Last week, I took my husband up on a challenge/offer of great love. He would take care of everything except going to work for me, I would edit my finished manuscript.
It was an incredible process and a learning experience for me. First, I learned how I write. I’d already done a lot of work on the first two acts. So, I learned that when I edit, I have to do one pass for structure. I have to look at the whole thing, what’s happening, the arc of that act, how it fits in the story, what the characters are doing and how they’re moving toward the turning point at the end of the act. It’s not about a chapter, or a scene; it’s about the whole. The first draft I frame the house; the second draft I hang the drywall, cut out the windows (I can only take this example so far, I’ve never actually built a house); and then another draft to look at scenes and make everything mesh together. I guess it’s actually more like a pyramid. I plan on doing another pass to check that I have a good variety in my sentence structure, plenty of description (for some reason, when I first write, it’s almost all action and dialogue. I don’t think it’s because they come easiest for me, but because they’re hardest, and I’m working on nailing that.)
I learned that I can buckle down, work 8 hours a day, come home, throw in a load of laundry, and work another 6 hours at night. This would drive me insane for a prolonged period, but sometimes writers are called on to suck it up and meet deadline (or so I hear–could be all reading lovely books and sipping cocktails–kidding!). There was a lot of work to be done, but I was able to keep going, and not become intimidated by the sheer amount of it by keeping my eye on my goal. Much like Dori, in Finding Nemo. “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” I may tape that to my monitor, except replacing the word “swimming” with “writing.”
I learned that eventually you will become so sick of your own work, you really don’t care who reads it or what they think. I’m pretty sure there’s a small window before the stage fright comes back, but I’ll take what I can get.
I learned that I have a tendency to overwrite. Which sucks, yeah, because I’m going to have to go back (again) and cut like a ruthless serial killer. But, as a person who used to laugh at the idea of writing 100, 000 words of anything, even “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” that’s awesome. I actually wrote (and kept–so far) about 110,000 words. Stephen King says cut ten percent, so that’ll work out fine, gives me a goal, anyway. (Yeah, I don’t know why I have referenced Stephen King twice in this paragraph… dunno). But, hey! I won’t ever have to write filler! Not on purpose, anyway.
I learned that I am a writer. And I am fabulous. Not necessarily both at the same time, but still. I really believe you should write for yourself, first. It’s just too hard to not be writing what you love to read. In between those times that you want to bang your head on the desk or toss the monitor, you deserve to be in love with your story. I love my story. I love writing. Everything else, anything else? It’s just gravy on my mashed potatoes, baby.