On Editing

Posted 14 June, 2009 by DLWhite in Writers Write 0 Comments

Transcript for #writechat 061409

I missed today’s  #writechat because I’ve been staying up until 1 or 2am writing and it finally just came crashing down on me this afternoon. Slept for hours and hours. And now I’ll be awake for hours and hours. Yikes. This happens every Sunday, and tomorrow I will be sleepy and cranky because I can’t sleep tonight.

I would have loved to participate, because it was on editing, something that is the bane of my existence but it so necessary. My process is almost obsessive, but, reading through the chat, I find I’m not the only one. Lately, I’ve been trying to just write, write, write, but if I have to stop, for any reason– to go to the restroom, eat dinner, go to work, any reason– I can’t just pick up where I left off. I have to go back and edit, and write what I meant to say, and put those missing words in, and fix that comma, and ‘does that dialogue seem right?’, and do some research and do more editing until it’s “right”. Only then can I move on.

And then I do another chunk until I can’t write anymore, and then I go back and edit the same way, BUT FROM THE BEGINNING. Yes, people. I am… yeah. The further a person gets away from the material, the more objective a person can be. At least that is the theory, because when I move on to a new chunk, I’ve separated myself from the first piece and my mind is elsewhere. When I read from the beginning again, I’m kind of reading with new eyes and I see things I should have said better, in a different way. Not only that but reading back from the beginning helps me make sure the chunks fit together like a puzzle piece.

One of the last comments on today’s chat was from @KarlBimshas, who asked: When looking back at your old writing (years) what percent impresses you and what percent horrifies you?

Allow me to alleviate anyone’s fear or mistaken supposition that I think I am some kind of great writer. Because… yeah. Reading actual novels and then reading what I write? I need work. But I’m working at it and not content to just write badly because no one sees it. I hope it makes a difference. In answer to the question, I’d say more than half is a little embarrassing, especially the stuff I wrote before I became such an aggressive self editor, and before I started sending drafts to critique friends to read. KFLO is my most staunch reader– she is so quick to send me a *rolleyes* at something, or tell me I missed a word or something’s not right. Unfortunately, she’s not the best ‘idea man’… sometimes I have to stop talking to her because she wants to turn my piece into a soap opera. “Hey man,” she says, “I’m just throwing ideas out there. You know? What if’s?” Her caveat is that she wishes that she could write. She is an accountant. I wish I could add. We’re even.

V is a good friend, ardent reader, pretty much reads everything I write in a certain genre and I kind of have to say if it wasn’t for her I might not still be writing. I get sensitive about what I write– it’s like baring your soul and putting it out there for everyone to pick at. And in the uh…. embarrassing admission in 3…2…1… fanfiction world, certain things matter more than others, specifically, RPF (Real Person Fiction, or fiction about the public representation of a real person). Characterization is massively important. Realistic plot lines and dialogue and story pace– it all has to make sense, or no one will read it, or comment on it, or LIKE it.  Honestly, not many in my fandom read me, but the few who do say they enjoy what I write. Even so, sometimes I feel like I just really truly suck, and I want to hang up my hat. V keeps me going, invoking what we jokingly call the ‘Circle of Truth’, which is that I am a talented writer and that every word I write brings me closer to the rest of the world thinking so. And so I hunker down and put on the Dave Matthews Band and open Word and get to writing. It’s getting to where she won’t even listen to me whine anymore. Now there’s the sign of a good pal. Thanks, V!

Sometimes, when I’m brave, I send a copy to my novelist friend Rebecca Miller. She’s written two novels and is on her third self published book. I love love love her books (the Quintessential Series, based on a group of five men in a pop group. Each novel focuses on one of the members, tells their story). I’ve been hooked since Build My World, through Save Me, and each successive chapter of Coming Home is even better than the first two. Anyway, Rebecca (or Becky, as I know her) will most definitely tell me when something isn’t good. She’s also the person behind me trying to step out of fanfiction and write original fiction, which is really scary and kind of exciting. “You need to lock him in a closet,” she says about my usual fanfiction main character. “Explore the world beyond him– you have to work so hard to remain within the confines of actual history and truth.” Which is true, it has to be realistic, so you can’t take a character and turn him into something he’s really not, unless it’s an Alternate Reality which sort of becomes less like fanfiction and more like original fiction with familiar characters. It’s something I tried but 1.5 chapters in and I’m *shrug… whatever* about it. It’s on my list of pieces I want to finish before I hang up my fanfiction hat.

So, after I get word back from my three critique pals, I edit to where I’m happy. I don’t necessarily take all advice given to me. I do consider it, all of it, and either follow it or put it away after making sure it either won’t work, or that’s not the direction I want to go. Sometimes I’m advised to remove/shorten/ change things and I know my current iteration doesn’t work but…I just love it so much as is that I refuse to change it. Writer’s prerogative!

So after it’s perfect to me, I archive it, so I can stop messing with it, and move on to something new, and the whole process starts up again. It’s a maddening, odd, obsessive cycle— that I kind of actually really enjoy. Maybe it gives me something I can control, makes me feel powerful and like a ‘real writer’.

Speaking of, I guess I’d better get some food and get down to some ‘real writing’. I’ll be up for awhile.


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