Daunting Editing

 There it is.  120-ish pages of writing, printed out and waiting to be edited. It was both cool to see it printed out, and alarmingly daunting. If I’m totally honest, it’s still sitting in the folder.  I have peeked at it a couple of times, but nothing beyond that. It is intimidating.

Writing is a daunting endeavor.  It is surprisingly easy to get the initial flood of words out. I’ve never had a problem writing thousands of words a day, racking up long stories was easy, even in high school, when my fiction assignments came in well over twenty pages, while my classmates were complaining at page five.

After that initial rush, however, it is a very different *ahem* story.  Rereading and editing is…uncomfortable.  I can see the bits that are lacking.  I can see the writing that is boring. The story in my head doesn’t match what is on the page, and I’m at a loss to fix it.

This 120 pages – very loosely based on some family history – is adding an extra level of difficulty.  What to keep? What to change? What to make up? What to use from actual history?

Not too long ago I finished reading Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin, and it was such a beautiful book.  And it was boring as all get out. Beautifully written, but the tension and stakes were so low that ultimately, I didn’t care. It is 768 pages of gorgeous writing, that I had to struggle to get through because the descriptions were so fantastic that I lost the thread of what was going on. It reminded me of my writing a lot. Beautiful descriptions, not much movement.

That’s what you call an “Oh, crap.” moment.

What I am working on right now is all movement, few descriptions. It’s hard. Hard to keep the tension up, hard to make it exciting, hard to not lapse into a description of something beautiful. Something beautiful, and ultimately boring that takes the story nowhere, or worse – derails it entirely.

That’s not to say that all beautiful description is boring, but when that is the bulk of the story, it becomes tedious.  Like too much salt in the dinner, a little bit enhances the flavor.  Too much, and it becomes inedible.

I’m not sure what to salt, as it were.

I’m rambling here on the blog because I’m putting off facing the stack of paper.  Fortunately, rambling often provides me with a solution when I am unsure where to go. Fix the technical first – the commas, quotation marks, spelling and run-on sentences.  Things that are not attached to the story, and will let me reread without being critical of plot and setting.

I know this is only of marginal interest for most folks reading, so if you stuck with it this far, Thank You.  I’d love to know what fiction books you are reading right now, and what you think of the writing. And if you have a dissenting opinion of Winter’s Tale, I’d love to hear it. What books really get your brain going, make you eager to finish the story?

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2 thoughts on “Daunting Editing

  1. 120 pages is a lot to edit at once, I commend you for tackling it. I tend to revise in short chapter length chunks, but I don’t have such a long work either.

    Right now I’m reading graphic novels (just finished Ms. Marvel volume 1 and the 3rd volume of Ex Machina), several non fiction books (namely a book of interviews with the writer and philosopher Charles R. Johnson), a poetry collection (The One-Strand River: Poems by Richard Kenney), and three books of fiction: a reader of William Saroyan’s short stories, The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin, and a novella by indie SF/Fantasy writer Raven Oak called Class-M Exile.

    Saroyan’s short stories are nice to read because they are so naturalistic in presentation. He was known for penning stories very quickly, and something about reading his stuff helps me relax and just write from the heart and let things flow.

    The Three Body Problem is a science fiction novel set in China in some alternate future, and while I don’t find it riveting or even meeting many of the conventions we often hear about ‘how to write’, I find the characters are subtly interesting, and the premise — only revealed around page 100 — is mind-bending. I really don’t know where the story is going to go. If the book has a failure that I can see, it’s that I’m not sure what is at stake, and because I don’t know what is at stake, I keep forgetting to pick it back up again (I’m also reading it on the computer, so I don’t physically see the book lying around to pick up and read).

    Class-M Exile is a novella about a space ship and lots of space creatures. It’s got a strong first person narrative voice, and is a bit of a space western. Is it a coincidence that I am now writing a speculative western in the first person? I usually don’t write first person, but I am playing with it, and finding that the voice is nice to slip into. I think Oak’s novella gave me a sense that it was okay to just go for the gusto. I haven’t finished it yet, though. It’s not my typical drama, and it’s hard for me to sliip into such a whiz-bang world, when I’m mostly into theme and character-driven stories. But it’s funny and Oak has a well-muscled way with words.

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    1. Everything you are reading sounds interesting! I have one story in first person going right now, and it is right for the story, but it is hard sometimes. I like that I can find the character’s voice better that way, often my third person stories need some fleshing out in that regard.

      Editing is slooooooow. I’m tackling in chapter chunks too, but I am finding a lot of flipping back and forth. I need to read all the way through again, just to see where the story goes.

      Ms. Marvel is on my shelf, but I haven’t gotten there yet.

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