Monday, July 27, 2009

How We Came to This -- a ramble on editing

Hello out there in internet land! I'm actually making a blog post that isn't just me regurgitating opinions on the latest and greatest in film. No, no, instead of inflicting my massive ego on you by proclaiming my thoughts every week, today you're going to get me talking about myself! Great change, huh?

Whoa, whoa, don't click CLOSE on that tab yet. Come on back. I promise I'll do my best to make this interesting. How so? Well, y'see, this blog is gonna be about writing. You know, that thing I claim I do but never talk about? Today we're going to talk about it.

I've been kind of not writing since early in the year. After NaNo, I burnt out on the whole writing thing for a while. I toiled slowly towards the finish line of the NaNo 2008 novel, and then set the whole thing aside. It had been somewhere between not-great and aggressively shitty, so a respite was in order.

That respite has lasted until three weeks ago.

One might ask how a little break can turn into 7 months of dicking around, but really, it's pretty easy. I have a lot of interests, movies and video games and hanging out with friends and just existing on the internet. That takes up gobs of time. I spend more time refreshing twitterfox each day than I do in my entire morning routine. Not reading twitter, just physically refreshing twitterfox.

The internet is the world's second best waster of time, behind the incredible power of Man to ignore his own agenda in favor of anything else.

But now that's not what's happening. Somewhere between hearing one of the writers I follow was getting represented by an agent (congrats again Kristin!) and feeling the days starting to drift into the long hot bulk of summer, I realized that it was nearing time for NaNo again and I had accomplished fuck all in the interim.

Me! The guy who's always been so sure of what he wanted to do with his life, puttering around without purpose for months!

There's an excuse for taking a break, but the break had become a habit of neglect. And somewhere along the line I kind of snapped a little. Not the guns-blazing-soon-to-be-a-made-for-TV-movie snapping, but the quiet kind where I feel something shift inside of me and suddenly you resolve to things with the kind of conviction that surprises me, because normally I'm a pretty mellow (or, y'know, slothful) guy when it comes to responsibility.

But I'm editing now. I decided to take a crack at my NaNo 2007 novel, Way's to Commit Suicide When You're Bored (shortened to WTC here and elsewhere), the third novel I've ever written and quite possibly the most personal of the books. It was written at a pretty dark period in my life, when I was just starting to wrap my head this whole 'being a writer' thing.

Going back to it has been a conflicted experience. On the one hand, I'm feeling really engaged with the writing process again in a way I haven't felt in almost a year. That alone has made the whole endeavor worthwhile. But at the same time, undertaking editing this is easily the most complicated, difficult thing I've ever done. I'm not a great editor, and this book is big and complex and parts of it are in really rough shape.

So I've been working on the edit for the past few weeks, and so far it's going okay, though a bit slow. I have a hard time getting started, though once I do it all seems to go pretty good. I might take a week or so off in September and just cut myself off and do a lot of work, see how that goes. So far I've just been managing about 1000 words a day, sometimes more and sometimes less. I'm still readjusting to making my writing into a part of my daily life. Hopefully in the next fortnight it'll become a habit and then the start up process will go faster and I can get more done.

Of course, aside from the basic mechanics of doing a full draft/rewrite of a novel, there's the emotional factor. A novel is a huge project, and when one is particularly personal it becomes a reflection of the person who wrote it. This novel, WTC, is imbued with the spirit of who I was in late 2007. Where my head was at, who I was as a person and how I related to the world, all these things are dripping from every paragraph.

The problem is, I'm no longer the person I was in 2007. And that makes approaching this book like opening up a time capsule. There are things that I can still relate to, but even after only two years, it's like looking in on someone else's life. The world view of the author is different than the world view of the editor. But at the same time, I feel so connected to it by the tethers of my memories, that separating the experiences of writing it then, working on it now, and seeing it for what it can be becomes an intricate knot of priorities that ... well, frankly, the editing tends to make me exhausted.

I'm not yet at a pace where this book's going to be edited by the time NaNo 2009 rolls around, but I'm starting to get ideas for that and I'm really excited to come off of this and write a new novel. So here's hoping that I finish the edit before then, or I'll be juggling an edit and a first draft at the same time, which sounds about as close to writing hell as I ever want to get.

And that's really all I have to say about the editing job. Maybe I'll have more later, but I really just wanted to write out where my headspace was at when it comes to the work, lately. I'm not exactly the most communcative when it comes to my writing, and this was originally supposed to be a blog about a writer talking about writing. Unfortunately, writing novels doesn't leave a lot of energy to write extra and isn't so dynamic and fast-paced that I regularly have things to say.

I still might check in now and again. This editing experience is new for me. I've never done a project quite like this, and it's a learning experience (and will continue to be so). So ... thanks for following along so far, and hopefully for listening in again in the future.

Oh, and as a parting shot, I'll put up a rough synopsis for Ways to Commit Suicide When You're Bored here at the end so you can see what it is in abstract. I might talk more about it later, in more specifics, but for now this'll have to suffice.

Max has hit an interesting time in his life—he’s dropped out of college, stuck in a dead-end job in the middle of Nebraska, and longs to have someone, anyone, pull him out of the mire that is his existence. It's become so bad that he's started retreating into his own dark imagination for respite. But when an old friend shows up at his door, he leaps at the possibility of winning her heart and escaping from his dark corner of the world.

The problem? She's knocked up, wanting his help in getting rid of the baby.

Now he's left trying to help her while struggling with his ideal of their relationship. But his mental world is starting to take over his life, manifesting in the real world and blurring the lines of what happens in his head and what happens in real life. What starts out as a complicated situation becomes a struggle to deal with his demons and confront the ghosts of his own mind, before he becomes a prisoner of his own mind forever.

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