Friday, September 2, 2011

The Process Grinds Slowly if Exceedingly Fine

As most of my regular readers know, I'm deep in the doo-doo of revising a novel. I made a mistake there - a simple typo - I said 'of revisioning  a novel. Perhaps it is that too. My first idea was that I would get the heavily edited manuscript back from the person editing it for me. I would work backwards by putting in all the fussy bits - refining the language, the punctuation, eliminating and polishing - the micro-editing. After I finished that - I would start on the macro - tightening the structure, building up the characters that needed it and working with dialogue and theme.
I began. It was fine - I liked the process - I found my editor's notes clear and for the most part agreed with her. The prose became tighter, more muscular. After I had done more than half of the manuscript I decided that I wanted to change the whole thing from 1st person to 3rd. That would be a major macro-edit but I'm supple, I can bend with the hurricane-force winds that blow through my creativity. I started to do that. How? I went back to the beginning so I was changing person with the already polished stuff. And it was pretty snappy! I couldn't stop the other thing though. I still had to put the edits in. At first I did them in the voice the book was originally in - 1st person. I quickly saw that was crazoo and started to attempt untouched chapters - putting in the changes while changing the person from 1st to third. Yikes. Much much harder - and let's face it -  last half  chapters are rawer than early ones - so doubly hard. I fell down. I started to spend more time on knitting a lace shawl than on the book. I whined (only to myself - not even to sweet patootie but still...). I pretended. I worked on someone else's book. I made a peach pie and cleaned the fridge.
Yesterday I met with the person who's editing my book. Let's call her Caro. I didn't even want to meet with her. I did - but not about the book. We had many other topics to explore but eventually - there I was and I had to talk.
It was swell. I told her about my anxiety, my stalling techniques, my basic loss of confidence. She just nodded her head and made little sighing noises. Then she told me she had some big ideas for the first three chapters that I had resent her - these are chapters that are double-starred. That means they've had the edits done and they've been changed to third person. She told me her radical ideas. I like them. I really like them. I got excited. I got excited because I want to fall in love with my book again and because I believe, even when I'm most paranoid, that she wouldn't bother with this if she thought the whole thing was dopey. She just wouldn't.
So, dear readers, that is where I am in my process. A month ago I thought I'd be finished a polished draft by now. I'm not nearly there. I foresee at least a couple of months more of work. I can't even think about the other one - the mystery. I just want to put my head down and get this done AND I want it the way I want it - worthy - done to the best of my ability - not hurried at the end - not less than I think it can be.
Thanks for listening - this has been most helpful. Now I'm going to get back to work.

9 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Jan - Revising and editing - and doing them well - so often take much longer and are much more draining than we think they'll be. At least that's true of me. I'm very glad that you found your passion for the story again; I think that's part of what drives us to push past the fatigue. Thanks for reminding me I'm not the only who goes through these things...

Myne Whitman said...

I also have my stalling techniques, lol...All the best.

Arlee Bird said...

Wow, that was a major turnaround. Usually I prefer 3rd person to first anyway. Work hard (as though you're not).

Lee
Tossing It Out

Marjorie said...

I agree with Le. Third person is always better.

Words A Day said...

I emphathise! And Im glad youre excited about the book again, had to laugh at the do do reference!

It's importent not to be hijacked by a desire for (the illusion of) progress... I regret hurrying my first novel to its end, so with this one I'm taking a leaf from your post- my priority is to have it exactly how I want it. Thanks Jan:)

Dorte H said...

Oh dear! Sometimes revising is so complicated. I should be editing right now, but I am progressing very slowly because I had the brilliant idea to change major parts of my manuscript AND translate it into English in one go. Not exactly a piece of cake, but if I had tried to translate first & change the story afterwards, I am sure it would have been completely demotivating.

Diane said...

I found your post relevant as I am stalled with revisions, hate the thought of doing it, ignoring it etc. etc. After reading about the task facing you, I'm starting to find my courage. Now if only it will hold....

Su said...

You will SO get there! Way to stick to it! Also, I think writers are totally allowed to make up their own verbs.

Juliet said...

Hi Jan,

Pleased to meet you! I'm glad you found my blog. Wow, you sound seriously busy. I loved this post on the editorial process. I'm just going through that myself, and I recognised all of it! (With a grim chuckle along the way. Aha, so it's not only me)

In a funny sort of way, I actually found my editor liberated me and gave me the confidence to be a much better writer, and yet more ambitious and spontaneous at the same time. Which is quite weird, and not what I'd expected.

And it's a learning curve. I've started on the next book, and already I can feel the benefit of the lessons I've learnt. I'm thinking about things from the beginning, not blundering quite so blindly in.

After all, we are here to serve our readers, and that's what a good editor will help us to achieve.

Good luck. (And happy procrastinating. The writer's best friend. Why do we do it?) :)