The Insecure Writers. It's an online group, meaning that no one ever really meets face-to-face, which is so perfectly appropriate for writers (to make a grand over-generalization about us, of course) that I had to join. We 'meet' the first Wednesday of every month, so there will be a nice neurotic post about writing - so different from my other posts, I know - once a month.
I'm going to make an attempt to be brief today. Not one of my strengths, but I'm this close (holds up thumb and forefinger with itty bitty space in between) to finishing the first-pass edit of Cloudland, and I am jonesing to get back to it. Like, leg-shaking hand-tremors gimme-my-fix-NOW jonesing.
And oh yes, I do mean first-pass (or really third-pass), because there's a whole long chain of editing that happens to a novel after a first draft is finished:
- The writer reads the first draft and alternates between perfect joy and horrified disbelief. She tries to remove the bits that cause the disbelief and does great celebratory dances around the awesome bits.
- Second draft. The writer enlists one or two very kind, wise close friends with some expertise in writing/reading/editing to read the draft and point out the places where the writer has gone a wee bit overboard, which should really be cut before anyone else is allowed to read it.
- Third draft. The writer takes a few deep breaths and engages the help of a professional editor. With the help of this editor, she murders paragraphs and slashes and burns all of the "long's" and "slow's" and other problematic and generally over-written sections.
- Fourth draft. The writer and the editor go through the novel again (with a lighter touch, one would hope) to make sure that now that it's nice and lean, it all still flows and makes sense and that there's story continuity and all of that important stuff.
- Fifth (or more) draft. The writer finds an agent (Snap. Just like that! Soooo easy!) That agent likely has one or two or seventy ideas for improving the manuscript.
- Many more drafts. The agent finds a publisher (also super-duper quick and easy, of course) and the publisher has a just a few tiny little suggestions before agreeing to take a major risk and spend money on this unknown author and her precious manuscript. Just a couple of very small edits.
Of course, this is my version of the editing process. Some writers probably have very different processes (and if any writers are reading this and do have better processes, please for the love of God share them with me. Kay, thanks.)
All of this, of course, can lead to just the teeniest tiniest sense of insecurity. Y'know, no biggie. Just something along the lines of "OH DEAR GOD WILL ANYTHING BE LEFT OF MY BELOVED MANUSCRIPT WHEN EVERYONE IS DONE KILLING IT???"
Which is ridiculous and dramatic and mildly insane, and also probably entirely normal for anyone who has ever had anything edited. Emails, reports, novels, scripts, letters, grocery lists, whatever. There's always this moment where you think, "Wait, why are you getting rid of that? That was a genius idea! Don't we need seventy-five different adjectives/kinds of spinach/statistics/ways to say "dear"/etc?"
Anyway. I'm almost there on step #3 (does this feel like a 12-step program to anyone else??) Before I sign off for today, I'll share one more tidbit from the annals of editing:
This one is one of the worst offenses of my bad habit #4, pairing actions and body parts. I actually, with no sense of humor or irony at all, wrote the following sentence: "Then she [Sara] has no choice but to squeeze his hand, and nod her own head."
Yes, folks, that's right, I am now pointing out that my characters only nod their own heads, not anyone else's! Because if I didn't - CHAOS!! WHOSE HEAD IS SARA NODDING?? WHAT ON EARTH IS HAPPENING IN THIS NOVEL??
Needless to say, the image this conjures is priceless: Sara putting her hand on her head, and pushing it up and down in an unmistakable nod.
Too bad I'm not writing farce, or satire, because that's a gem, there.