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The Editing Muse

There was no editing last night.  None.  Nada.  Absolutely zero.  And I’m certain my story feels badly about the whole thing.

"We miss you!"

“We missed you!”

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!

"You have her crying--crying?  No, no:  you will go back and you will fix her!  I look serious, do I not?  Then, when you are finished, we have Jell-o with lots of sugar--"

“You have her crying–crying? No, no: you will go back and you will fix her! I look serious, do I not? Then, when you are finished, and all is correct, we’ll have Jell-O with lots of sugar–“

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.

16 thoughts on “The Editing Muse

  1. Glad you like it i dont… we have not let the editing muse move in we prefer to let someone elses editign muse do it LOL.. grat post though the photo was freaky!

  2. I loved doing my last round of edits because well, I cut a lot and had to write something to make the story whole again, and the new writing was infused with inspiration from things that I have read and wanted to try.

    I think that if I wrote more then I would have more fun because I would have more editing to do!

    • I have noticed that I usually don’t end up cutting or adding a lot, mostly due to the up-front work before writing. Though I have had instances where I added chapters to a story to flesh it out more. In my current work in progress I’ve pretty much rewritten five or six scenes completely, so they are completely new. That’s a lot of hack and slash.

  3. Editing is without a doubt one of the most important parts of writing, it just gets attacked to late in most cases. When I was young and a writer I was also the editor of a college magazine and God, the things I received!! Train wreck sucks, yes.

    • Oh, I’ve seen things as well that just makes your skin crawl. You want to take the person aside and say, “Have you considered taking up knitting?” ‘Cause you ain’t cutting it as a writer. I had a professional editor once tell me that she actually received manuscripts with “Ur” for “Your” and “sez” for “Say or Said”. I would go nuts with that.

  4. Okay, I’ll be that guy. I like editing. It’s the writing part that I struggle with. The blank page intimidates me, but fixing a bunch of problems… I can handle that. That’s much easier, at least for me.

  5. Funny thing: editing has never been an issue for me. Maybe because I did so much of it in my honors and AP English classes in high school. It seemed we had to write a paper a week, trade with someone and then edit their piece before going back and editing our own based on their notes.

    I feel, in a lot of ways, editing is easier than writing. With writing, you start with a blank canvas and create something new. Editing allows you to take something already finished and mold it to a product worth showing off. Both have their place in the world.

    And that is one scary muse. O_O I don’t want to mess with her.

    • That’s taken from last week’s episode of “Orphan Black”, where clone sister Helena comes to rescue Sarah. It was really one of the more horrifying and chilling moments on TV, in that Sarah was just about to be tortured badly, and the person who comes to her rescue was someone who is a known psychopath and whom Sarah shot in the chest and left for dead just a few weeks before.

  6. I think, just like everyone else, I have a love-hate relationship with editing. I know it needs to be done and with my latest WIP I really enjoyed pulling gems out of the rough earth of the first draft, smoothing off those jagged corners and polishing it up. I feel far more confident about the story as a result.
    But at the same time, being so brutal with my words and the repetitive nature of editing as a whole is what gets to me. I try to make sure I have a first draft on the go while I’m editing something else, so at least I can take a break if needs be.

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