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This is who I am as an unpublished writer: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.