I didn’t finish a chapter last night, but I was surprised by how far I did get.
The current chapter I’m editing for Replacements is a big one; originally it ran a little over fifty-five hundred words, and it’s inching up towards fifty-six hundred. So even though I was a bit distracted by things around me as I started working on it, I wasn’t in such a bad position that I was completely overwhelmed.
I was surprised, however, at how well I’m handling the edits.
A year ago editing was not my forte. It was something I was pretty going at half-assed: I’d get in and start giving something a once over, fully convinced that my first draft was so good I didn’t really need to do a lot of work.
Like I said, that was a year ago.
My illusions of First Draft Perfectness have vanished into the void, and I’m far more cognoscente of exactly how the creative process works. My first drafts are very good when it comes to laying out the plot, but there are all sorts of little things happening within that plot that work every well at messing up the story as a whole. I find misspellings; I find sentences where the tense makes no sense; I even find little things like using the same word twice in a row, or leaving out a word that I meant to use because my brain told me it was needed, but that I never used.
You know: things every writer does.
It’s true there are some writers who can, or could, rip off a story on the first draft and never have to do a lot of rework after that point. There have been stories I’ve written that were like that, but those were few and far between. These days, with everything I’m putting into a story, I’m finding my mind working more and more towards keeping a chapter straight, making certain I don’t leave a bunch of plot holes around for people to twist their ankles in, and working towards the overall end of the tale—which means I’m missing things as I go along. Things like writing “an” instead of “and”, or writing a statement in a sloppy fashion.
That was one of the things I found last night: I had characters who were supposed to be intelligent, well-educated individuals, using slang you probably wouldn’t hear them use in day-to-day conversations. I saw it, read it, cringed, then changed the statements. At least I didn’t have them making a comment like, “Yo, dawg, just sayin’”. There’s an advantage to working with people a thousand years in the future.
Though it may seem as if I’m spending a lot of times on editing, it pays off. I found myself embarrassed to get messages from people telling me that a story I’d self-published was full of errors. Not a huge amount, but enough that when I saw them I wondered how the hell I could have let them through in the first place. The answer: I didn’t have my editing chops down.
Becoming a better writer means becoming a better editor as well. If you don’t believe me, just self-publish a first draft and see what sort of response you get.
If you’re lucky, your readers will be kind.