Notes from Editing Hell
And it continues… The editing, I mean. Although I finished writing The Book about six months ago, I am still editing and rewriting and then editing some more. And it is kicking my butt.
I take great comfort in reading about other people's road to publication. It took Toni Bernard six years to write How to Be Sick (if you haven't already, join RA Guy’s book club reading Toni’s book – it’s a great way to read a terrific book). Laura Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit, has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and it took her 10 years to write her award-winning book. David Gaughran, author of A Storm Hits Valparaiso, took five or six years to finish his novel and has detailed his struggles with the never-ending edits and rewrites on his excellent blog. These stories reassure me that I am not a hopeless slacker or so incompetent that I really need to stop any thoughts of publishing a book.
In related news, going through your book over and over and over again with a fine-toothed comb, looking for What Is Wrong will very quickly convince you that you're a terrible writer and have absolutely no business whatsoever even considering publishing a book.
In equally related news, I really miss writing. Editing is necessary – eventually loathsome, but necessary - but it doesn't tickle that creative spot in my brain. Someone somewhere once did a blog entry in which they asked" why do you write?" I answered that I write because it makes me happier than almost anything else in my life. There's nothing like disappearing into a different world, noodling through a thought process, obsessing about an idea and wrangling it to the ground and onto the page. And there's nothing like it when it works and you know you wrote something good.
Discovering that writing is as much about editing as creating the original piece has been a real eye-opener for me. This is a point where you might find that my hair color is influencing my ability to think, because… well, duh. I've never done it to this extent, though. I've edited myself, been edited by others, but nowhere near this kind of process. Thankfully, I am not going through it alone. My Writing Buddy had the first go as I wrote chapter by chapter and then I went over all of it myself again. The next step was passing on my manuscript to Trevor, whose fact checking was invaluable and then I went over all of it myself again. As we stand now, The Boy has it and as he is giving me back chapter by chapter, I go over each two more times and then start again on each individual section. And it is dizzying.
One of the ways I check whether what I've written make sense, includes all the appropriate words and no Dragon misunderstandings is to read each chapter aloud to myself. It's one of the best tools I have for checking my writing. This method also checks that my sentences aren't too long - using voice recognition software has had the interesting effect of lengthening the amount of words I used within each sentence. It turns out that I blather much more when speaking then when typing. Who knew? (yes, I know - everyone who’s ever talked to me were aware of this). How do I decide whether there are too many words in the sentence? If I run out of breath halfway through it. Clever, no? The only problem with this is that when you read somewhere in the neighborhood of 50,000 words aloud to yourself several times, it increases your lung capacity. My lungs are in better shape, but my sentences are getting longer.
I have seen different answers to the question "when do you know you're done?" One person believed that you're done when you're sick of your book, another said when your spousal equivalent is sick of hearing about it. I'm going to add one more: when my blog is sick of reading about it. So let me know when that time arrives, 'kay?
Going back to the saltmines now.