Friday, February 19, 2010

The Wonderful World of Editing

This is not a post about NaNo 2010. Rather, it's all about the lingering joys of 2009.

I should, at this venture, point out that in the month of November last year I wrote the required 50,000 words, plus 3000. Between November 30th and December 31st, I wrote a grand total of 2000 words. In January I did slightly better, but I did not complete the story until the first week of February 2010. It bugged me all through December, because I had so many hours of work and it was the Christmas season. I just came home exhausted at the end of the day and couldn't face writing the hardest part of the novel. Interestingly, it bugged me for different reasons than I would have thought. Mainly, not being able to write in December made me irritable because I wanted to finish the story and was unable to. Unfortunately, by January, the drive that had pushed me all through November was waning, and I attribute that to why it took another five weeks after Christmas to punch out the last 12,000 words.

I really have to be fair with myself, though; 12,000 words is an achievement all on it's own. That is roughly the word count of my last dissertation, which was written last summer. Which means, ignoring everything else I wrote, that between the novel and the thesis alone, I spewed out 67,000 words (ironically, the total word count of the novel as of now). I feel that that's a pretty large accomplishment. And they are 67k good words. At least, I am assured the 12k of the dissertation is, by my mark alone. But I felt, over 2009, that writing was becoming easier for me. It wasn't such a challenge when I hit the rough patches to keep going. And more than that, especially during November, I found I could force myself to write even when I woke up with no interest in writing. For many years I have only written on days I felt inclined, whether creatively or for school, but I know it's a personal achievement that I can do it at anytime now. And that it's honestly worthwhile writing.

But this post was intended to be more about editing than writing, wasn't it? To have the need to edit is something new to me, as I mentioned in the previous blog. I am usually quite happy with what I turn out the first time. The exceptions to this have been the two dissertations over the last 24 months. The first one, which clocked in at just shy of 20k was a bitch, to be honest. It was my first massive work in such a short period of time and I just sat down and wrote. Usually, I pick away at it, and therefore edit - to an extent - as I go. No so with that one. Because of that, there was a painful three weeks of intense editing with an actual editor. It was a learning curve, to be sure. I pride myself on being both a good speller and marginally better than the average person at grammar. It was a wake up call to be told, almost point blank, that I'm horrible at the grammar part. However, it was a good learning experience and paid off well this past year on the second dissertation. I felt that it was easier to write and easier to edit on my own. It also required a great deal less editing to start with, which I hope is the greatest sign of improvement.

I also believe it's held me in good stead for NaNo '09. I won't talk much about that novel in this blog, because I want to concentrate on the next one, but I have just finished editing last year's still untitled work. Most of the changes were for continuity's sake. I shouldn't be greatly surprised by this because in a 65k+ work, it's inevitable that you forget a name here or an order of events there. Or you realise you've written the same scene twice, just at different moments. I now know that I need to keep better track of what I've written for 2010. Maybe a diary or a list of points? I'm not sure, but I have time to think on it and decide what will work best for me. I don't want to create too much extra work during November beyond the novel itself, but I do need some way to ensure plot continuity.

What I found the most difficult was tense. I've written a variety of stories using different tenses, and I've dabbled in time travel before, but this was even harder. The story took place in nearly a dozen different times, and jumped around in no particular order through them. However, two sub-plots did take place on a lateral time line, throughout the main story. I had to ensure that these remained in the same tense, but that they routinely linked up with the tenses that were jumping around. A right nightmare! No more time travel, that's my lesson learned. Still, I think I've done an admirable job of editing on my own. Now, I can slowly funnel it off to other people who will be in charge of telling me how bad it is, how confused they are, and how I should just give up now.

I won't listen.

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