Denial, Dejection, Determination
Updated: Apr 17, 2020
Ah, the edit. E.D.I.T.: Every Detail Is Threatened.
I'm looking forward to finishing the second draft of my novel, The Time Chamber, and sending it out to my small cohort of oh-so-trusted reviewers.
These are story-savvy folk who do me the great service of telling the truth about the story, providing in-depth insights for the next draft instead of shallow homilies like, "I liked it" or "It was interesting" or "I hated it all."
As usual, I will receive their feedback silently and appreciatively.
Then I'll compare each of their notes to see which, if any, common themes arise.
I'll hone in on the weak parts in the story and make decisions about what stays, what goes, and what gets changed.
But I'm also dreading it.
Ultimately, I am a servant to the story - just like jobs I've had in my life where the customer experience is the most important. In this case, the reader's experience is absolutely critical.
If it's good for the novel, I'm all for it.
And although I've claimed over the years to be a good edit-receiver, it's closer to the truth to say I'm a good edit-endurer.
Typically upon receiving comments about one of my pieces, I move through three phases each lasting about 15 minutes.
After getting helpful / hurtful feedback, I flail about in murky waters for 15 minutes with, "They don't get it! They don't see the story's brilliance! They're not writers - what do they know about theme? or recurring motif? or raising the stakes?!"
The second set of 15 minutes finds me sinking deep with, "I suck. They're right. Everything about this is garbage. What do I know about theme or motif or stakes?!? Those voices in my head are right when they chant, Why bother? and You'll never be great at this!"
At last I surface and tread water for the concluding 15 minutes with, "Fine. Something about this isn't quite working. Lemme step back, or step in, or step sideways. Whatever provides a fresh perspective on the issue, and helps me make the telling better."
More often than not, the story improves, my skin gets a little thicker, and my fortitude gets fortified. Still, those are some pretty fatiguing 45 minutes, let me tell you.
And look: the real reason I started writing this blurb hasn't even come out yet. I've just managed to dance around it.
I'm terrified of handing over my precious darling manuscript to a professional editor.
Well, when my "trusted readers" find a fault or two (hundred) within the story, I know they don't do this for a living. Writing. Editing. Book-making. They're well-read, smart, literary-aware colleagues, but none of them is embedded solely in this business.
Perhaps those sets of 15 minutes I've experienced are only the minor league version of what I'm really going to feel when it's time to put my story "out there", to have a credible, experienced, story-savvy editor review my work.
I hope I remember to take a deep breath, to accept that it's the work - not me - being scrutinized, not to guard my feelings from all criticism but remain open to their hard-won insights, and to somehow find the balance where I i) stand up for my decision with well-articulated rationale, and ii) accept when their insights have merit.
And I'm sure that once I pass through the 45-minute gauntlet, my novel - and my fortitude - will be better off because of it.