventually finish that last page and hit “Print”. 

But, as someone said, we’re never really finished. So I have to suppose that I’ll just take this in its best form, as the most glowing copy that I, at this age and with my sound judgement, can produce. And I’ll send it off and hope for the best. After all, it is a very good story, and even if I don’t have it quite right, I’m hoping I’ll be forgiven for a little purple prose here and there. 

 

 

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5 thoughts on “Breaking It Down

  1. Writing and editing my subversive fairy tale has taken me endless hours this summer. I’m a teacher, so I’m extremely thankful I had the time to do it. You’d think that a fairy tale would be easy to write, but you have to be succinct and cover all of your bases in about five pages of text. It feels like going from the middle of the ocean of thoughts to a match box. I’m anxious to know more about your novel. Please keep posting about your journey; I’m not quite there yet, so I’m eager to hear what happens. Happy days!
    Manelli Bochelli

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    1. Not at all, fairy tales are very complex, even if they share similar themes. They wouldn’t have the staying power that they do if there wasn’t something very deep being communicated through the simple stories. There’s a lot of lessons there, and it’s wonderful to lose yourself in those words. I applaud you for assaying to revive this lost art.

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      1. Thank you for your kind words of encouragement. My fairy tale began as a middle reader. My daughter, Tiffany Smith, who has just completed her first YA Fantasy novel and is in the process of final editing, encouraged me to rewrite it as a fairy tale. (You would enjoy her blog at authortiffanysmith. I wrote it and thought I’d completed it. Then I read where this agent is looking for subversive FT, so I changed it and like it much better. I’m hoping it will be an eye-opener to some and allow discussions on bullying. I speak German, but I’m not grim/Grimm. lol What are you working on now?

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