How I Quit Being a Baby About Editing – Part Two

Where did I leave off? Oh, yeah. I’d been sobbing.

Just kidding, foolios. I was talking about editing and how rough it is. More specifically, I was writing about how I don’t know what the %#&! editing is all about. Or at least I didn’t know. Not completely. I’ve got a few plans on what I’m going to do next. Here they are!

Wading my way through the process of writing a novel has been messy. Super dooper messy, man. But thankfully, messy isn’t the same thing as impossible. No, sir. Not even close.

I starting off editing where I left off: my writing. I had the manuscript, notebooks full of character sketches and plot ideas, not to mention a fatty pile of notecards that I’d stacked. I sorted through all of it, flipping from manuscript to notebooks to notecards but I couldn’t really felt like I was getting my footing. Good golly, it was about the biggest bummer ever. See, I had this expectation about how I was just going to plow through the editing process the same way I’d done with the writing. But this whole editing thing? Not the same at all. Everything I tried felt like I was spinning my wheels in the mud.

Whenever I get stuck on some writing I like to mix things up a little bit by doing something out of the ordinary. Picking up my wife’s cat Lola and spinning around in circles until we’re both super dizzy is one of my more solid methods for getting the old cerebral juices pumping. Usually it takes just one kitty spinning session to get things working but seeing as this was a pretty tough problem I had to take her for three separate sessions. By the end of it Lola was in a serious hissing mood, but I my brain was back in working order.

I started over by asking some questions. Why was this sucking so bad? Why wasn’t I getting anything done? What did I need to do to make this thing work? I decided to take a look at the manuscript and try to figure out a way to start working on it by making a list of all its nasty flaws.

  1. The thing is 120,000 words long–holy crap, that’s big! Way too big for a YA novel, even with the typical fat that gets trimmed in revisions.
  2. There is way too much internal dialogue. Why did my protagonist need to always reflect on what she was doing?
  3. I have too many scenes that serve no purpose. If a scene does nothing to drive the plot then it needs to go the way of the buffalo.

Looking at these flaws led me back to my stack of notecards. On a sidenote, I think I’m going to post a picture so you guys can see the level of shenanigans that got to. Seriously, that stack was fatter than Dudley Dursley after Christmas dinner, not to mention that every single card was totally packed with a million gazillion notes.

But wait, I thought. Could that be it? Could it be the million gazillion notes that were the problem? Yes! It all made sense now. What a dorkus maximus I’d been. In trying to build the framework for my book I’d gone totally OCD and overdid the thing. In trying to plan things out so as to not lose the trail of the story I’d gone and made the thing too complicated. The result? 120,000 words of YA science fiction.

That was so dumb. That was really dumb. Fo’ real.

But it’s not all bad. Writing that bloated manuscript taught me what not to do when I rewrite. Now I know that I need to pull waaaaay back. I need to plan things out, but I need to do a whole lot less of it. And that’s where I’m at now. I’ve got a bunch of chapters plotted out, but not in the extreme way that I did before. It might not end up being the way I stick through the process, but it’s a place to start.

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