The Editing Light

First off, no April Fool’s jokes here.  Not today, not ever.  I’ve been on Facebook about five minutes and I’ve already seen about a half dozen–I mean, who saw that shit coming?  But I don’t need a single day to prank you:  I can do that any day of the year.

Not that I would . . .

Act Two started last night.  It wasn’t an auspicious start:  six hundred and thirty-six words were written into the new scene, and at the moment I’m tracking six hundred and sixty-four words total.  Which means if I hadn’t edited one sentence to remove a couple of words, I’d be Number of the Beasting right now, and really, I’d get a screen capture of that just to show off.  Because people think it’s satanic, and who doesn’t like a good satanic joke on 1 April?

What’s I’m not saying yet–because I haven’t gotten that far in the post–is that I wasn’t only writing new stuff, but I was editing old as well.  At the same time.  In the same screen.  Don’t believe me?  Check it out:

Come on--who doesn't write like this?  We all do, right?  Hello?  *tap tap*  Is this thing on?

Come on–who doesn’t write like this? We all do, right? Hello? *tap tap* Is this thing on?

So here I am, new on the left, old on the right, and one of my beta readers in a chat room on the Internet, going over some of the scenes.  When she’s not talking about Act One, I’m tapping away on Act Two, slowly and surely, because I was a bit tired yesterday and I got a new tee shirt and I had to try it on and get pictures, but mostly I haven’t written anything new in a few weeks and you need to work that skill up again.

I know that right after Wednesday’s last comment I’m going to cut to Annie thinking about something magical, and then it’s over to Kerry, and then back to Annie, and then to some loud mouth student who’s gonna accuse Annie of cheatin’, but there’ll be a Japanese student in there yelling “Kuso” because they just can’t get this magic thing workin’ right . . .

When my beta reader–or should I just call her Trusty Editor(tm)?–came back to the chat room, Act One was on.  She found mistakes.  She found things that seemed out of place.  She gave me a couple of suggestions that helped the scene.  She found a stupid adverb that Elmore Leonard would have kicked my ass over.  She found a hilarious passage that made a background character look like they might be part octopus.  And she found something that sort of pissed me off–

Wait, what?

Let me explain.  There was a passage in one of the scenes that she pointed out sort of didn’t seem right because of the way things were set up.  I kept saying it doesn’t matter, it’s not the focus of the scene, be a good little Elsa and let it go.  Actually, I was being a little more bitchy than that, because I’d already been up about seventeen hours and my head was foggy, but what the hell.  There was back and forth there for maybe forty-five minutes, and then we moved on.

By the time I signed off, I said I’d fix it.  By the time I crawled out of bed to write this post, I realized that if you’re gonna tell a tale, then tell the damn thing.  All a very simple line does is change the dynamic of the story–and in retrospection under the light, it can make one of the characters come across a little more mysterious.

See, like Kerry, I can be a bit clueless, and I need a good Annie to kinda whack me now and then to get the ego in check.  If you’re a writer you have an ego–don’t lie!  I see yours hiding behind the television.  But as Harlan Ellison once said, a great editor will show you how to make improvements by asking one simply question, and if you listen to them magic will happen.  At the time I wasn’t listening, because I need things to sink in.

But now I see.  Just a couple of words in the right place, and I can change the whole dynamic of the scene.

She also told me that she loved the fact that I was a woman of my convictions and that I wasn’t afraid to tell he to go to hell to get what I wanted.  I finally told her that good women don’t tear each other down, they empower each other to do better.

And after three years I’m still learning how to be a better writer.

That’s not a joke.

That’s the facts.