Tag Archives: editing

Emily Starts a Second Draft

I’m normally a great hater of editing. It’s my least favorite part of the writing process. And though I’m sure many writers will comment in agreement, I have actually met people who have said that editing is their favorite part. So, just in case, I’m clarifying that I detest it.

I’ve finished writing five novels. But in the past every time I’ve finished one I’ve pushed it to the side in favor of starting another writing project. But I’ve begun to realize how ridiculously harmful this is to my writing process, and I’ve started to understand how much I need to start trying harder if I want to ever achieve actual publication.

So what prompted this seemingly random decision? Well, there were a few different factors.

One: I took a fiction writing class and actually learned something about writing. And now I want to employ what I know and use it to make my past works better. It also forced me to actually try editing. And though I didn’t like it, I recognized the benefit on the final polished product.

Two: Three out of those five books I’ve finished were partially written in high school and are outdated in terms of my beliefs and my feelings about life, beyond just having some serious writing flaws. They contain a naiver and more confused version of myself that I no longer really like. They’re also pretty badly organized over all.

Three: Several people (I really should just say my mother here because it’s closer to the truth) have been bothering me about when I will get a book published or if I’ve even tried. And I don’t feel comfortable sending any works out without having done some serious reworking. So if I ever want to get people off my back on that, I’ll need to actually make an effort.

Four: Sad to say the person I’d cowritten four of those books with has long since moved past these novels into works that are more “mature”. And I’d have to agree with her that many of these are somewhat naive, but I think they’ve always held a lot more significance to me than to her. And…on top of that… we had a kind of messy falling out last winter which we never did anything to resolve…But even if we somehow managed to work around that, I have no reason to believe she’d ever want these stories to actually go anywhere, so I feel only minimal guilt in trying to rework these. It just saddens me to see the works that I spent so much time on having to go into a trashcan because of everything. And that’s why I’m going to rewrite this book.

I think I’m only going to have the energy to do one novel, because many of the others are more heavily influenced and would be harder to rework, and also because with the plot changes I’m making the other books likely wouldn’t be able to continue. But I want to work to make this one its own, to be a part of my healing process. And to be honest this was a huge part of my decision to finally bring back these old books of mine. To start processing everything that happened. A means of wiping a messy slate clean.  Of recognizing my works, my experiences, my old writing and remaking it. Its a way I can recognize my past rather than running from it. And it’s about reclaiming what is mine. And reclaiming has become a huge part of the book actually.

The story The Tale of the Rose (you can see the plot on my What’s in my Cup page) revolves around the duchess Katherine who becomes a pirate and struggles between living the life she loves, and living the life that is right for her people. It’s written at the end of her life looking back on all she has accomplished and her many adventures. Her stories, and those of her best friend, the famous adventurer and magician Night Hawk, have become the source of many ballads and legends and children’s bedtime stories. Her story is in fact quite the fairy tale-like in its plot with wicked stepmothers and mysterious pining princes and dark curses. But many of those accounts are actually wrong…

The new draft of the book revolves around retelling these dramatized and beautified stories. It involves reclaiming one’s own story and explaining life in its full messiness. It’s about moving past the childish innocence of bedtime stories into the real world of pain and heartbreak and suffering. And though I’m uncertain exactly how I’m going to employ this whole thing, I know I’d love to put these pieces together into my novel. At the moment I’m thinking I’ll include snippets of ballads and stories of Red Kate and Night Hawk in between the actual chapters. But I’m still working to make sure that will be effective to the book as a whole.

This is where I am now in my life. I’m moving into adulthood. I’m beginning to realize life is harder than I might have thought when I was young. My life isn’t following that little set formula of happily ever after I’d always expected. And it’s becoming time for me to reclaim my story for what it is. For its realness. For its messiness. For the fact that I am my own amazing self, with or without someone else to share that life with. My first version said something along the lines of “romance fulfills you and makes you the best you can be” my new version says “you are who you are, and no romance will ever fully complete you and until you understand your real self you can never expect someone else to.” And I think that’s incredibly important.

So what all am I going to be doing:

  1. Going through and reworking plot. Figuring out a basic sense of where the story is really going. Trying to reinstate a sense of what the book is about in general.
  2. Reworking some key characters so they fit my story better. Night Hawk in particular has been given a huge makeover, and I’m excited to see her come to a full fresh start.
  3. Outlining outlining outlining. I’m going to make a full working outline including all the things I’ve written and what I’m going to get rid of, rewrite, replace, or edit.
  4. Making a list of all sections/characters/plot points/countries/whatever else was contributed by my ex-cowriter and ensuring that these elements are removed so that the story can fully be my own.
  5. Starting to go through and doing those steps I’d listed earlier of deleting, rewriting, replacing, or editing sections.
  6. Whatever the heck else needs to be done. From here on out it’s a bit of a mystery. But I suppose if I ever do finish it will be sending manuscripts off next.

Well, I have three work in progress pieces right now that a few friends are reading. And they’d probably kill me if I stopped writing midway through. So this project might be slow in the works. But it’s still exciting for me that I can finally say I’ve started a second draft. There’s officially a “draft two” document saved on my computer. And I couldn’t be more thrilled.

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“My Rambling Brat (In Print)” or the Problems of Perfecting Writing

As a writer I sometimes am extremely self-critical. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the negatives and see only your faults rather than your talents. In many ways it’s in our nature to be critical, especially of ourselves. I am always reluctant to share my writing with others for this reason, frightened to let my books into the world fearing they might not be good enough. Yes, I’m a bit of an obsessive editor who constantly is trying to improve my works. And I never can explain to my eager friends why my book is just not ready yet!

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However, today I realized not only am I not alone in this belief, but published writers long before me have also struggled with these self doubts.

In my American literature class today we were reading Anne Bradstreet, a brilliant Puritan poet from the early 1600’s. She has marvelous poems, and I encourage everyone to take a look at a few of them. However, my favorite remains “The Author to Her Book”.

The story goes that Bradstreet had a book that her brother-in-law published without her permission. My literature professor equated it to friends hacking your facebook when you’re out of the room to post ridiculous things. However, it’s a bit more extreme than that. Bradstreet wrote this poem as a reflection of how she didn’t want it published, comparing her book to an ill-formed child that she is sending out the door hoping only the best for. Read it below and see what you think.

The Author to Her Book

  by Anne Bradstreet

Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth didst by my side remain,
Till snatched from thence by friends, less wise than true,
Who thee abroad, exposed to public view,
Made thee in rags, halting to th' press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judge).
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call,
I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
The visage was so irksome in my sight;
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, if so I could.
I washed thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot still made a flaw.
I stretched thy joints to make thee even feet,
Yet still thou run'st more hobbling than is meet;
In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
But nought save homespun cloth i' th' house I find.
In this array 'mongst vulgars may'st thou roam.
In critic's hands beware thou dost not come,
And take thy way where yet thou art not known;
If for thy father asked, say thou hadst none;
And for thy mother, she alas is poor,
Which caused her thus to send thee out of door.

So here is this brilliant woman worrying about what is going to happen to her book she thinks is “ill-formed” and not ready to be sent out yet. It amazes me to think far greater writers than I have also worried about their works. So I guess I need to worry less and just be brave and send things off. Because I’ll always see my books as rambling brats not yet ready to leave the home.

 
Who are some writers who have inspired you to see value in your own work? What do you do to overcome compulsive editing problems? Any other valuable literary wisdom you can provide?

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