Getting the Job Done

I’ll begin by apologizing for my recent erratic schedule of posts. I have no excuse, but I do have a reason.

Book edits.

This particular project is taking longer than I anticipated. Probably because mentally I’ve moved ahead to my next book. I’m building a new story world and sorting through potential plot events. Characters are standing by, auditioning for parts and wondering if they’re going to be hired. It’s all very exciting.

The edit, however, pulls me back to a fictional world I no longer inhabit regularly. It’s like being on a tour (See 10 countries in 8 days!) and waking up on the bus to learn you’ve slept through Antwerp. It’s hard to go back when, emotionally, I’ve moved on.

If you think of a story as fabric, then the plotlines and characters are the warp and the weft. Revising any section requires cutting a hole in that mesh and then trying to reweave it so that the mended patch isn’t detectable.

It takes a lot of thought. A lot of mental reconstruction. Much pondering of questions such as, What did I intend her motivation to be in this scene? Why is she doing this? What if I have her do that instead? What will the consequences be if I move the sword from X to Y, and have I traced down all those later references in the story to keep the consistency intact? What color are the troll’s eyes? Was that only mentioned in Book #2?

When you’re wrapping up the conclusion to a trilogy, these questions become ever more convoluted. So you debate with yourself. You emotionally sift through the options, trying to keep them narrow because time is short and you need to finish. You resist the temptation to invent a new character and completely rewrite chapters 9 through 12, and you constantly doubt and question yourself on every decision you make.

I have writer friends who love the revision process. They scramble hastily through their rough drafts, eager to start rewrites and editing.

Conversely, I live for the rough draft, the raw, quick creation of story unfolding from my fingertips. Can I capture it all as I envision it? Can I type fast enough to keep up with the dialogue flowing through my mind? This character wants to throw a plot twist into the story. Do I allow it? Maybe I’d better. Will it all come out the way I want?

It’s like a hunt for big game. You plan carefully ahead of time while being aware that your quarry is wild and likely to react unexpectedly. At the end of the safari, I feel as though I’ve captured the story. Or at least enough of it.

Triumph.

To me, edits are the least-exciting aspect of the writing process. However, I recognize that you really are in the occupation where you belong if you can love (or at least embrace) the drudgery that goes with it.

That’s paraphrasing an old adage. I know also that what’s drudgery for one author is the sublime element for another. Being a professional means doing what’s best for the story, even after the thrill of creation is long faded.

Meanwhile, I’d better get back to work ….

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