Limbo (On Writing & Editing)

ImageFrom the film “What Dreams May Come”


I would love to be writing. I would, really. I would also love to be editing, really. I can’t write because I have to finish the book, and the next project requires preparation, which I don’t want to commit to before I finish the book. The month “resting period” I described in previous posts is over, and that means I should be back to editing but I can’t get to it. The scare quotes are because the story never rested, like they all said it would.

So the obvious answer becomes well let it rest more, but seeing as it didn’t rest in the first place, how much sense is there in letting it rest more? Instead the draft haunts everything else; I see it in my personal conversations; I see it in my dreams; I see it in other television shows; I think about it when I’m awake; I think about it when I try to sleep.

The limbo has brought me to a choice, perhaps a false dichotomy, but it seems I have to love it or leave it. And I mean leave it, like on the side of the road and peel off. I need to love it also, like fully commit, take me to the alter, and let’s get busy. I need commit to the book by giving up this limbo and make the changes to make it work, and move on. I need to get in there and do a major rewrite. Easier said than done, says my bruised little ego.

The changes are abstract though, that’s the problem. For instance I am told to start the book at the point of the first big conflict, but I also feel the first chapter is crucial to character development and roping the reader in. The book is focused on one character, so it’s important for the reader to really connect, and what better way then to see her as a baby? Her lifehis abbreviated, dictated by circumstance, and I feel that seeing her as baby, handled by the robots arms, is essential to the mood and story.

But I also stated one of my rules was, “the reader” is god”. I can see why starting in the action is a good idea, and I also know I can work the robotic arms and early years into a chunky little bits of flashback…but that all seems hard for some reason…like really hard, because it involves major cuts. For me it feels like chewing gums twice or something; I just get the urge to spit it out and start over.

But ya know, as I think about it, right now, it doesn’t seem so bad. This action, smashing and smoothing, thinking like an editor, it starts to feel like work, then enters the problem of LIFE. It’s pressing in on all sides. I got five raging balls of consciousness, who depend on my involvement, love and patience. I got a household to maintain. I got a garden. It’s Spring…

But I love it, the writing and the editing. I imagine stories whether or not I want to. And with editing, I’m developing a sadmasochestic relationship with that too. I am reading this great book on editing, “Self-Editing For Fiction Writers”, by Brown and King, and it is just wonderful.

It is helping me to think like an editor, beyond just language and grammar things. It gets me thinking like a story teller. Self development and skill development have this transitory, unsettling process, were you practice until your bored and then you practice some more, and the thing which was difficult becomes easy, but then there is always a new difficulty, and the process just continues. You have to perpetually learn.

The book is teaching me how rhythm for the reader is formed through paragraphs, dialogue, and white space. How conflict is something that needs to be followed and charted, and how that connects to overall pace. It had taught me a lot about beginner pit-falls, like having too many characters that are doing the same thing, or getting focused in on my personal interests and not the story itself. It’s making me think like an editor, and that is a unique set of skills that you need in addition to creative writing. It means you have to exercise the skill over and over again. Until it hurts, and it seems like stopping would be better anyways, but you don’t stop, you just keeping going on.

I think I’m almost there. There’s probably why I wrote this…I am going to commit; I am past the point of turning back. Everyone, please pray.