Editing...How I Finally Learned To Write
by Maggie Marr
I am a writer.
It took years before I could actually say those four words without a coy smile or an apology hidden in the tone of my voice. For me, admitting that I am a writer was akin to waking up and deciding to stroll down my street without clothes. Those four little words created more than a hint of embarrassment within me because of the audaciousness of proclaiming myself to be someone who thought my words worthy of publication--to actually believe I had something of value to say/write/publish/expect people to read.
But I am a writer.
For me, words flow. Story ideas blossom like wildflowers after a spring rain. Characters bounce around my brain whispering their secrets. There are so many different people living in my grey matter I sometimes don't have room for my own thoughts. I have little choice but to write down the stories that flood my mind, should I refuse to tell these tales, I fear I might actually lose sight of myself.
But here is the thing--just because I write down these words, characters, scenes, and settings doesn't mean I write them well. Just because I have a fully formed character in my brain chatting away telling me about their life, love, childhood--doesn't mean I create a multi-dimensional fully formed human being on the page. At least not in the first draft. While the initial story often comes fast for me--the refining, the crafting--well that took years for me to understand.
This is a diamond straight out of the mine.
That dark brown piece of rock looks like my first draft. Brown. Dirty. Mucky. Mishapen. Really--in a sense kind of ugly. A lot like any other rock you might pick up off the ground. For a number of years (more than I care to admit) I believed that the words--because they flowed so fast and so well were the right words. They were perfect as they came.
Those words were a first draft.
As most writers will tell you--the first draft--well she ain't that pretty. Just like that rock--there is a whole lot of potential within that draft but well you've got to cut, craft, and polish before your manuscript shines.
I read once that Michael Crichton claimed to touch every page of his manuscript a minimum of 54 times. 54. That is 54 edits. 54 cuts, 54 polishes, tweeks, rewrites, rereads, pastes--54 times. Whether you enjoy Crichton's work or not--he's a hell'uv a writer. It took me 7 manuscripts (2 published) before I truly understood the meaning of editing.
Editing is not rereading and fixing minor inconsistencies and typos. Editing is not simply making certain your character is clever and cute. Editing is not having your critique group take a pass and then you are finished. At least editing isn't any of those things for me. 7 manuscripts (actually it may be more...) and 16 years later I finally understand what editing is.
Editing is a pain in the a**. Editing is picking apart piece by piece every scene, every sentence, every word to try and squeeze the most emotion out of every little bit. Editing is doing justice to the story you've been given by sitting and sweating over visceral emotion and body language. Editing is ruthlessly cutting the scene, line, sentence that you adore but know deep in your heart does not deserve a place in your book. Editing is craft.
And editing--when done right--can make your writing (fingers crossed) look like this.
Leave a comment about something you spend the time to polish--whether it be writing--painting--practicing law--baking--raising kids--anything you know that you've made better because of your time and dedication. Thanks to random.org one commentor will win a copy of Can't Buy Me Love.
Maggie Marr is the an attorney and former motion picture literary agent. Her latest book and first contemporary romance Can't Buy Me Love published in March. Her next contemporary romance, Courting Trouble will publish July 2012. She is also the author of Hollywood Girls Club and Secrets of The Hollywood Girls Club. She lives in Los Angeles, is married and has children. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and any other soon to be discovered social networking tools that serve as excellent procrastination devices. Please read her books--she has so many stories to tell!