Thoughts on Editing

note to self (2)

I’m only about five days and 110 pages into editing the first draft of my WIP (work-in-progress) but I’m already exhausted. Reading shit prose by itself is tiring, but the added factors of disappointment and embarrassment make reading your own shit prose somewhat more taxing.

I knew it wasn’t amazing when I was writing it. As many of you already know, my WIP was written as a part of NaNoWriMo 2017, when the daily struggle is simply getting words on the page, with absolutely no concern for their quality. It worked – I have 72,000 words to read, but I’d bet only 15,000 words (at the most) will find their way into the next draft.

It begs the question as to whether challenges like NaNoWriMo are productive. In the run up to last November, I found myself watching lots of videos and reading lots of blog posts about the pros and cons to participating. My conclusion at the time, evidently, was that taking part would be at least somewhat beneficial, and it has been. Even if zero out of 72,000 words make it into draft two, I am almost certainly a better writer for having written them, and (more importantly) for being able to recognise that they’re shit.

As sick as I am of my weak dialogue and uninspired descriptions of setting, I do feel that I am making progress. I’m around halfway through the manuscript, and already I have a notebook of new plot ideas, character arcs, and helpful suggestions like ‘be better’ and ‘no, not this’. When I initially finished the manuscript, after the first rush of ‘I did it’ settled and dissipated, I felt worried. I knew that the story needed more of just about everything, and that the plot’s structure would need a significant makeover between draft one and two. I knew changes needed to be made, but I didn’t know exactly how to make them and what devices I would use to solve the problems. Now, for the most part, I do.

My adventures in editing are far from over, and even after I finish reading the manuscript I will need to spend a significant amount of time mapping out my plot, thinking about my characters and making sure the next draft will be at least a little more successful. The going is getting tough and I can only cope with 5-10 pages at a time, but for every 5,000 words of pure bullshit, I find a sentence with some steel. Let’s hope that ratio improves somewhat in the future!