Friday, January 11, 2008

The True Struggle of the Self-Editor

I’ve written books. I’m not great at it, but I’m better than the average bear now. I can do so fast and moderately efficiently. And I really, really like it. It’s a wonder drug. And I want to do more and more of that. I wrote and saw that it was good, and was pleased. I was happy writing my fictions and saying I’ve written novels (I know 3 isn’t a lot, but it’s not bad for 22). It was an accomplishment. It was something that I could call my own, my neat little trophies sitting up on a shelf.

Now that’s all gone. Editing is a different beast. Editing is alien and frightening and new. Writing books was good, and I’ve finally gotten decent at it after so long, but …. I have no experience editing books. I made strides with half of the craft after years of effort. Now I’m cast into the other half, with zero skills or experience. Not to mention, it goes against my skill set. I’m great at creating, bad at mechanics. I’m not what you’d call a ‘details’ person.

I’ll admit the truth, right here.

I’m afraid to edit.

I’m afraid because it puts the book in a semi-final form. I won’t be deluded that my second draft is going to be my final (yet) but it’s a lot further along than the first. There won’t be significant deviations after this point. The story is what it is. It fires on all cylinders and it has a point and each part of it plays into that point.

Once I’m done with that, I have to show it to people. If I want to be published, I have to expose it. And it’s terrifying. For the first time, I have to present my work, without any sort of ‘this is rough, fair warning’ disclaimers, and have it stand or fall entirely on its own merits. I have to do this, despite not knowing the first thing about editing. I have to trust that my eye and my ear are good, that the story is worth telling, and that any problems that I missed are still fixable.

But I don’t want to. I like writing stories and having them and treasuring them and moving on to the next big idea. It’s nice. It’s great. It’s brilliant fun.

But guess what? It’s not going to make me a published writer.

It helps, of course. Don’t get me wrong. But it’s not the complete answer. I used to be afraid to write, too. It was always a ‘what if it’s bad?’ that gnawed on my mind and drove me to stay away. I finally discovered that you can’t be afraid to suck, that you have to just give it your all and rock out and love your story with all your heart. The nitpicking and doubts can come later, at the editing stage.

Well, now I’m here. Same crisis, I just moved it down later. Learning to write is a great skill, but it’s not editing. And without the editing, you have a first draft. If you’re a hobby novelist, that’s great, you can move on. I don’t want to be a hobby novelist. Which means that that crisis that I so cleverly psyched myself out of is now looming before me big and tall and menacing. And all I have are my paltry skills to defeat it.

I wish there was another place to move the issue. To the next draft? No. That’s not going to help, I’ve realized. The writing gave me confidence, but I’m smart enough to know that it won’t help me much in this world. I need to develop a new skill set, one that’s entirely foreign to me. I have to be willing to stare down the doubts and fears. I have to have a litany to cast away doubts.

“The works I have written have promise. With effort, I will make their promise reality. I will not allow doubts to deter me. I will not allow fear to deter me. I have faith in my story. I have faith in myself. Only I can realize my story. Only I can realize myself.”

I have to worry about it all now. I have to stop being content with my accomplishments. I’m a writer, but now I must also be an editor. And I can’t hide from accepting the true demands of writing as a profession. I have to grab this beast by the horns and throw it down and win. For right now, if not forever.

Editing is hard because you realize you’re running out of excuses. When you write, it’s best to forget the problems and use the excuses so you don’t just run screaming in terror without trying. But I’m past that point. I have to stop making excuses. I have to stand behind my work. I have to stand behind myself.

If I hope to succeed, I can do no less. I will recite my litany. I will look into the depths of my self-doubt, and I will work to defeat it. The editing, mechanics wise, isn’t the real battle. The real battle is the one against yourself. Against that negative voice that tries to destroy all aspirations.

And in the end, there will be an author with a book. Is that not a miracle?

1 comment:

nick said...

maybe the gm will let you re-roll your character so you can put some points into editing. much easier than the grinding you are proposing