my dreaded edit

26Jan10

Tonight I discovered a marvellous combination. Gin and marmalade. Not all in one, but as complements to each other.

My latest trick is that I unplug my laptop and can only procrastinate as long as the battery lasts. I figure I have got about 10 more minutes right now (I spent the rest of the battery playing with these scissors, drinking gin and tonic and eating marmalade on toast and now the good times are coming to an end).

Edit time is looming and I am a bad, bad editor. Oh, I can edit other people’s stuff just fine, just not my own. I hate it and it scares me. Maybe I hate it because it scares me. I am a notorious overwriter, both in length and in a tendency to florid over-explanation and over-expression (e.g. saying the same thing three times in a row because it sounds nice). A lecturer once called my writing style that – florid. It’s the sort of comment you don’t tend to forget (like being described as diffident by your teacher at the age of 11; I remember that, too).

I would happily keep writing and writing, but the trouble with that is I’m not prepared to hand over an overblown bundle when I finally stop and get someone else to do it for me. That would be too embarrassing. So I have no choice but to edit.

I’m always interested in hearing about the various ways people write and edit. I know people who would take editing over writing. I have friends who LOVE editing. To me that’s just weird. I like tightening sentences here and there, for the sake of some punchy prose, but anything on a bigger scale than that freaks me out.

This is how I operate. Every day when I start writing (not to suggest that I write every day, unless you count work writing) I read over what I wrote the day before (or the last time I wrote). I give it a nice light edit and then leave it on its own and move on.

So everything has been read over. But not all in one go. I have no idea how everything hangs together, or if it even does. This is not helped by my currently erratic writing practices. I do not write the book as it unfolds – that would make far too much sense. Instead, I jump all over the place and write ‘scenes’ as the mood takes me. I do have a list of scenes mapped out. It may be disorganised but it’s actually not particularly spontaneous. I write these scenes in separate documents and then copy and paste them into the master document roughly in about the place where I see them fitting in.

This morning I got to work after a long weekend of writing. As I sat down to take stock of the week ahead I was struck by a horrifying thought: I have nearly reached the end. I have nearly run out of scenes to write. This can only mean one thing. I will then need to print everything out and sit down with a pen in hand, starting at the beginning.

I have to do it this way, printed out. It will only be a first draft – a very shaggy one at that – and I have my trusty readers on standby to step in once I have made sure it’s not the ravings of a total lunatic. Also I will no doubt end up losing a chunk of 20,000 words or so. It happens every time.

The one thing I won’t have written is the ending, because I have it in my head that this has to be written in a certain place, and I need to go to this place to write it. I will write the ending right at the very end. I already know how it all pans out, but I am prepared to be surprised. I am saving the ending for my special treat, once I have got the most nasty editing out of the way.

Enough on Frankie. My battery has got a big yellow exclamation mark next to it now.

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2 Responses to “my dreaded edit”

  1. 1 Jill

    Good luck with the editing. Can’t wait for you to go to the special place to write the end.

  2. I like that plan of allowing yourself to procrastinate for the length of time it takes the battery to go flat. I have gotten to the stage where I have to set myself a fixed time for procrastinating or I just don’t get anything done. Good luck with the editing.


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