Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I’m an Editing Tortoise


Where do I stand with my soon-to-be-published novel, Desert Medicine? I’m back in the editing stage. Actually, I’ve edited this novel over and over again, and finding out that those edits were just the precursor to the master edit is intimidating.

This is who I am as an unpublished writer:
I’m a kitchen-sink writer who includes every remotely related thought and feeling into the first draft of a book, then I go back and try to find a plot and theme and bring those to the surface. My disorganized (I prefer the word “creative”) method of writing is a symptom of my personality, and is paralleled in my wildflower garden (as many weeds as flowers) and my sons’ baby books (two large boxes holding stacks of report cards, drawings, and photos).

This is who I need to be in order to be a published writer:
The most prolific, successful fiction writers say that they love editing because that’s when the “magic” happens and their writing becomes a cohesive novel with foreshadowing and strong motivation. Even though I can’t imagine loving editing my own writing (I find editing is much more enjoyable when I’m editing someone else’s work!), I realize that learning to be a better self-editor is an imperative step in fiction writing, at least if I want to make a career out of writing novels.

But the creative side of me is rebellious. I don’t want to have to go back and pick apart my “art” and then reassemble it again.

To get past my procrastination impulse, I tell myself to review the editor’s suggestions for just a few minutes at a time, then journal about some possible solutions to the problems she’s found. Even if the “magic” doesn’t happen, I tell myself to trudge on.

I’ve heard fiction writing compared to marathon writing. Just when you think the finish line is close, you realize that you’ve still got five more miles to go. No one said that running a marathon would feel good during those last five miles. But how satisfied the runner feels when she finally finishes the race, all the way to the very end.

And if all else fails, I can temporarily take a break from the novel-writing marathon and instead sort through my sons’ baby-book boxes or do some weeding.

Photo: My cousin’s pet tortoise.

2 comments:

Cheryl said...

Good luck with the editing!

Timothy Fish said...

When I was writing Searching for Mom, I discovered that I enjoy the editing process far more than what I enjoy the first draft. The first draft is hard and it is hard to keep track of everything. I don't know that I would say that editing is where the "magic" happens, but it is during editing that I am able to read my work at about the same pace as a reader will be reading it. While writing the first draft I have a tendency to forget some of the details of the previous chapters. If I have to put the work aside for a while then I forget even more. When I come back to it, I may think I need to remind the reader of what a character is doing when there is no need to do so. When I am editing a work, I don't have to worry about filling in the empty space and I can focus on making the story work. Editing also gives me a chance to get rid of the corny stuff and replace it with things that sound a lot better.