Writer Talk #1: Editing Slump

“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” — Ernest Hemingway

There are many posts, videos, and classes about the writing craft, but little about the emotional journey.

Therefore, besides for writing advice and rambles, I’d like to include casual discussions about my WIP on this blog for three main reasons:

  1. Additional motivation, (Writing about writing makes me want to write.)
  2. To share my mistakes so others can avoid them,
  3. To commiserate and celebrate with you.

Writing is time-consuming, exhausting, and sometimes depressing. At one moment, you’re on top of the world, writing brilliant prose, and suddenly every idea turns sour and your text looks like garbage. Sometimes people won’t understand why you are so passionate about your story, or how devastating it can be to find a plot hole.

I enjoy memoirs and documentaries about writers who go beyond the craft and describe their lives as writers. It’s fascinating to see where they wrote or what was going on in their lives. Why do some writers take years to complete a book while some crank out a new one every season? Which authors swear by outlining and which ones swear off it? How did they manage their careers with their social and home life? What worked for them that can help me? Every writer has a story we can learn from. Here’s a little about mine.

My Work In Progress

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Draft 1

My WIP is called Lethal Shores, a historical fiction novel about three teenagers during the Spanish Inquisition. (To read the summary, click here.)

I started this book in high school and it took me about three years to write the first draft. Although I was serious about writing, I became distracted with school and other book ideas.

I had written fifteen chapters of Lethal Shores which were printed as a monthly serial in a municipal magazine. The anxiety of being published and having real people reading my story cast me into a nasty bout of writer’s block that lasted about a year, during which I forced myself to finish the draft.

I had written many other stories during that blocked period and the writing style in the second half of Lethal Shores was drastically better. I had written the draft with no outline, just a vague idea of how it will end. Therefore, the characters’ personalities developed oddly or not at all, the pacing was off, and the chapters were stuffed with filler content. In short, I was proud of finishing the draft but was ashamed of how much of a mess it was.

Draft 2

Months later, I begin the second draft. I dreaded starting this process since I knew I would have to rewrite the entire story. I took several days to map out the plot, create better arcs for my characters, in addition to profiling each one. This helped me understand exactly what needed to be changed and how I was going to accomplish that.

The second draft took over a year to write. When I finished, I knew the story still needed work, but it was a manuscript I could begin to be proud of.

Draft 3

Now I am on the third draft, chapter 9 out of 31.

How is it going?

Well… it’s going.

There’s still a long way to go until Lethal Shores is ready for publication, which is frustrating after working on this story for the past five years. Well, not a full five years once you include the writer blocks and procrastination time, but still. Five years of this story in my brain. That’s about a quarter of my life.

The Editing Phase Woes

I know that some writers take a decade to release a book and that’s fine. I enjoy editing. This process of revising is teaching me more about writing than writing itself. Self-editing is hard, but it’s rewarding. My mistakes are becoming apparent and increasingly easier to correct. Still, it takes about one hour to edit one page. Enjoyable work can still be arduous.

The editing itself is not the frustrating part. The fact is I miss writing. Yes, I am writing right now, but a blog post or a college essay is very different than a work of fiction. There’s no exploration, no getting lost in another world to snap awake ten pages later. I am still working with the characters and setting that I created, refining their stories and personalities, but there’s less imagination with it.

Editing means rewriting a sentence five times to find the perfect one. It means doubting every paragraph, asking if it should be longer or exist at all. It takes the flow out of dialogue to analyze every line for realism and accuracy. My character Daniel grabs a doorknob and I research if doorknobs even existed in 1492.

I regret every moment I spent complaining about how hard it was to write because that’s all I wish to do now. My binder full of new story ideas isn’t helping matters either. I can learn to accept that I’m a slow writer, but the tantalizing appeal of a new story makes that extremely difficult.

5 Recurring Thoughts While Editing

In the heat of revising, I have compiled a ‘next time’ list:

  1. No more historical fiction and hours of research.
  2. I’m going to outline the first draft so I won’t get stuck not knowing what to write next.
  3. The next book is going to have only one point of view instead of three intertwined.
  4. I’m going to write the next first draft fast. I’ll write it every day so I won’t lose the creative flow.
  5. My book almanac/bible is going to be more organized and accessible.

How many of these am I actually going to keep? Probably none. Yet time will tell, and I’ll let you know in my next Writer Talk.

In the meantime, I’ll keep moving forward. Editing and revising is part of being a writer. I’ve got this.

I’d love to know what you’re working on. Which part of the writing journey is hardest for you? Comment below!

Now get writing!

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