Thursday, June 23, 2011

On Editing in June

As is perhaps not terribly surprising, I'm not per se sitting on top of 23 fully edited stories at the moment. Following from here are some scattered notes and observations from the "edit one story a day in June" experiment.

1. I'm rewriting a lot more than I anticipated. I thought I'd just tweak things a bit and they would be fine, or maybe I'd write in an extra scene and just shoehorn it between two previous ones. Except in cases where there was almost no editing needed, I couldn't find any way to do this that didn't queer everything it touched, especially in stories with a strong voice. I have a pretty strong forward momentum when I get going, and while working from a previous draft slows this down some, it still works out better than hopping around between untouched portions.

2. I have written a lot of things I've completely forgotten having written. Completely. I would come across them and be very surprised. It would take me a few minutes of flipping around and wracking my brain to remember the whole piece. I didn't work on many of those.

3. The stories I think are my best are not. Not even close. I have picked up so many things this month thinking "this will be a snap, I remember this was a really good story, I bet I hardly have to do anything." And I'm always wrong. There's usually a grain of a good idea there, but it's either woefully underdeveloped or I've let myself go running off on pace murdering tangents because I didn't have a clear idea what I was working towards.

4. I'm more comfortable with the editing I need to do on that mess of a novel, again, in part because I've given up on my dream of not completely rewriting things from scratch. Reading and listening to more literary fiction has also influenced what I want it to be, in a more ambitious and I think better direction. I have a real job, I'm not counting on this for money, I can indulge in delusions of grandeur.

5. I think my writing is in fact getting tighter from the practice of editing, which in and of itself makes this a worthwhile exercise, even if nothing more ever comes of it.

6. Things insist on taking multiple passes, even when I'm sick of them.

7. Editing takes much longer than writing, and when you're finished is far more ambiguous. I find this terribly vexing.

8. I do tend to edit things longer (word count wise) than the previous draft. The stories I'm thinking of are objectively better for this.

9. In part because of how I often write- without per se knowing where I'm going and under the duress of a rapidly approaching deadline- I very often lack a defining character scene in the front. This is a gross oversight on my part, and one I've been fixing in a lot of second drafts.

10. Often when I worried in the first draft I went to far, on editing I realize I did not go far enough.

11. I get much more done when I have print outs of the stories than when I'm working straight off the screen. I don't know what that's really about, but it feels easier to view the thing as a tangible whole.

12. I am terrible at prioritizing which piece to work on.

13. Reading out loud is spectacular. I should pick a story a night and read it to myself. This is probably not going to happen, but it would really help out.

14. I can line edit a couple of minutes at a time in a room with distractions, but this is very much not true for content and pace editing, or rewriting.

15. This is a lot of work, did I mention that?

16. I still don't like editing, but I no longer hate it, per se. We're uncomfortable friends- like that woman in the cubicle down the way, who you know is stealing paper and holding all sorts of opposite and offensive political beliefs, but damnit, you're here to get a job done and you're not going to let your feelings about her get in the way.

17. I still have a lot of stories to do if I hope to catch up, and I shouldn't put it off until this late at night, because I need more brain power than I'm packing at 11pm after a full day if I'm going to get these sorts of things done.

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