Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Serial Killers, Toddlers, and Lonely Dogs. Must be Editing Time.

I'm supposed to be writing about characters this week. Why? Because I ended my last post with a sneaky little hook of a line that gave some hints about the main characters in Cloudland, and then said I needed to figure out who the hell they were. That was supposed to generate interest in my next post; I have no idea if it worked or not.

Well, I apologize, but that promised post about characters is going to have to wait... mainly because I'm bogged down in editing right now, and I can't pull my brain out of the editing mindset long enough to talk about characters. So I'm going to talk about editing instead, and I'll get to characters next week.

What is that editing mindset, you ask (or at least, I imagine you do, you shadowy mystery readers)? Well, I'd say it's a combination of an organized, highly intelligent, ruthless serial killer; an attention-challenged and disobedient two-year-old; and a very sad, lonely dog who just wants to sit on your lap and be petted. In other words, sometimes I'm brutal and cold-blooded, murdering any paragraph that gets it the way of the action. Sometimes I trample wildly around the manuscript, squashing random sentences because it seems cool, then losing focus and toddling off to play in another section. And sometimes, I really just want someone to come and pat my head and tell me I'm a good girl and everything is going to be OK.

Yeah. I know. It sounds psychotic. It kind of is. Editing the rough draft of a novel means you have to wade back in to all of the words you painstakingly crafted over countless long hours of your life, and try to look at them in a detached way, as if you hadn't just spent years of your life sweating over them, and then cut and slash and reshape them with a cynical, steady hand to make them better.

I know I'm making it sound like it sucks. It sometimes does, but it sometimes is really wonderful and rewarding, because at the end of a long day of hacking your beloved manuscript to bits, you realize it actually is better. And that's the best part of all.

Besides that, I'm lucky enough to be working with a kick-ass, brilliant, wise, and patient editor, who helps me look at this book with new eyes, and is willing to talk with me about it for hours and hours and hours. I know she worries that she's going to hurt my feelings, but honestly, I get to talk about this book I wrote with another whole person (can you tell that writers get a little isolated sometimes?) who is actually interested in what I produced. And that, believe it or not, is really, really fun.

So that's what I've been doing this week. More specifically, I've been massacring great populations of exposition, because said editor pointed out that I have this small tendency to overwrite things. Just a teeny tiny bit. As a dear friend and writing partner of mine once said (and admitted to doing herself), I write these things called "frying pan moments." You know, you're reading the book, and I'm standing behind you with a giant frying pan, smashing it down on your head over and over again. "Did you get it?!" (smash, smash) "Did you get it yet?!" (smash) "Did you get it, huh? Huh? Huh?!!" (SMASHSMASHSMASH)

You know those moments. Some TV shows have them all. The. Time. (Yes, Once Upon A Time, I'm talking to you.) And we hate them. So I'm trying to trust that I've gotten my points across, and cut the rest of the explanation.

OK, off to crazy-land (I mean editing) now. Characters next week, I promise.


  1. Hi Liz! You really have a way with words and explaining your process was fascinating. Thanks for the inner workings if your mind. :)
    Good luck murdering the right paragraph!

    1. Thanks, Leah! I love comments. Murder is hard work... ;)

    2. Kill your darlings and find your story. Keep going!