Now that it’s December, I can finally stop feeling like a loser for not joining the NaNoWriMo party last month. Again, don’t get me wrong. I think it’s a fantastic idea and I totally admire and support those who undertook that challenge, whether they met their goal or just kicked off a draft to keep working on. Either way, it’s all about motivation and how could there be anything wrong with that?
As I mentioned in my last post, my goal for November was to finish edits on my new book, Jump When Ready # 3 (actual title forthcoming). Did I make my goal? Well, sort of. I mean, I did finish a first round of editing. Then, a second. Both of those were done last month. Now, I’m on my third (the plan is to finish this weekend). Anyways, it seems to me that it’s only fitting to talk a little about editing. What else could possibly follow NaNoWriMo? Please don’t tell me you guys can both write and edit a novel in 30 days.
As it stands right now, I don’t pay someone to edit my books. Partly, because I can’t afford to and partly because I’m not sure how someone else could straighten out the mess I create for myself every time I draft a novel (even though these days I do use “story beats” to keep me from veering too far off course). I mean, sure, an editor could catch those typos and repeating phrases, all that, but I suspect there would be some serious head-scratching going on, at least following the first draft and maybe even the second. It’s in those drafts that I turn what I thought I was saying into what I actually meant to say. By the time I get that far, I figure I might as well take it the rest of the way as far as line-editing is concerned. I may very well change my mind about this in the future, so don’t hold me to this.
I think we can all agree that there’s really nothing very exciting about editing. When I started writing this post, I totally assumed there was no such thing as NaNoEdMo. As it turns out, I was wrong but those folks are on hiatus for this year. Either way, it’s kind of hard to imagine NaNoEdMo creating anything similar to the buzz of NaNoWriMo. Hey, everybody, let’s all get together and celebrate squinting in puzzlement! Let’s delete, move, move again, rewrite, recast, revise, clarify and further develop! Let’s all admit that, at times, we think we’re totally shitty writers who can’t possibly get it right the first time! Or the second, or even third. Woot, woot! Maybe I’m wrong and it’s just me. Maybe, I’m just ridiculous about things like shuffling pronouns around and cutting dialogue tags (for which, I’m once again grateful that I chose to write a series of novels where, at times, as many as five or more people all join in on a conversation). For me, editing seems like it takes forever, and I write fairly short novels.
I don’t mention it often because I know how it can go over. People can really get the wrong idea. But, yes, I went through an MFA program. There, I said it. But, hang on. Everyone thinks you’re supposed to emerge as some sort of literary genius if you get an MFA. Looking back, I think that may actually be one of the biggest problems with MFA programs—that those in them start to think that they should either produce gorgeous gems of literary fiction or bail on writing entirely. As for me, I just wanted to get better at crafting stories (plus, I didn’t have to pay since I was a GTA). Why do I bring up the MFA thing? Not to impress anyone since I’m not producing gems of literary fiction (hopefully, though, I am producing well-crafted stories). I mention it only because I think those workshops—those sometimes sadistic, torturous dissections of our own manuscripts at the hands of others—were really helpful in teaching me how to distance myself from my own work enough to do a decent job of editing, especially when it came to cutting stuff that wasn’t serving any real purpose or advancing the story. Which, come to think of it, might be why I write fairly short novels. Every time I draft one, it ends up shedding a few thousand words by the time I finish revising.
Anyway, all of this is to say that editing is a big part of the process. It’s when the fun stops and the work begins. At least, I bet it feels that way for a lot of people. At the same time, that’s not to say editing isn’t gratifying. For me, it’s a really great feeling when I read the book for the fourth (or tenth) time and realize I finally got it where it needed to go, that it’s ready to be published. Then again, I’d also be lying to say that I’d rather be editing than drafting that next book. I mean, come on, let’s be honest. Editing is a pain in the ass.
How’s NaNoEdMo going for you? We’re at the same party now, right? Guys? Are you with me?
Image via Creative Commons (adapted):