Creative Editing: It’s Not Lying If You Phrase It Right

Okay, since this is the month before NaNo I figure I’ll talk about my writing process for the month of October. What’s NaNo you ask? The full abbreviation is NaNoWriMo though most people just call it NaNo which stands for National Novel Writing Month. There’s an entire website dedicated to this long standing November practice of attempting to write an entire novel during the month. You can sign up or download the app and you’re all set.

Plenty of first novels have been written during the month of November because of the website. From the novice to veteran authors, for example James Patterson is a huge fan of the site, it’s a place to get feedback and share. It’s awesome. Most writers I know are aware and have their own NaNo stories to tell, though most are creatively edited.

I spend a great deal of time creatively editing the details of my life. I’ve been doing this for years. It’s a practice I started about the time I started writing at seven years old. If you write fiction you’re given liberty to creatively edit. You’re a liar. You’re getting paid to lie, you do it and call it fiction. Woo Hoo!

I ask a lot of ‘what if’ questions, and based on my history I create a scenario, an outcome for the character. Action and reaction, over and over until I finish the story. It’s easier to write what I know, so typically as the writer, the creator the character has my reaction or a creatively edited (what I wish I would have said or done in the same situation). I find a great deal of inspiration in getting to say the thing I wished I’d said, but didn’t in a particular situation. So long time creative editor. By the time I’m retelling the story, I said that line, that I failed to say. It left my lips at the perfect moment and did its job. Then I go on to remember it the new way.

At one point I felt bad about doing a creative edit. My mother instilled that fear of lying to her early on and the disappoint on her face when I was caught in my first lie left a life long impression. I carried a great deal of guilt over it other than when I put pen to paper, that I couldn't forgive and until I started calling it 'creative editing' or 'fiction' and a friend laid the Edie Brickell lyrics on me, “I swear I remember it that way, (too)," I would have continued to feel that guilt.

I have a friend who does it all the time not only that, he does it right in front of me. From his lips, the most mundane activity is hilarious. We laugh, although at first I tried to correct the details, until his version was too funny to bother. Example, we were riding in Dante 2, my truck, somewhere and a bug flew in the window. It landed on my sandal covered foot. The bug crawled up my leg, so I pulled the truck over, hopped out and shook it off my leg. That’s the true story as I remember it.

In his version, I was speeding down the highway when all of a sudden my driving became erratic. I screamed as he grabbed the ‘oh shit’ handle. I almost crashed us into the car in the next lane. I crossed three lanes of traffic, creating a pile up in my wake the entire time screaming and hollering incoherently. I pulled into the nearest parking lot, dashed out the driver’s side door, waving my arms like a lunatic. Tears streamed down my face as I finally returned to the vehicle calm and collected. I stated, “There was an enormous bug on my foot,” while holding my hands a foot apart. In his version, he saw a ladybug, that was it.

Okay, other than the fact that his version casts me in a bad light, I had to admit, yup his version, so much funnier than mine. Today, which version do I usually tell? His of course, edited without the carnage of creating a pile up.

Carnage is great for fiction, as I mentioned in the last post, “kill your darlings.” The phrase has two meanings to me. First kill the stuff you’re so in love with in your writing for the betterment of the scene, story but also, killing characters is acceptable too. Supporting cast and sometimes even main characters can die. It's allowed, really, truly I swear. Some writers overdo the killing, example, ‘Game of Thrones’. The point is with fiction, creative editing go for the extreme. It’s not reality so carnage is allowed. The creative edit is usually funnier even if everyone involved knows that's not what happened, instead of a mundane event you'll find a wonderful story to tell.

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