July 23, 2020
It was as I had been knifed, and my blood was splattered across the now-edited pages.
As if the pages weren’t stained with my blood already.
Okay, so that’s a little gory, and not accurate in any way. But it’s what looking at your manuscript feels like when you receive the first round of edits. Any hint of red makes you perk up in the same way a child perks up when they hear that high-pitched melody of the ice-cream truck echoing down the street.
What was changed?
Over and over and over again. And then when you read it though, there’s an exhale in thought.
Ohhh, okay… That works better…
And then the frustration sinks in.
How could I miss this?
This is horrible writing.
Over. And over. And over, again.
Editing. Yeah. Write a book they said. It’ll be fun they said. Ok, so no one said that. In fact every meme I’ve ever found in reference to editing makes it look like pulling your nails out and placing them bloodied and all on the coffee table. Then adding your teeth so you can make a necklace.
Editing a novel of over 60,000 words is grueling — it’s one thing to let your fingers dance freely along the keyboard, and something else entirely to read those words — One. By. One. Then a complete sentence. Then a paragraph. Then a page. Then a chapter.
Then the whole book.
It’s like coloring aimlessly on a page, then coming back in attempts to frame those scribblings into some semblance of shapes to make sense. And then — and then — ask yourself: Does this work? Does everyone else see the shape of the elephant or the monkey like I do?
The process forces you to truly own every word and line in your book. But this process isn’t entirely new to me.
In fact, what’s helped was working at a newspaper — when you’ve got 20 inches of copy to fill, you really look at every word to make sure it’s useful. Otherwise, cut it. Throw it away. Slice and dice — you’ve only got 20 inches to work with.
But 20 inches is 20 inches.
A novel of over 60,000 words stretches to 250-ish pages. 20 inches of newspaper copy is perhaps a page and a half. Maybe.
The word meticulous comes to mind. And it’s easier to be meticulous when you’re stopping at every word for maybe, 600 words?
It’s a grueling if you haven’t already picked up on that. But, worth it. As mentioned in the pages of Bolder Dreams, anything worth doing is difficult. No runner becomes a star overnight. It takes one mile at a time. And you need many, many miles in your legs before the fruits of your labor can be enjoyed.
Once the words are all in their right places, there’s the story itself…
Does it work?
It’s a revealing process , because it’s having someone else objectively look at the erratic shapes you’ve scribbled onto the page and fix them, frame them, or have questions about them. And questions about the the content on the page is a question for the writer — what did you mean by this?
So you go back, attempting to recapture the mindset you were in when you wrote that line. What is the purpose of this line? This dialogue? What were you trying to say? It’s looking into the mirror trying to decipher what exactly you were getting at in the moment the words left your fingers and found their way to the page.
Explaining the moment of creation.
Does John really need to bicker with Blake over trivial topics? Why is Baxter always driving or walking around at night? Where did the phrase “Get your crouton” come from?
Editing is self-reflecting at its finest. I believe any writer, painter, artist would agree, that when you create something it’s hard not be feel vulnerable.
For a runner, it’s like storming across the country course to victory. But in the pursuit of red-lining you become the most un-photogenic person ever. Eyes wild in rage. Nostrils flaring in big circles like a monkey. Lips pulled back, exposing jagged teeth while slithers of drool drip from the sides of your mouth.
And that’s the photo that graces the front of the sports page in the Sunday edition.
Vulnerability aside, progress is being made. And so far we remain on schedule to hit an early-fall release. Right in time for the (pending) cross country season.