Editing Never Goes According to Plan

Editing is hard

Last week, I was on vacation. This week, I’ve begun editing my next novel, Clara’s Return. After a few days of doing nothing but playing Dragon Age: Inquisition and watching the cat outsmart the dogs, I felt more than ready to get back to the laptop. In fact, I already had some ideas. I went to bed Sunday night full of anticipation and plans. My first novel, Clara, didn’t break any records but I still looked forward to completing Clara’s story.

Then I woke up the next morning with a cold. No warning. No minor sniffle the day before or a run-in with a snot-rag-wielding convalescent earlier in the week. My own husband was hale and hearty and he’s normally the person that brings home the current plague. Furthermore, this is my third cold this year so far, which I’m fairly certain is a personal best.

“I’m not going to let this get me down,” I declared, in-between blowing my nose. “I’m going to work!”

Yeah, that lasted long enough for me to write Monday’s blog post.

I opened up Scrivener, worked on a little grammar, and then stared at the three different versions  I wrote for the ending. What I wanted and what the story seemed to want were still in deadlock and I was too funky to put up a decent fight. After a couple of hours of banging my head against the wall, I said, “Screw this. I’m going to go watch M*A*S*H*.” And thus the day passed with no real editing happening.

Yesterday (or, technically, today as I’m writing this on Tuesday), I tried again. I felt better. I remembered we still had some cold medicine left over from the last time illness came sweeping through the Linton residence. After doing a shot of Dayquil and eating my favorite breakfast (scrambled eggs with a bagel), I sat down at the computer. I opened the program and…actually made headway! At one point, I felt like I was actually editing this giant mess I’m calling a novel!

Then I came across yet another version I had written of the ending.

“Oh for frell’s sake,” I growled at my screen. The old arguments for and against rose again. Once more, I was without an ending and it was time to knock-off for the day, even though it wasn’t quite one o’clock. Errands I had neglected on Monday needed doing. My editing had to be abandoned.

So, here I am, drinking a glass of very good absinthe that I hope will be a magical cold remedy, and wondering if it’s too early just to throw this damn thing at Sherman Writing Services.

Editing never goes according to plan. If life doesn’t take a ginormous dump in my hat, then my subconscious does. I envy writers who not only map everything out to the last period and apostrophe but who also manage to make things go that way. I try to plan and the cosmos breaks a rib from laughing.

I’ve had people ask me how I managed to write a book and I generally come up with some bullshit about working hard and keeping to the grindstone and reaching for the stars and whatever other trite nonsense I can think of. The truth? Writing is an illness as much as this cold is, only it doesn’t play merry hob on my sinuses but on my soul. It makes my brain itch and my fingers twitch and next thing I know, I’m doing St. Vitus’ Dance on my keyboard. I’m writing down phrases and scenes that somehow become chapters that somehow become a story and hell if I know how it happens.

What’s the verse? “Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.” Writing is a lot like that. And editing is not a whole lot different because there comes a certain point where plans fail and all that’s left is feeling it out. The mind takes twists and turns, the need to do this thing called creation burns in the blood and drives us onward, and then suddenly there’s a completed story and hell if I know how it happens.

Authors use tricks and methods to bring some level of order and control, whether in the writing or in the editing, but it’s no different than using bit and bridle on a mare or fertilizer and plow on a field. In the end, what comes forth is beyond our control and beyond our plans and we do not know how.

 

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