Back when I started this shindig in April of this year, one of the first things I did was to set up a deadline. It was important to me that I get my first draft finished in a reasonable amount of time. I know me. Without a deadline looming, without some sort of external force pushing me forward, I’m likely to flag and fail and fall off the horse like I’ve done so many other times. Well, I set a deadline of being finished before the end of August, and I blew it out of the water; my first draft was finished about a month ahead of schedule.
Editing the thing frankly scares the bejeezus out of me. I’m nervous that I will think the good bits are crap, that I will think the crap bits are good, that the entire narrative is boring and I won’t be able to fix it, that the characters’ motivations won’t make sense, that the characters will be too shallow, too deep, too cookie-cutter. I’m nervous that there is no fixing it, that I’m actually a terrible writer and the whole exercise has been a laughable foray into an impenetrable forest full of poisonous plants, golfball-sized mosquitoes and voracious predators, and all I’ve got is the hawaiian shirt I packed for what I thought was a nature hike.
But then I remember that when I first decided to write the novel, I was a fledgling swimmer standing on the high-dive over the deep end of the pool: no water wings, no life jacket, and I had left my swimsuit at home. (Wait, that was another dream.) I jumped anyway, and yeah, I thrashed around in the waters, and I thought I was going to drown, and there were times when I just wanted to splutter to the edge and dry myself off and go home, but having the deadline — having made that commitment — to get the work done made me stick it out and learn to swim.
So, it’s that time again. Time to step onto the diving board and jump; time to set off into the jungle, mosquitoes and plants and predators be damned. I’ve no idea how long it should take me to edit this thing; between reading and re-writing, cutting and rearranging, destroying and rebuilding, I feel like I might as well be inventing calculus. Therefore I’m going to be (what I feel is) very conservative and give myself until the new year to finish a first pass. I figure I should be able to move at least as quickly as I moved in drafting to go through a first edit.
So. A week to get my affairs in order, determine a plan of attack, and set up a routine, and then bury myself in the novel again, and then begin the daunting task of finding some readers to give me some harsh feedback on it.
Write Club starts again on Monday. No excuses.
Yeah, I’m terrified. Anybody have advice for a wannabe writer tackling his first edit? What do I need? How do I approach it?
One thought on “Commitment Time Again (Help?)”
The best advice? Don’t edit it yet. Let it sit a while. Start on something new. Find a new story that interests you. Get into it and write it until the last project has had some time to fade in your mind. Then, when it’s had significant time to age, go back and read it through. Make notes as you go. Find a part that bores you? Mark it – it will bore your readers too. Find a part that feels like it needs more? Mark it – it does.
Good luck my friend.