i was reading through some of my very first blog posts and MAN OH MAN is that embarrassing. for many reasons:
(1) i was 22, had just moved up to boston, and had no clue about life.
(2) or writing.
(3) or editing.
(4) or censorship.
(5) or revision.
it was difficult to read through the posts and not take a metaphorical red pen to them. (i don’t think my work IT department would like it very much if they saw my screen was covered in red pen). i was reading the posts with fresh eyes and the distance that 7 years can bring. i could see so many ways to improve upon each post. how to make it smoother. smarter. sillier. sassier. more sane. but at the same time, for the purpose of preservation, i’m not going to edit those posts because it shows the progression of me as a writer, as a new Bostonian, as a newly independent adult. (unless it’s to remove certain incriminating information. people actually read this blog now, whereas when i started it, i had a limited readership of 5. ok, so now i only have a readership of 6, but sometimes that 6th person is my mom. and there are some stories that need to be slanted so as not to cause her any grief or worry or shock or gray hair).
in terms of other beginnings, i have also gone back to the start of my manuscript. i have been able to take a literal red pen to the extraneous adjectives and redudant adverbs. i’ve combined sentences and removed whole paragraphs without breaking a sweat. (me, not sweating. that’s saying something!) i’ve fixed dialogue and clarified voices. i’ve hemmed and hawed. i’ve tightened action and expanded emotion. i’ve reved up the verb usage and quieted down the questions. in short, i’ve made it readable. and laughable. and relatable. and charming. (i hope).
i hadn’t gone back to re-read the beginning of my work since i turned in my thesis in january 2008. i haven’t gone back because i have been researching and reading and learning and talking and dabbling and writing and deleting and procrastinating and writing and deleting and reading and scratching out and writing a little more. i’ve been focused on furthering the story and fleshing out the characters and finally reaching the end. i have done that. now it’s time to go back to the future. but yeah, since i’m lazy, i decided it was easier just to go back to the beginning of my novel. so that’s what i did/am doing.
you see though, i’m a slow learner. how am i supposed to write a novel in anything under than (an x amount of) years? how do i create that distance, that objectivity, that cold calculation that allows me to slice and dice my manuscript into tip top shape? what tricks do you have in your editorial bag of magic that you can share with me? how can i get from point A (blank word document) to point B (full, query ready manuscript) in a straight line? i’m getting dizzy from all the back and forth and up and down and left and right and crisscrossing (who makes you want to JUMP JUMP). and i could use your help.
or you could just tell me a joke. that’s always appreciated.
4 thoughts on “beginnings, middles, endings (and more beginnings)”
Wait, so is your concern that since you’ve gone back to the very beginning, you’ll now want to reedit everything else, and that way you’ll never finish it? You know I have no experience with any of this, so my advice is pretty useless, but it seems to me that at some point you just have to tell yourself you’re done. Give yourself a deadline beyond which you won’t do any more changes. At least temporarily. Because you could go on revising forever. There will always be things you want to change at some future point, and you’ll be able to think of better ways to have said something (like with your early blog entries). But you need to move on to other things and let the manuscript go out into the world. I think it’s unrealistic to expect that you’ll have a perfect manuscript when you start sending out queries. You’ll have a great manuscript, which, with some help from an agent and an editor, will turn into a perfect manuscript. Maybe you’ve reached the point where you’ve done all you can and it’s time for some outside (hopefully objective) opinions?
you make some very good points. and yes, i can only hope to achieve a great manuscript on my own and then with the help of an agent and editor, a perfect manuscript.
but what i really meant by this post is how do i write something and then get enough distance from it to be able to properly edit it, say, a week from now instead of 7 years from now….?
Oh I see! I misread the point, but I see now what you’re talking about!
What about outside help? We are all reluctant to show our work to others until we’re satisfied with it, but there’s something to be said about the benefit of an outsider’s point of view…
Also, not a joke per se, but pretty funny!
yes, yes. you make fine points, my friend. a critique group would provide me with the distance i’m seeking seeing as they would provide a totally different point of view. but a crit group is one thing that i’m lacking ever since leaving school. sigh.
and i LOVE the definition of “blurb”. thanks for sending along that link. genius.