Day 89: Hitting The Editing Wall

Brick Wall by Sol Lewitt

A manuscript can be over-edited to the point where it loses its voice and vitality.  If you remove every adverb, every word that might not work for readers, every peculiar idiosyncrasy that makes a story yours, then you’ve lost your way as a writer.  Writers are supposed to have their quirks and even though a lot of these quirks can be edited out, the essence of the tone could be lost and the story loses its soul.  Nobody wants a grey accounting of a fiction, they want a richly woven tapestry that plays with language and helps them imagine in colour. Don’t keep the spelling and grammar mistakes, don’t keep in the redundant words (especially tautology, most of which are cliched), but do keep the funny little things you do that belong to you.  Think of it in terms of music; a great band is one that is instantly recognisable by their distinctive sound and a great writer is recognisable by their distinctive voice.  Don’t edit that out trying to please the ‘rules’ of fiction.  Any rule can be broken as long as it works.

This is not the ‘editing wall’ I mean but it is something that can happen in the editing process.  I’m up to version ten of my manuscript, but I’m not really up to version ten in editing.  I change the version when I start making bigger changes, so one heavy pass through in editing might yield three versions of the manuscript.  I did, however, reach the stage of my manuscript where I couldn’t see the value of it.  Many questions arose:

Why would anyone want to read this story, it’s boring/ridiculous/pathetic/stupid?  Do I really want this book as my first publication (because I know I can do better)? Who on earth is going to pay money for this?

The good thing is, I’ve intellectualised the editing process so much I can distance myself from my own doubts.  Since I had an epiphany a couple of months ago about the editing process, I no longer feel overwhelmed by these feelings.  I can reason through them.  I still feel them… I can’t stop that, but I can certainly apply logic and counter them with positive thoughts and feedback from others.  Sharing my manuscript has helped me immensely; that others I trust have told me they liked it.  It’s enough that they like it, I don’t have to cause ripples of impact through their very soul with my story.  This is only my first book, after all.

I believe the editing wall is hit when you’re sick of looking at the same words over and again.  It’s very hard to motivate yourself when you just want it to be over.  The best thing about having a deadline (and my release date is 30 May, so it’s coming up soon), is that it’s a great motivator.  I can see an end and it’s helping me battle through this manuscript so that the experience for the reader will be as smooth as possible.

And hopefully enjoyable, because my goal is to entertain.


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