If there’s one thing I’ve learned about writers, its that we’re a stubborn, yet fearful, bunch. We’ll get into a project and stick to it until the bitter end–and then, when the end is in sight, refuse to let go of the creature we’ve spawned.
Over the last year I’ve noticed that there are two things that seem to scare writers the most: research and editing. Research has always been a friend, and editing is slowly becoming a welcomed roommate. But why do these fill our hearts with fear?
Editing is something that seems to get the better of us each time. I read it a little today, when someone asked, “When do I know my novel is perfect?” One might as well say, “When can I let my children go out into the world?” For some people that answer is always, “Never,” and they hang onto their rugrats like they were bars of platinum–at least until they realize that they’re thirty-five and spend entirely too much time on the “Kawaii Crossplay” website, and maybe it’s time to throw their ass into the street.
Perfection is a will-o’-the-wisp: you’ll never find it because it doesn’t exist. Or, better yet, for my science fiction writer friends, it’s like getting to 1c, the speed of light. You can get close, closer, closest; you can get to .999999c; you can push those engines all you want for decades, but you’ll never hit 1.0c. Not gonna happen, at least not in this universe.
You can edit and rewrite and re-edit your story all you want, but in your own eyes, that sucker will never hit the level of perfection you’ve set for yourself. You’ll drive yourself nuts trying to get it to where you’re finally convinced you can publish it–right after this last polish–
I look at editing like I look at action scenes: I try to keep it as short as possible. Try to get the story where you want it during the first draft, get rid of the typos in the first edit, clean up the story, plot holes and all, in the second, and go over it again to make sure you have things right. Let someone else look at it, then edit again where needed. After that, get it out to a house for a look-see, or start formatting it for self-publication.
It’s time to put it in the street.
Then there’s research . . . oh, my. This seems to scare writers more than editing. (If a sampling of a few ebooks is any indication, there are a lot of scared writers out there, ba-da-boom!) I love research, because this is where you learn stuff. Even if you think you know everything there is to know about a subject you’re going to weave a story around, you’ll find something new that’s gonna surprise you. I had this happen when I was writing Her Demonic Majesty, and the bit of information I discovered when I was about seven chapters into the book helped change an important scene for me, and developed how the MagicPunk City of Chicago should feel. What I found was completely unknown to me, but not anymore, since I have that information bookmarked in the Scrivener project.
Take all the time you want for research–up to a point, that is, because if you stretch research out for too long, you’re still looking for that level of perfection you’ll never find. That final bit of data is keeping you from the real thing you’re suppose to do, and that’s write.
Wouldn’t want to be accused of shirking your duties now, would you?