Before you get on some high horse about how editing is a part of writing, allow me to unbuckle your saddle while you’re still on it. I know that the process of being a novelist is a journey of different landscapes. The initial sunrise of bursting light (inspiration) is followed by rocky paths (writing and plotting) and raging storms (character development and killing darlings) to the darkest nights (getting stuck) and comforting moonrise (resolution the big story arcs). Then there’s editing. And it’s important, amazingly important. A piece of shit first draft only becomes a good book because of proper and often harsh rewrites.
But lately… Oh lately… I’ve been spending the majority of my time in edits for 4 different novels coming out this year.
And because it is a constant parade of fixing and rewriting, and cutting, and facing my inadequacies on the daily, editing to me feels like the endless beach scenes in The Drawing of the Three. Or slogging through an infinite desert on your way to somewhere but with no clear end in site. And though it’s repetitive you can never just let your feet (or your eyes in this case) zone out as you plod ahead. Because you’re traversing that same wondrous journey from an outside and judgmental perspective, and at least for the hundredth time and all the rocks seem to look the same, and the plot holes are huge, and there’s that lovely garden that serves no purpose so it must be felled. And when you reach the end, that moonrise? Well, it just skips forward again to the start. And you take smaller steps, sentence by sentence steps, every comma, period, flagrant and free-range POV that escaped the first dozen times. And you know this story and you’re sick of the characters and every step, every sentence feels heavier and heavier and…
You start to wonder why you’d ever want to write down another journey again.
Add to that, when you do sit down to write, you’re brain is in so much of a “Pick this shit apart and find what’s wrong with it” mode that you barely get two sentences in before you’re going back to the start of them to preemptively rewrite. The free flow of the sun coming up over the mountains looks more like a giant yellow strobe light over hills that you can no longer describe off the tip of your fingers like before.
What I’m saying is, I’ve been neck deep in editing now for months, and I’m grateful that I have so many projects coming out this year. I truly am. But if I don’t start limiting those hours of cuts and rewrites, I’m worried I’ll lose my joy in telling a story in the first place. I worry that the editor in me will take over the controls and I will be stuck in self-editing mode long enough, that I no longer am capable of telling a story. Just judging one. That I’ll be stuck in that deserted wasteland where no words are allowed out, because they don’t come out in 20th draft form.
What’s the point of this rant? I’m not sure, except that if you’re a writer, I’d love to hear how you balance out your creativity with the necessary clean up of editing. Right now, I am struggling and it’s left me frustrated, uninspired, and if I may say, more than a little disheartened. And a writer with no heart…