14 May 2009

Add - Edit - Delete

I pulled out my manuscript yesterday. The big one. The one I finished four months ago that has been sitting on my desk, putting undue stress on the already strained wood. I wanted to wait until after I returned from India before I tackled the editing process. Now that I'm back, the giant, three ring binder glares at me from the bag underneath my work desk. I can feel it boring a hole in my gut, daring me, taunting me.

So I began. And you know, it wasn't so bad. There's a lot I need to alter, a lot that needs to be said. That's the "joy" of writing a trilogy: you discover things at the end of the series that you wish you'd known at the beginning! Not to mention the series will continue after this trilogy so I have to make extra, careful sure that the clues I've inserted in books one - three will hold water come book six (or nine, or eighty-seven). It's actually rather stressful, trying to remember everything you've written while forging a past and a future for your characters. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Contrary to popular belief, most writer's I have met actually prefer the editing process over the actual writing process. Not that we don't love to create; if we didn't, we'd become bankers or shoe salesmen. But once you get those ideas on paper (or on screen as the case may be), you are then free to add and take away. The story is there, hidden amongst all the rabble that was flung out of your crowded mind when you first pulled the story out of hiding. Weeding, trimming, transferring, it's all a part of the creative process. It's just not a glamorous as, say, "I just finished writing a 2,000 page novel!" What you always have to remember is that after that 2,000 page novel is finished, you have to edit that 2,000 page novel. (Whew, and I thought I was verbose!)

This is the final edit, however, and I approach it with conflicting emotions. The first third of this tale is complete. I edit it and then begin the arduous task of waving it under agent's and publisher's noses, hoping the scent is tantalizing to at least one. That's exciting, but it's also scary.

Because I've set myself up to write more, and starting a new story is just as frightening as starting anything new. It's uncharted territory and you never know what may be lurking around every page. That's the adventure, though, of being a writer. You cast off the familiar in favor of the frightening, the unknown, knowing that on the other side, it's just another story, another book under your belt. I have known writers who feared finishing a novel because "what if there were no more stories after that?" To that, dear writer, I say fear not: more stories will come. They always do. All you have to do is show up and let the words flow. It's humbling being a writer, knowing that these stories come to you, ask you to tell their tale. Our choice (which isn't really a choice, is it?) is to either ignore them or start typing. I for one, can't wait to get back to the keyboard, and let the story have it's way.

For now, I must put on my technical hat and wade through the thousands of words and tighten, prune and shape. Editing is, after all, just the other side of the writing coin. It may not be as shiny, but it is no less important.

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