Edit! A new four letter word! That’s what my mindset has been for the last 8 months since I finished the first draft of The DeadLands in my first NaNoWriMo. I was dreading the editing part. My story was a total disaster. Before I started on November 1, I had a basic plot idea and the slightest shadow of who my main character would be. By the end of that first day, I had made huge changes. Main character was a different gender and the plot had taken on a life of its own. You can imagine if I did that much changing in one day what a mess the book was by November 30. By the way, changing is my specialty but completing a thought….meh, not so much. Needless to say, I had many, many plot bunnies and no real solid main plot.
I tried to take heart in all the comments I read from people saying “It’s OK, It’s supposed to be complete mess. After all you wrote a book in 30 days without going back and reading it all!” That’s all fine and well. In theory, I was forgiving myself for having written this so badly. The reality? I was looking at this manuscript in front of me and thinking, “I’m never going to be able to straighten this out.” And when I say it was a mess, I don’t mean just a little bit.
For example, I couldn’t decide what point of view to use when I was first starting or what tense. Instead of letting myself spend the first half of November trying to figure this out, I just started writing whatever came out. The result was around 40 scenes, at least 6 different point of views and I kept hopping about between present and past tense. I absolutely hated the direction the book had taken. I felt like it had morphed into some sort of monster with six different genres competing for the top billing.
Every time I pulled my manuscript up on the computer, I got tense and more than a little confused. Where would I cut? Which part did I hate the very most? Who were my favorite characters? And, most importantly, what is the point of this story again, because I can’t tell anymore?! So I found a couple of characters that really didn’t add much to the story and a few scenes here and there that quite frankly just made me mad because they were so awful. I got rid of the things I really hated but still didn’t know where my book was going.
The good news about all that cutting is that it made a bit easier to clarify the plot in my mind, as well as strengthen the characters that were left. The next thing I did was go back and re-visit the big picture view of the book. I used the Snowflake method to help me (which I should have done from the beginning but didn’t know about it!). I’ll do another post sometime about Snowflake because one or two sentences wouldn’t be enough to explain it. Going back and looking at the big picture allowed me to rise above the details that were confounding me. It enabled me to approach those smaller details later with a renewed sense of purpose.
While still not ready for a general audience, I have made a ton of progress after stepping back just a bit. In fact, I’m going to let my husband read it at the end of next week. Finally. One other thing worth mentioning if you are truly going to be able to understand my neurosis when it comes to this project is that I’m totally overwhelmed by what comes after the book is finished. Publishing. Ugh. I don’t know where to begin. At all. I was voicing this concern to my husband and in his very practical wisdom he said, “How about if you just finish the book and then worry about how to publish it?” Duh. So simple, but absolutely true. By letting go of the need to figure out how I was going to publish, market, etc and just allow myself to focus on finishing the book, I found I had much more space in my brain to focus on the task at hand. Finishing. The. Book.
A good friend once told me not to over think everything. Good advice. Especially for the editing process. I am going to save all my over thinking for creating a solid outline before I start my next book in November. I wrote by the seat of my pants for this first novel because I rebel against any sort of structure, however the chaos that ensued during editing was traumatic enough to convince me to try just a bit more structure. I must have some sort of plan.
That’s what I’ll be spending September and October doing. Finishing the edit for The DeadLands and creating a solid outline for the next book. After I decide what book I’m writing. That might be important.