From a Long Way Off

One bit of editing advice given to writers is to put some time between the time you write your story’s first draft, and when you come back to edit the manuscript.  The word on the street is that when you put a few months between these moments, you look upon your written words differently, that you see your writing with eyes that look upon the story with a lot more of a critical edge.

Now stretch that time out to about a year and you’ll be where I was last night.

I’ve spoken about editing Couples Dance a few times before, and it’s gone through one very fast revision last May before I sent it off to some publishing limbo from which it never returned.  I’ve usually thought it was an interesting, nicely paced, horrifically sexy tale, at least when I wasn’t being creeped out by what I’d written.  While it’s not some magnum opus of erotic horror, it’s a story that’s near and dear my heart.

But last night . . . oi.

I opened up the first chapters, began reading, and everything was all, “Oh, that’s not right”; “Ah, I can say that better”; “that doesn’t make sense”.  There wasn’t anything wrote with the chapter, or what was happening in the chapter, but I saw things that didn’t set well–not at all.

There were different ways to get a point across, or to describe what was happening.  There were words that simply didn’t belong and needed to go.  There were a few places where I’d tried going off in one direction and things sorta stopped.  It wasn’t a total mess, but it wasn’t clean.

I’ve seen people say, “Oh, I suck at editing, I’ll get someone else to do it.”  You don’t want to do that.  See, you can send your manuscript off to have someone find and point out wrong punctuation and misspelled  words, but the one huge advantage you have when editing your own work is seeing where you can make improvements.  Not just cutting out huge chunks of story because you’ve meandered into a sub-plot involving robot cats with lasers taking over your living room, but getting things tight and right.

I used to hate editing.  There was a time when I’d rip off a story and think, “Yeah, that’s good.  My first drafts rock!”, but these days I know better.  I’ll go over a story three, four times, pass it around to someone, and still freak when I discover some crazy typo that skipped past all those readings.  It’s enough to drive you to abuse chemicals if you’re of such a mind.

One chapter edited, a few more to go.  Actually a lot more to go.  The story is fifty-three thousand words, and I edited thirteen hundred last night.  Hey, a little over fifty-one thousand, seven hundred words to go!  And there’s a good chance I’ll give the story another look before I find some people to look at it and tell me where things are wrong.

I’ve got a month to six weeks to get it good.  No rush, yeah?

The Consequences of Truth

Well-made plans have a way of crashing around you when it’s least expected.  We’ve all had things we planed on doing, only to have life come up and smack us straight on in the face, leaving one a semi-bloody mess.

The measure of your personality is how you deal with the situation.

I didn’t deal with mine very well.

Allow me to explain.

I started out in a good mood.  I was writing, I was blogging, I was looking forward to the end of my novel.  I was looking forward to having a good time today, to maybe finishing an article and getting that out.  The path was clear, the way ahead was sunny.

I posted an excerpt from Chapter Six of Her Demonic Majesty, and was getting into my editing.  It was going to be a wonderful day–

Then Trusty Editortm came along.

They were reading the excerpt, going through it with the trained eye they have.  And just like that, I’m getting PMs on Facebook.  “You have this wrong . . . this should be . . . I think you meant–“.  It wasn’t much, and my Trusty Editortm was only helping me as they have done in the past.

But it killed me, because this was what I feared all along:  that no matter how much work I put into getting my manuscript clean, it would never be clean enough.

I lost it.  I logged off from Facebook and just shook for a few minutes.  I cried.  I doubted my own abilities to do anything right.  I’ve spent so much time on this story that it really felt like a kick in the gut, and with everything that has happened to me this week, I felt like I couldn’t take it anymore.

I actually reached the point where I was ready to say, “Fuck it, I can’t take this anymore,” and just wander away from the scene for . . .well, who knows?  I feel alone, I feel that I get very little support, I feel like I’m working in a constant vacuum located inside a singularity of indifference.

So I stepped away from the story for most of the day, simply because I couldn’t stand to look at the manuscript any more.

I finally finished editing the chapter I was on when I had my meltdown, then I headed out for the night, something I haven’t done in over a month and a half.  I wasn’t in much of a mood to talk, though, but I manged to get though the night without being too much of a Debbie Downer.

It was only while I was driving home with the late night light drizzle falling around me that I found my center.  See, long ago, Trusty Editortm was going over another manuscript that was my then Work in Progress.  And they had issues with a few things in the first couple of paragraphs.  I freaked out, because I thought what I’d written was pretty good.

Their comment to me, after I’d expressed my fears, was, “You need to get your ego in check.  Do you want this to be good?  Or do you want this to be the best?”

That’s an easy one:

I’ve never wanted to put out shit.  I can’t stand the idea that I’ll put out a story that’s crappy, with things that will give haters reason to go, “Yo, you used an and not a, loozer! ”  If I can’t put it out right, I’m not going to bother putting it out, period.

After buying a pretty cover I don’t have the means of paying someone to edit a couple of hundred pages, but I did have a friend offer to look over the manuscript for errors.  I have a bit of fear here, because they told me they didn’t like the title, but beyond that I think they’ll find errors and not much else.  I hope.  And if all goes well I’ll be back on the original path I’d set, which is to have Her Demonic Majesty published at the end of May.

It’s okay to freak out.  It’s okay to think you are worthless, that you are alone, that you even suck.  It’s happen to the best writers, sometimes to the point where they decided to end it all because they were told their novel sucked.

But you need to listen to people and know when they are helping.

Because it’s never okay to kill your dream.