Fiction editing: lessons from chapter one

I’ve been editing my academic work for years.  I’ve edited approximately a million papers, a masters thesis, dissertation pieces, and countless student submissions.  I’m good at it. I figured I would be good at fiction editing, too. LOLS Well, to be self-compassionate, I wouldn’t say I’m straight up bad at fiction editing.  But I would definitely say that I was being coy with myself when I set my expectations, and that chapter one has provided the rudest of awakenings. Awakenings provide lessons, though.  So, in the spirit of education, here’s what I’ve learned so far about editing… Lesson One: Your characters will be strangers If this is your first big piece of fiction (and maybe even if it’s your third or fourth) you’re going to look back at your first chapter and wonder what the hell is even going on with these characters you thought you knew so well. A reminder: You do.  You do know them.  But you didn’t

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Shifting (read: grinding) gears

Steven King says that after you finish your first draft, you have to chuck it in a drawer for at least six weeks.  Then when you go to edit, you will have achieved proper distance from the manuscript, making it easier to gut what needs gutted. Sure. He also says that during this six week period, you must forget the manuscript exists, and that this can be accomplished by switching to a different project, distracting yourself with other things. Bullshit. Maybe when you’re Steven King and you’ve written approximately six hundred novels, you can just switch tracks, but after your first novel? Literally all the varieties of bullshit in all the land. Here is what actually happened when I tried to do that: First, I came down off my elation so hard that I started running a fever.  I had plugged up sinuses, chills, aches.  I was nowhere near possessing the level of energy required to undertake a vast new

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Four weddings and a flash mob: Part 5/5

Dear Baby Sestak, Welcome to the world!  When you’re old enough to read, and becoming interested in your parents as people–as Jon & Annie–here you’ll find one version of the day on which they were married, December 14, 3013. How I met your dad, and why I think he is awesome:  2003.  Co-Choir.  The story began.  On a scale of one to ten, Jon gives hugs that go to eleven.  He enjoys nothing more than seeing people happy, except perhaps disappearing for six months at a time to go on hikes and commune with nature.  On choir tour, we combined these two loves of his into a segment called, “Happy Trees,” where Jon read us reflections on nature he’d recorded in his journal and taught us all how to survive plane crashes and mountain lion attacks.  Jon also has the honor of being the guy who explained to me that beer is not Beer, as a singular thing, but rather

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