Let’s start with a confession–of sorts. My greatest joy in writing comes with the hot, fast gallop of first drafts. By then the story’s bones and sinews have developed enough so that each session equates with a joyous fleshing out of details. During this phase I can’t wait to leap from bed each morning–and hit the pillow enthralled by story each night.
Then looms the dragging, nagging edit. Some otherworldly creatures find this stage fun; I find it excruciating.
This is different than the macro-edit housekeeping accomplished while writing draft. Reviews of previous day’s work cover structure, plot, tone, pace, etc. I almost wrote ‘theme’, but that’s not always clear in the early stages. Along the way, I deepen conflict and sharpen reversals.
Worse yet, my après draft edits rarely clear the high jumps, much less the double ‘oxers‘, although I do fine over ditches and logs. What’s missing? Well, the heart pounding excitement’s gone, baby, gone. Only a plodding satisfaction remains. Which should be enough, right?
Self talk: “This isn’t my first rodeo. I’m disciplined and well-read. Both sides of my brain receive high quality nourishment and play well together. I can do this.”
Beyond the analysis of editing books, then applying what I learn, I’ve tried other ballyhooed remedies to make this work. The manuscript, hereinafter known as ‘mss’, rests like a freshly broasted chicken while I work on other projects. I do yoga–breathe–meditate–breathe–take long hikes–breathe. Then I go through the mss and ruthlessly scribble editing and proofreading marks learned in the aforementioned tomes. At that point I return to my computer and make these changes.
Then it’s time to surrender fully to the left brain for reviewing content, consistency in style, clarity and flow. I crawl ant-like over scenes for grammar, word usage and accuracy. Finally I read it aloud–or try. After a few pages, I realize I’ve gone silent again–and again–and again.
By this time I find nothing to like about my story and would rather walk barefoot in a prickly pear patch than read through it once more. My aversion signals the next stage. The mss goes to one or two first readers–published authors with whom I trade this boon.
They always find misspellings and points of unintended confusion. Yes, actual gnashing of teeth and clenched jaws transpire. How did I miss these obvious errors?
So I put on my big girl panties and fix them. The story’s deemed the best that it can be. It’s released into the world.
Then I swear, a few days, weeks or months later? A misspelling here, verb confusion there, dropped words, a formatting error that slipped beneath the motion-activated fence. Dissatisfaction plagues me. For what good is editing if it fails to make your story the best that it can be?
So next time I complete a new project, I’m considering a professional editor–one worthy of manna, dark chocolate, and ambrosia drenched in morning dew from hummingbird wings. Oh, and one who won’t break my fragile piggy-bank.