There can be much joy in editing, though, as a writer, it’s one thing that we all seem to hate with white-hot passion. For the longest time I avoided editing, thinking my first drafts were so good that I never needed to worry about editing.
While I will say that I seemed to get the story write on the first draft–you know, characters names are right, the plot flows as I want and doesn’t have huge holes in it–there are still a lot of errors popping up here and there. Can’t be helped: we are imperfect creatures creating imperfect creations. Really, if I were producing tremendously fantastic stories that were nearly perfect, I’d stop driving sixty miles to work each day and live Neil Gaiman’s life. Until then, I work at this writing craft until something come in the way of sales.
But I was struck by something interesting last night. Shale I share it? Am I writing here?
I was editing the last chapter of Part One for Her Demonic Majesty. It’s a long chapter, a bit over fifty-eight hundred words, and it’s at the point in the story where I start turning up the drama a bit. It’s a good chapter, it sets the mood for what’s to come, but . . . as I’m editing, I run into a few lines spoken by my lovely but dangerous succubus character, and there’s something about what she’s saying–
No, it more than that. It’s how she’s saying the words that is making me feel a little strange. As I’m setting up the format, what she’s saying just doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel like here. Someone is speaking, but when I imagine her in my mind, and she says those words, they sound like they’re coming from another person.
This is where you look at the line, think about what a character should be saying, and then have them speak the words. It sounds easy, but it’s getting those words right that’s tricky. So I looked at the lines, and imagined the sentences changing, rearranging, and I did a little cut and paste here, added something there, and deleted a couple of things that didn’t fit my succubus.
When it was finished, the paragraph was far cleaner than before. It hadn’t actually been reduced or expanded in size: if I remember correctly, I believe it became one word longer after the edit. The thing was . . . when it was finished, I was taken by how what she was saying now was far cooler than before.
Do I mean she ended up sounding like a character from a Tarantino movie? Far from it. Her words now seemed to flow from her effortlessly, as if this is how she would handle this particular emergency, how she would express her displeasure, and how she’d get the attention of the other two people in the room, and let them know that, right now, shit is deep and extraction is necessary.
I did this a few times last night, and while it is not my intention to try and create some “coolness factor” for each of my characters when they speak, the editing did prove one thing:
I can still be surprised by this craft. And that’s a good thing.