I mentioned last week that I fell into the writing space and as per usual, that meant nothing else got done. A big chunk of that time was spent editing and restructuring these first ten chapters. I might be strange, but I’ve had to admit to myself … I kind of like the self-editing process. I absolutely like the end results.Being edited can be a little more rough, especially if you don’t have a good, professional editor who you trust. I’m lucky enough to be able to say I have one. Even so, there are times she’ll tell me, “This needs x changes,” and everything in me rebels. Most of the time I just apply anything she says to change, but there are those rare points.
Self-editing while writing is hard work. You get to see all the stupid mistakes you make and lazy habits you’ve allowed to develop… over and over again. I’m not a person who avoids adverbs in their writing, but wow, did I ever load up some of the early chapters with them. Show don’t tell? Yeah, I had stretches of that, too. Fixing those things is a lot of work.
I like the self-editing though because it’s still a learning process. It’s like when I was on the track team in high school. I threw shot and discus, and though I was half the size of my competitors, I still won over and over again. Many of them simply walked into the ring, lobbed the discus or the shot put out ahead of them, and walked out. I studied and learned the form for throwing. Then, while my teammates practiced their events, I stood in that circle, empty handed. I practiced each part of the process from how to crouch and position my body so I could use momentum and other forces properly, all the way to the instant of releasing and nailing my foot to the inside of the circle so I didn’t end up disqualified.
Going through a draft and weeding out excessive use of a word is just like that for me. I see what I did wrong, I look at how it should be, I correct the form and write it again. When I’m done, the skill level improves and the story is better. I’m also less likely to make the same mistake again because I’ve just spent hours focusing on that one item and teaching myself other ways to write – ways that show skill instead of laziness. I get to watch myself grow and improve, and that’s an exciting thing.
I also get to review how my life impacts my writing. Back when I started this story, I was dealing with two collapsed discs in my neck. I couldn’t write often, and when I did, I barely managed half an hour before the pain became too much and I had to give up. I could see the impact it had on the quality and the continuity of my writing. In fact, there were multiple paragraphs where my tone shifted, or my use of language slipped, or other things I saw which indicated where I’d begun to have pain and where I’d left off. It was bizarre to read, and at first I was so disappointed with myself for having written such horrible pieces. I had to do something that’s hard for me, I had to be gentle with myself.
I was writing during some insanely dark days. I didn’t know if I’d recover, have permanent nerve damage, fall in just the right way to end up paralyzed, have a job to go back to… and I was writing because even with all that fear and the 24/7 agony crippling my body, I couldn’t NOT write. Yes, it was terrible writing by the standards I want to maintain, but damn… I wrote! Through all that, I still told my body to get stuffed and I put words on paper. Every page is a victory over physical, mental, and emotional challenges.
When I look at this process from this perspective, it isn’t a chance to berate myself anymore. It’s an opportunity to recognize my own growth as a writer, spur myself forward on my quest to become even better, and applaud myself for overcoming challenges. Bonus: When I’m done I get a story I’m proud of and excited about!