There was no editing last night. None. Nada. Absolutely zero. And I’m certain my story feels badly about the whole thing.
I’m sure you do, pumpkin, but mommy had other things to do last night. Like drive to Silver Springs, MD, and hang out with an author friend I’ve know for a long time, but never met, Dana Myles. We walked, we ate, we chatting–you know, doing things that normal people do. It was fun, and it’s something I should get out and do more often.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t think about my story. Oh, no. We talked about it. A lot. Dana wanted to hear all about my story, and I was ready to tell her–
But I was also thinking about something else on the ride down, which was a nice, long one because someone decided to take out a lot of guard railing in Baltimore, leaving me stranded in a five mile long backup for almost an hour. I thought about editing.
Yesterday’s posted elicited a few comments on editing, and the consensus seems that editing is the suck. Most writers I know hate editing. Even though they know they need it, when their story tries to send them to editing, they say no, no, no. I was the same way; I dreaded getting into editing mode. Such a pain in the ass–
Well . . . not really.
One thing I’ve learned over the last couple of years is that editing isn’t a necessary evil, it’s just necessary. Because no matter what you do to get your story off the ground, no matter what you do to make certain it’s going to become a good story, there’s always something . . . off.
A lot of my feelings on the matter of getting your first draft perfect match what I wrote back in late January of this year:
(Excerpt from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)
Kerry didn’t look at Professor Ellison as he mumbled a reply. “I don’t . . . I’m not sure I’d be any good.”
“I can understand that.” Ellison now moved a little closer, relaxing to keep his body language neutral. “Are you worried you’re gonna suck?”
Annie almost laughed; Kerry looked up a bit surprised by the question. “A little.”
“That’s okay, you know—” The professor leaned against the machine closest to Kerry, but he kept the boy the center of his attention. “As a creative person you have permission to suck—particularly if it’s your first time trying something. Writing, painting, drawing, playing: the first time you try any of these things you’re probably going to suck—and that’s okay.”
“I’d rather not suck in front of a bunch of people.”
“No one does, but even the best do now and then. And between now and and the weekend after the 21st of March, you’ve got about five months to practice and get better.” He decided to try another approach. “You know who never sucks?”
Kerry almost said “Professionals,” then caught himself because he knew of numerous examples where they had. “No. Who?”
“The people who never take a shot. The ones who are sitting in the audience going on about how people suck, how you suck, all the while sitting there running off their mouths.” He let himself relax, so as to put Kerry at ease. “I can get you a good tutor. I know just the perfect one for you, too.” He stepped away from the synthesizer and stood before the boy. “What do you think? Wanna be one of the few A Levels who gets up and shows everyone what you got?”
You are allowed to suck, but it’s a good idea to keep the sucking to a minimum. That’s why Professor Ellison wants to get a tutor for Kerry–because there is sucking, and then there’s “That’s one hell of a train wreck, fella,” sucking. It’s one of the reasons I spend so much time setting up my novels before the first word goes on the page, because far too many times I’ve seen people put up a post about how they’re seventy thousand words into their story, and it’s a complete hot mess and can’t be rescued–
That’s train wreck level sucking, and I stay away. I always try to figure out my story well ahead of time, so I get rid of the plot holes and the such. One of the reasons I time line things out the way I do is because I don’t want to mess that stuff up. Like I pointed out last night, there are events that happened to Annie and Kerry in Part Three of Act One that never get resolved until about Chapter Twenty-Eight of Act Three. There’s something that happens to Kerry in Part Three of Act One that doesn’t get resoled until the third book. There are things that I just have to know, because . . .
I’m like that.
And yet, no matter how good you are with a story, there are times you get something wrong–something that is way, way the opposite of right, and then your story–more likely a beta reader who hates what you’ve done with a character–turns and comes at you like an unstoppable creature who has you tied up in the bathroom, and is hell-bent on forcing you to return to the story and rewrite things so they become right!
There’s a muse you do not fuck with.
You do it because, as a writer, you have to get it right. You’re allowed some sucking on that first draft: there’s no excuse after that. That’s why I edit. And guess what?
I actually kinda like it.