Friday, September 23, 2011

Writing versus editing

The other day I remarked on Facebook on the progress I'd made with edits on my first manuscript. I wrote this manuscript in high school and rewrote it seven or eight times in my twenties. I had to, I had no life experience and every time I learned something I saw a new nuance of how life worked that I had to share with my characters. Some people often lament not having caught their writing bug early in life, that they wasted too much time on other things. I remind them that it's hard to be a writer when your so naive regarding the human condition.

Plenty of friends have remarked that I have spent too much time on this project, but I enjoy it, and thus far it has yielded a series of three manuscripts. Now if it makes me happy to work on that series, even when I could do something else... Well, it's my compulsion, my hobby and I do have other ideas and projects kicking around.

They just never have the same pull. These folks are my first born, and as with real-life parenting, I have a learning curve. I have made mistakes, and I can either ignore them and move forward or try to rectify them. Plenty of people move on. Me, I want to fix them. It would hurt too much to know I had it in my power to change something and I didn't.

That said... Another author friend mentioned to me that she loves editing. That got me thinking. I love editing too or I wouldn't do it year in and year out. Do I love it more than writing?


Writing is emotional, messy, surprising and frustrating. Even if you plot, you learn things as you go. You cry. You laugh. You shake. You hit walls and climb them. You know what's going to happen and you don't. You know these people and then you find out that you don't.

Editing allows you to take all that mixed up stuff from the writing process and sort it, refine it and polish it. You get this high that says, "Yeah! This will work." And it's different from that writing high, because the writing high is very similar to a mother with a newborn baby-- all mothers think their babies are beautiful, whether they have conehead, cradle cap or look like a froggy old man. You need to step back and let that baby grow into its skin.

I love them both. I feel more control in the editing process, but I love the emotional roller coaster of dumping words on the page for the first time.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Editing, editing, editing

Perhaps this is a message of hope. Perhaps it's a warning that if you're considering the writing life, then have your heart and mind prepared for the frustrations and thrills of trying to tame the written word.

I revealed my first two chapters to a friend, fellow writer and former critique group member (she's moved out of the area, we did not throw her out). I needed someone to read them, not for a line by line critique but just a general "does it work" idea and to reassure myself that I hadn't edited the manuscript into a mess that no longer made sense.

These are legitimate questions/fears.

She liked them. She had read a recent version of the manuscript a couple years ago and thought the antagonist's motives more clear and his character more believable.

These are the same changes-- to the mythical structure of my supernatural universe-- that I labored over a month ago trying to decide whether these changes would be for THIS series or a book in the future.

A writer has to listen to his/her heart, because those lingering doubts of "what if" would haunt him/her every time a rejection comes in. Maybe I waste too much time writing and editing, but if I as a person am always changing, my manuscripts must change too.

One of the first things you learn in journalism is to save everything you write and to go through it once a year and throw it all in the trash except for maybe your five favorite pieces. You grow so quickly under the routine of professional writing that those early pieces look like garbage. In hindsight, they are embarrassing.

Fiction has similar growth. Whether it be the bad poems an author wrote in high school or a first manuscript, eventually we look back and see the faults. But since I'm not published yet, I can improve these early words and make them something I'm still proud of. I'm okay with that.