Updated: Dec 20, 2021
They say editing should be pretty much scrapping your entire first draft and starting anew. I'm beginning to understand what they mean.
Let me explain my week to you:
Sunday: I edit two chapters of The Criminal, the first book in the Once Upon a Tome Series. Yay! I'm on a roll. (let it be known that editing is not my favorite despite the fact that it takes way less time per chapter than writing and thus it has been a slow-going process trying to motivate myself to do it and two chapters in a day is "a roll")
Monday: I do one chapter. Great, doing well. Then I start on the next chapter. And the chapter sucks. I mean it really sucks. And it might just be because it's chapter 13 and 13 is considered to be an unlucky number. Or it might be because it's getting late and I'm bored and when I'm bored everything sucks. Even other writers' writing. But I'm pretty sure this chapter is crap. I decide to come back to it.
Tuesday: I come back to it. And I was right. It sucks. It's crap. And I have to scrap the entire thing. The only problem with this (besides the fact that I now have to write an entire chapter anew) is that I have to start someplace specific and end someplace specific and make sure to hit at least a couple of major points along the way. You see, when you write the book the first time through, you have a general idea of where you want to go but unless you totally plan it out (which I don't usually I like to fall somewhere in between planning and "pantsing," "plantsing" as the NaNoWriMo-ers like to call it) you generally can make it up quite a bit on each chapter. But with this one I had to have the old crappy chapter next to me and the previous and next chapters as well to look at to make sure I stayed on track while totally changing the chapter (I also decided to change the time of day just for fun. It was during the middle of the day, now it's at midnight. Fitting for the 13th and unlucky chapter.) Anyway, I didn't finish the chapter. I scrapped the old one but didn't replace it.
Wednesday: Ok so I did finally complete the dreaded chapter 13 (it will always be the dreaded chapter 13 to me) but it took all day. I wrote bits and pieces of it in different classes, filling in a paragraph or two as the teacher lectured the scrapping that and going back to the chalkboard. It took forever to finally get it right (and when I say "get it right" I really mean "get it to a place where I didn't feel like I was going to pull my hair out of my head and run around in circles screaming in agony for the rest of my life").
Even beyond chapter 13, I have discovered the painful, emotional terror of editing. I find myself deleting whole sentences, whole paragraphs, even whole characters and having to rewrite them to make them better.
But as much as I do know that I am making them better, it kills me to be deleting this much of my first draft.
There are many quotes about editing, some, like Phyllis A. Whitney's quote, "a good book isn't written, it's rewritten," give starting authors like me that burst of inspiration we need to edit the book (and not just stop after we wrote the book like I did last time).
But it's the quotes that explain the feeling of editing that I like the most. They tell me I am not the only one that feels this way and they too give me the motivation to continue to edit. After all, if other writers felt the same way as I do and still got through it and got their books published, why can't I?
One such quote comes from Stephanie Roberts. She says, "editing fiction is like using your fingers to untangle the hair of someone you love." For those of you who have never done that before, untangling hair hurts. A lot. Especially if there are a lot of knots in it. And an unedited, first draft of a book tends to have a lot of knots in it that need to be untangled. The only issue is untangling them hurts the original draft, it takes a piece out of it (sort of like all the strands of hair that come out when you untangle someone's hair).
I've just got to focus on the bright side. In taking away that piece of the first draft, in untangling the knot, I make the book better.
And if all else fails, hair does grow back.