Writing Through the Doubt
The editing process proved to be way more challenging than creating my story. When you are writing your creation, everything is fresh from your mind, the words never existed until they spilled out of your head and onto the screen in front of you. It's fun! It's exhilarating! And when you finish writing your first draft, the odds are good that you experienced a wave of emotions as that final word was followed by that final period.
Then you start editing.
I don't think editing is tedious, but it is far more technical than creating material out of nothingness. Where the art of writing can be tackled in a myriad of ways, but editing one's work means adhering to rigid rules of language and grammar. Rules that you almost certainly broke because you don't think about such things most of the time when your fingers are moving as fast as they can transfer ideas through them across your keyboard.
Here's a small batch of lovely concepts that I honestly wasn't aware of until I started learning about them during editing:
- Active vs Passive Verbs
- Split Infinitives
- Hidden Verbs
Thanks, line-editing - I've learned more about the technicalities of the English language in three months than I probably did through all of my years in school.
And if I'm honest, that wasn't even the most challenging part. I don't mind learning new things if it means my writing improves. My readers will benefit from my continued growth, so I'll embrace such knowledge with open arms.
The most challenging part was cutting material.
When all was said and done, my WIP stood at a whopping 163k words in length - well over 500 paperback pages! I already knew, out of the gate, that my work would be greatly trimmed in order to meet the maximum word count recommendations for first-time sci-fi writers. Thanks to my alpha readers, and then by my critique partner, I managed to bring my word count to just below 130k words, over 100 paperback pages fewer than where I initially stood.
That process was painful... justified, but painful. This week, however, I hit a mental pothole deep enough to completely freeze my momentum. I was busy editing almost a week ago, for the fifth time, the first part of my book (out of four parts) - a portion of work that proved to be a constant thorn in my side because it was the first batch of text I wrote for fiction in years and therefore wasn't as solid as what came after it. Part One already went through drastic changes, including the rewriting of the first chapter and lots of scene shifting, rewrites, consolidations, and deletions. On this day, I was reviewing a few batches of paragraphs spread across Part One that my CP called out as "unintentional red herrings." I don't know what exactly happened, but as I started down this particular path, my brain just shut down and refused to continue.
I have my methods for fighting through periods where I might feel like the path toward publication is too hard or I question my own abilities to perfect my work - namely, I walk around outside to get some fresh air, and if that fails, hit the gym and burn off those pent-up feelings. None of that worked this time. I was left feeling bummed and not wanting to work at all... and so I didn't.
It's not the first time I felt discouraged, but every moment when I did it was during this editing phase.
In the end, I resigned the rest of the day to these feelings, with the goal being to simply unwind and not think about the voices in my head trying to convince me to stop what I'm doing and give up.
Most of us that write have these feelings and thoughts, from what I've gathered from all that I've read and from my conversations with fellow writers at conferences and online. Even Stephen King thought his manuscript for "Carrie" was trash and threw it out before his wife rescued it from the bin and convinced him to submit it.
Today, I make my final edits and lock down the 5th draft before submitting my WIP to my editor, Kim Chance. While I work, I remind myself that I will be published, but that in order to get there I have to overcome many challenges, both externally and internally. Even after deciding that my book is as ready as it'll ever be I still have to pitch it to agents, and once I have an agent I'd work with them to pitch it to publishers. Internally, I just have to keep moving forward. To remind myself that my work deserves the best, and the best takes significant effort to achieve.
Never give up.