I expected to have additional lessons from the back half of the first edit to share with you, but it turns out that by the time you’re that far into your piece, it’s really about applying everything you’ve already learned and picking up speed. Instead, new lessons come this time from my first forays into the dialogue read-aloud. Yet again, the learning curve has been a bit of a shock. Yet again, I figured I would be quick about it, soaring through this new form of editing like a trumpeter swan. After all, I’ve already edited the entire book once for major plot and character overhaul. How hard could it be to read the thing out loud and fix a little grammar? Hard. Real Hard. Like, I-am-less-a-swan-and-more-a-barnyard-chicken hard. So, in the spirit of transparency and education…some further lessons. Lesson thirteen: Fill out character sheets I know. I know I said in the last set of lessons that you would know
Halfway done! Halfway done. …..halfway done…*collapses* And the lessons this time are about trust–of self, of other authors, of characters, of ability. Lesson eight: The iceberg metaphor I think the majority of us have probably heard the iceberg metaphor: maybe because we were emo teens with “complex” emotional lives that vibrated below the surface; maybe because our teachers had a poster up on the wall, desperately trying to drive home how much actual work goes into a project. But if not, it goes like this. For every 5% of material that makes it to the page, there is another 95% of material supporting it silently, unseen, from behind the scenes. In other words, if you don’t know the world you built inside and out, if you don’t where your story is going at all times, or if you don’t know why your characters say the things they do, based on backstory and motivation, your shit is going to get wrecked.
Welp, it’s been a month, and I’m six chapters down with twenty-four to go. This, uh…this is not where I
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
On January 21st, right before the full moon, I tied the hard copy of my manuscript up with ribbons and
While I’ve posted before about the benefits of visual character design upon writing–even quick sketches and color palettes can help
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
I spent the month of September recuperating from a very long, very busy, very uprooting first portion of the year.
I carry blank paper wherever I go, just in case inspiration flies by. But I’ve also learned over the years
Over the past four months, I taught a class at the Illinois Institute for Technology, continued my work as a