A_sunflower-Edited copy

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*sigh*

Editing.  Still editing.

Not only is my latest NaNoWriMo novel going under the knife, but for some completely unfathomable reason, I decided to bring my years-old first-ever-finished novel into the operating room too.  Don’t ask.  I have no idea what I was thinking.  In between the editing, I am finding time for making new things too–adding stories to This Brave New World, working on time-traveling ancestor worshippers, and getting to know a one armed vampire.  But my time, for the most part, has been monopolized by editing.

And it’s giving me a fucking condition.

As if writing wasn’t emotional enough, the editing stage seems hell bent on making the whole process into an even bigger roller coaster.  Going through my own writing is a scary and thrilling ride, very possibly one of those rides you aren’t supposed to survive.

The trip through the good parts is beautiful.

These are the parts that remind me why I wrote the story in the first place.  They are the parts that remind me, no matter how bad I can write, I also have the potential for goodness.   Polishing these parts is a giddy experience, a cheerful and starry-eyed break from the usual mess of a first draft.

And the trip through the bad parts is beautiful.

These are the parts that make me wonder what I was thinking.  But watching these ugly ducklings molt into swans, is one of the most satisfying parts of writing–in many ways, more satisfying than writing something perfect in the first place.

And the trip through the really bad parts is beautiful.

These are the parts that don’t even make me wonder.  They just get chopped.   I never understood the agony of “kill your babies” – that  feeling many writers have when cutting out large sections of text.  Maybe it’s because I don’t like babies.  Maybe it’s because I like anything that gets me closer to the final story.  But there is something magically freeing about getting rid of a disease in one felled swoop of the delete key.  Did you ever properly appreciate the delete key?  You should.

Yes, editing is beautiful.  But it… it just… just…

It lacks that wild, scary, adreniline-filled rush of careening through uncharted territory.  Putting words down on the paper for the first time, pushing through a story that doesn’t exist yet… It’s hard to articulate that feeling.

But it exists.

After a day of editing, I go to bed feeling like shit.  Not the worked-all-day-so-Im-dead-tired type of shit.  The what-did-I-do-with-my-life type of shit.  I may have polished many chapters,  I may have made a ream’s worth of notes and typed up another reams’s worth, and caught some spelling errors to boot.  And I may have enjoyed the process.  But as soon as the figurative cap hits the figurative red pen and I head off to bed, the roller coaster smashes into the ground.

I feel like I haven’t done anything.    No list of accomplishments–accomplishments that I have no trouble articulating–make that feeling go away.

But that… rush… that unnameable, indefinable need to create new things, to journey through unwritten stories and write the words of characters that exist only in my head… that doesn’t exist in the editing phase.  That’s why we make ourselves crazy every November to scrawl down 50,000 words of… whatever comes out.  That’s why we forget to shower and eat and answer the phone in the middle of an exciting new project.  That’s why we’re missing our friends as we sit at home on the couch with our laptop and they go out having fun.  It’s… that thing that made us writers in the first place.

And I can’t go to bed happy without that.

In between the self-critiques, I write short stories or blog or pull out another novel’s unfinished draft.  And it helps to pick myself up from the ground that the editing roller coaster slammed me into.  But the red pen is waiting, waiting for me to get my fix and get back to work.

And I hate it, because no matter how high it goes, that roller coaster’s just going to slam me back into the ground again.

7 Responses to “Bipolar Editing Disorder – Is This A Thing? It Should Be”

  1. Becka Sutton (@shutsumon)

    Killing your babies/darlings is more about having to cut parts that are well written and you really love but which ultimately do not serve the plot.

    While it’s always existed it’s been taken to extremes in the last few years. So many of my favourite novels would get a hatchet job done on them if they were edited today. Their meandering river of words ruthlessly directed into the straigh concrete culverts of ‘plot service’.

    Unrelated – have you come across gumroad yet? It looks like a pretty good well to sell ebooks directly to your readers even on a hosted blog. http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2012/03/27/selling-ebooks-direct-how-to-set-up-a-simple-e-bookstore/

    Reply
  2. crubin

    I should be hearing from my publisher’s editor any day now (hopefully!), and I’m anxious (terrified?) to see how much of my baby they’ll want me to butcher. And whether I’ll be able to do so in the deadline they give me…

    Glad to read of other’s editing experiences.

    Reply

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