Thursday, June 6, 2013

IWSG: Editing is for lesser beings, right?

1st Wednesday of the month is Insecure Writers Support Group. Wherein I post about the difficulties of writing. 

 I hate editing. There I said it.

Before I had an actually work-in-progress, I imagined that the editing process would involve meeting my editor in a sun soaked cafe in L.A. I'd slide my Michael Kors* sunglasses off my face and air kiss my obsequious editor who would slide the manuscript across the table and express her shock and joy that every manuscript has been so well written that she has not needed to edit a single one. Then she'd let me know that I was contacted by two more movie studios who are dying to make my novels into feature films. From there I wax on about my art and how I would never sell my artistic integrity to Hollywood.

Apparently when I imagine being a romance writer, I think I'm Mary Fisher, living in a pink palace by the sea. Except without the nervous break down over a broken fingernail.

As it turns out, editing is less glamorous than you'd imagine. When I signed on to be a writer, I had no idea that anyone would actually have anything negative to say about my work. I mean, how ridiculous. I'm clearly a frickin' savant of writing. My 7th grade writing teacher said so. My best friend nods when I say so. It must be true. So why, WHY do I need to take all the those glorious words, those fantastic characters and those genius love scenes and criticize them? Doesn't that seem a tad unreasonable? I mean, isn't revision for amateurs? Everyone knows that real writers complete perfect manuscripts...

Hush you.

I'm told by other writers that no one writes perfect manuscripts. They are, by nature, a bumpy, lumpy mess. Mine is worse than most because I wrote my novel during NaNoWriMo. If that combination of letters means nothing to you, it's National Novel Writing Month. Every November thousands of insane people from all over the world decide that it's a good idea to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. People often ask me, "Why would you do that?" The short answer? Well clearly I'm a masochist. The long answer? I'm SERIOUSLY a masochist.

NaNoWriMo is actually a lot of fun. You go to local meet ups with other writers and you do contests like fifteen minute timed "sprints" and the winners get stickers and emotional validation. The entire point is to prove that you are capable of writing a novel. You have to turn off the part of your brain that judges your work as good or bad. You learn to turn off your inner editor and just write. Just puke up whatever is in your soul and put it on the paper, no matter how silly or how poorly written it will be. The point is quantity. Quality is irrelevant.

The upside to this is that you end up writing a the bones of a novel. Also you prove to yourself that you are more than capable of doing it and finding time to do it, no matter how busy you are. Also, if you survive the thirty days and still want to write, then you are probably on the right path (or you are a bigger masochist than the guy from Fifty Shades of Grey).

So the great part is that I can say, whoo hoo, I wrote a novel! Sort of. The downside to that great expulsion of creativity is that I now now have a steaming pile of manure to edit. Because IT IS BAD. Make no mistake. Writing without any editing at all means you end up not with a novel but with the skeleton of the story and all the skeleton's bones are broken and need to be set before you add on the muscles and tendons and all the gross innard type stuff they talk about on Bones.

Basically I have a bunch of disconnected, hurriedly written scenes and I've been writing in circles trying to edit a story that is finished in only the most generous of definitions. I don't actually know what happens in the second act of the story because I never really wrote it. I was in a hurry to get to the end and just listed a bunch of stuff I thought should happen.

Wow this is getting long and wordy. As you can see, I'm really bad at editing my own work.

I've lived my life as a pantser, not a plotter, meaning I write intuitively (by the seat of my pants) and don't plan or plot my work ahead of time. But now that I'm editing I'm seeing the necessity and beauty of at least having a rudimentary outline of how I'd like the story to be structured. But every time I try to read about HOW to outline a novel, my eyes glaze over and I fill up with the fear that I'm going to destroy the art process by limiting my story.

So after much whining on my part, my lovely friend Meika sent me the Youtube link on the left here, to a video by writer, Katytastic. She breaks it down in a way that isn't overwhelming to me. She tells how she creates an outline by breaking her novels into three acts, nine blocks and 27 chapters. I took notes during the video and then went into my manuscript and noted where each chapter and block occurred so I can see where my novel is missing parts and what I need to do. It was very useful.  

Yeah, this post is meandering and I don't feel like editing it. Because editing sucks.

And yes, I pretty much plan to use every IWSG post to whine about editing. It is way harder than writing the damn book in thirty days.

*Also I'd like it known that I do indeed own a pair of Michael Kors sunglasses that I found at T.J.  Maxx for less than $20 and I have never worn them without namedropping the designer. Mostly because I used to watch Project Runway and I love MK with a fierce passion but also because I'm kind of a douche.


  1. :) Editing is the bane of every single writers existence. I feel your pain, but I'm here in your cheering section. Go you!

    1. Having a cheering section does make it less hateful! Thank you Wicked Writer!

  2. I can see why you're overwhelmed! You wrote the novel before you could think about it, and now you've got to go back and figure out if the different parts are working together. The outline guide will definitely help you (reading some good screenwriting books might also help you with structure). For me the first couple of rounds of edits are actually fun, but by the third or fourth time? I'm ready to throw the thing out the window. This is no consultation but the only way to do it is to do, so good luck!

    1. Exactly! I had a good idea but now I have gobbledygoop and I've already changed so much that the rest is almost irrelevant, meaning I don't actually have a completed novel. Which is depressing.

      Thank you for the luck. I'll take it :)

  3. Interesting. Honestly, editing is my favorite part of writing. Choking out that first rough draft is what kills me. Once I have something I can print out and mark up, I'm happy as a clam.
    Good luck, and I look forward to your posts. I'll offer all the encouragement I can.

    1. I love editing other people's work. Because it's easy. It's a lot harder editing my own. Because I have no idea where to go. I came from writing short stories in which, editing meant I just rewrote the whole story several times. With a novel, that is way too time intensive. I guess I could amend my thesis statement and say that I hate LEARNING how to edit my own novel.

  4. Mencara,

    First thing,I love, love, love the look of your blog. I sat looking at the fun-ness and quirkiness of it before I read a word.

    Like you, I've had some mad NaNo experiences and I'm lazy about editing too, BUT I now have three published novels that came out of those months of madness, so that worked out eventually, after scads of editing.

    When I was starting out, I wrote one book after another, with the result that I still have way too many of them to edit and I wrote them as the ideas came for the next chapter. With limited time these days, I at least write down 2-3 plot points and write around those. Not terribly detailed, but it works for me.

    Hard to enjoy editing, but it gets easier once you are in the middle of it and fall back in love with your characters.

    Now excuse me while I go stand in the corner for writing up an entire blog post in your comments.

    1. Get out of that corner! I love new friends who talk and talk like I do!

      Thank you for the compliments. I have worked so hard to make my blog pretty (at the expense of working on my novel honestly) so it means a lot to me to have it be noticed.

      Wow it's amazing that you wrote book after book. I keep getting derailed by the next book I want to write but I won't start until I finish this one. I have to prove to myself I can finish editing.

      You nailed it too. When I started editing, I fell out of love with my characters. I started questioning who they were and changing them until I didn't like them anymore. I am hoping that will improve now.

  5. Oh, I used to LOVE editing. Tearing my story apart and putting it back together was so much FUN! That was before I entered into the eleventy millionth revision of my current story. Now, I want to gut my main character and strangle the rest of them with her innards (how's THAT for gross?).

    BUT -- as miserable as I am most of the time, that moment that I can see the progress is incredible.

    I guess what I'm saying is, you take the good with the bad. Eventually, there will be moments of greatness that will remind you why you're torturing yourself in the first place.

    1. I appreciated your gross imagery more than you know :D

      It's all gonna end up a heaping platter of awesome. I just know it.

  6. lol It's not that I thought that my first draft was genius that I should never edit, but that since I'm a pantser who is also a chronic editor while pantsing, that whatever I finished was pure gold because I'd already been editing! That, too, is not true (darn). haha

    1. Everytime you tell a lie, a kitten gets flicked in the nose :)

  7. I'm a bare bones writer as well. Everyone talks about editing out excess - I always have to add.
    It does help to outline, but finishing NaNa a great accomplishment. You'll survive the edits!


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