Saturday, December 11, 2010
Editing - %#*!!#$
I've already been through the manuscript a few times making sure names are right and you know where they are and who they are. Will still have to do that again after this round of edits are done. Not that I plan to move my characters around the countryside, but I miss things. Since I wrote this stuff, the brain often sees what I meant to put there but which isn't really there. Phantom words, if you will.
Now, as I've said before, I write most all the book out by hand and then type it into the computer, editing some as I do. Then, since I have this little backwards problem(as they called it when I went to school) I have to go through it again and again to make sure I haven't put things the wrong way round or reversed letters, etc. Then, to take a break from that, I do a little more 'tweaking'. Right at the moment I'm 'tweaking' the love scenes and the oooh-I-gotta-have-him/her scenes, etc. And, unfortunately, right at the moment, if I get a couple of hours at a stretch without interruption, I'm lucky. That sort of thing makes editing very hard. (And I don't care any more how nice that Verizon sales guy is, if he comes to the door one more time, I'm going to offer some suggestions of physically impossible things he can do with himself.)
What I think makes editing hard - and I'm not talking about the editing asked for by one's editor, but the stuff you do before you dare to even show it to him - is not some great, narcissistic love for one's own words that makes it impossible for you to change them, but the difficulty in messing around with what's already there. I find that it's not easy to come up with what to say, if you've already said it one way. I'm not talking about those obvious things like a scene that lies there, dead, lifeless, and about as exciting as a National Geographic special on the love life of slugs. No, I'm talking about the scenes that work, that aren't bad, but somehow they just don't make you happy with them.
Of course, many writers are never fully satisfied with what's there. You have to be careful not to slip into the trap of over-editing your stuff, playing with it so much that you actually wreck what was perfectly all right.(Looming deadlines can be a quick cure for that kind of thing) I think we occasionally read what we wrote and think it could be better, that we want it to be more, and so we tinker, and tinker, and tinker some more. One just has to know when to stop. It's kind of like adding spice to a stew. At first it's better, than a little better, and then suddenly, that one last pinch of salt(or whatever) wrecks dinner and you have to order pizza.
Then there's the problem of having read some story and that love scene was so hot it scorched the pages, and wasn't the sexual tension enough to make you sweat? Or you could almost hear the clash of the swords in that battle. Then there's your love scene or battle scene or whatever. Suddenly what you thought was really good looks like crap. Been there. Got the t-shirt. Took me a while to realize that I can't sound like that but it doesn't mean anything is lacking in my scene. It's just the voice. I hear my voice all the time in my writing so it's not going to stir me up after the eighth(or more) read-through like that other story did. And if I tried to sound like that it'd be almost akin to plagerism for I'd be stealing that writer's voice. Not that I think you can do that without sounding phony, but you get the idea(I hope). I love the page after page after page of dark, desperate, angst-ridden writing like some of my favorite authors, but I accept that it's not something I can do, it's not my voice. That's her voice. I've learned to look at what I've written and recognize my own voice, which actually can be quite helpful in editing your own work.
So, I will go over my story and I will tweak and then I will think about it a bit, maybe tweak a little more, and then read the whole thing through once or twice more. And - by the time I get that story off my desk - I will be doing the happy dance to see it leave. And you know what? After all that work, all that sweating over it, all that tweaking, I'm still not going to be sure it's 'perfect' and maybe that's a good thing. After all, if I thought I had reached perfection, not only would I be a bit of a diva(and would probably have the strong urge to slap myself), but I'd stop trying, stop working so hard to get the story right, and that would be very bad indeed, I think.
As a final note: If anyone happens to be in the New England area - Sunday, 12/12, from noon to 3pm - there's a multi-author booksigning in Plaistow, NH at the Well Read Books store, Elm Plaza, Rte 125, Plaistow, NH; phone #: 603-819-5116. I'll be there with Annette Blair, Coralie Jenson, Ella Drake, Ashlyn Chase, Barbara Wallace. Pop in if you can. We'll have cookies.