As I said in the last post, I’ve been editing and revising this novel for the seventh time. The first few rounds of revisions were basically to turn a jumble of words into a sensical, coherent thing that didn’t have plot holes the size of former planets. The later rounds of revisions were to put more of my voice into the manuscript, and to try and just amp up the overall quality of the writing. And I love/hate this.
The terrifying and wonderful thing about writing is that you have the freedom to make any choice, because you know you are going to edit it later. You don’t have to fix that random bit of crappy dialogue because you can go back and take it out, or make it actually funny when you’re not so brain dead from constructing the whole scene in the first place. Writing is kind of like being a little kid who doesn’t really have to worry about consequences too much.
Editing though, that’s like adulting. You’ve made choices in the past, and now you are older, wiser, and have to deal with them. You have to be consistent and true to the story you are telling. You have to have reasons behind your choices, and you have to make sure that what you’re doing is the best option for you and your story.
I try to think of good editing as making a recipe – you have lots ingredients, but trying to make spaghetti with marshmallows instead of vegetarian meatballs isn’t going to be as satisfying (unless you’re Elf). I always think of tangents and backstory and extra conversations I could add to the pages, but I have to stop myself and ask if it’s excessive, if it furthers the story or just adds to the word count.
Cutting things out and deciding what to keep is the hardest part of the writing process to me. I get so excited about how many pages I’ve written on a fresh story, but when the time comes to trim it down and change things I think that’s where I get hampered down. I’m not creating anymore, I’m honing. I love watching the material get transformed, but I hate how painstaking it can be sometimes, especially when I’m just staring at words and wondering what on Earth I was thinking when I typed them out.
Right now I’m trying to get through a few scenes that have been rewritten so many times that I think I just kind of got into a rut with them. I worked really hard on restructuring and fixing little sentences that have bothered me for several drafts, and I’m forcing myself to redo them until I am satisfied. It’s grueling, but so worth it. My brain is sore from trying to make all these changes, but knowing I’ve improved my manuscript by that much with each little fix makes me beyond elated and hopeful that soon it will be finished.