The Hard-On In Writing: Rewriting & Editing

Okay, to recap this month’s posts: To detail or not: kill your darlings, it’s not lying if you call it fiction, and it’s okay to write crap. Basically I’m coming back around to kill your darlings, rewriting and editing. Wow! It feels a little full circle, but that’s the process with writing unless you’re perfect. I’m not perfect. I’ll probably make several mistakes today, but that’s okay because I’m human. I don’t mean to make so many mistakes, but I’d rather make mistakes than have regrets. I intend to leave this world without a single regret, and hopefully surrounded by a rainbow of men and…*blush*, um, way off topic, back to editing and rewriting.

I’m currently reading The Alphabet versus The Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image. I’m only sixty or so pages into it, and I have no idea what I’ll take away from this book as a whole. So far it has me thinking about the fact that I don’t even question my own literacy, though I can remember back to when I couldn’t read. When subtitles in a film would frustrate me or even a pictureless book seemed daunting and overwhelming. If not for Mrs. G, my favorite librarian, I wouldn’t have risen to the challenge of reading and writing.

I started writing stories around the time I learned to read. Although The Alphabet Versus The Goddess inspired some of my favorite songs on Ani Difranco’s latest CD, Which Side Are You On? and she’s my favorite writer’s block unlock tool, I really don’t know. As Once Upon A Time likes to remind viewers in almost every single episode, there’s a price to pay for using magic. Not to jump off on a philosophical tangent but if literacy is a magic power that I have, what is the price I pay for being able to use it? Editing?

In my head, every piece I write is a movie playing out. Most of the time the visual lands on the page. When I edit, if it’s not there already, I plop down the details. It is my hope that the reader sees the picture I envisioned on each and every page. Or at the very least they get a vivid picture that will keep them reading. The parts that end up being crap, I might rework, delete, or edit. I never know until I’m re-reading, rewriting what will stay and what will end up lost to the dreaded delete button. I enjoy editing videos and stuff, but when it comes to self-editing my writing, I’m lousy at it. I’m much too close to the story to see what I wrote.

It’s a rough draft though. It’s the garden that needs tending. Sure there’s plenty of fertilizer and dirt in the mix, but underneath it all there is a story. A character drowning in bad writing. An emotional scene that makes the story worth reading. One dimensional characters that come to life. No matter what level my writing is at, I always need other people to read what I wrote tell me where I’m unclear, what’s not working. Dare I say, an outside editor or beta reader?

This is not to say that we as writers don’t need to do our own editing and rewriting. Before I could start submitting my work to a professional editor, I had to clean it up, flush out the story, rev up the scenes, and capture the details. Grammar and punctuation rules come into play here. I'm still not perfect at them, but I generally take care of the glaring mistakes that make a reader cringe.

So what happens if it still really, really, really sucks? If it doesn't look like editing will help at all? Well, rewriting the entire thing may be in order. With Forced to Change I ended up writing the bulk of the story in first person narrative, then switched it to third person narrative, and then ended up back in first person narrative. I know insane, right? Granted it was after I was already under contract with the third person draft when I went back through and set it to first person. The only thing I can say about this amount of work was, wow. Even as much work as it ended up being, I knew my characters, scenes, plots, theme, and settings backward and forward. I was so much happier with the latest draft once that was done. That accidental insane amount of labor will be a tool I use again one day.

Anyway, so that’s my writing journey for the most part. Write crap. Detail for no other reason than to detail. Kill your darlings. Above all else, write. When anyone asks me the trick to being a writer my answer is always, WRITE...You’ll pick up the rest along the way, but if you don’t start somewhere even if it’s something as simple as typing the following line over and over again, ‘just write...’ you’ll never have anything to edit or rewrite. So write it down or type it up or speak it into a recording device and get it out there. The tricks and tools come eventually.

No comments:

Post a Comment