The clouds are low and purple-gray this morning, which for years has always been my favorite kind of day (improved upon only by hours and hours of heavy, lightning-free rain)(and a novel, a hot beverage, and sleeping cats). It’s the perfect kind of Saturday morning to think about some of the lessons Project: Edit has taught me, so far, in my three days of reading/note-making/color-coding.
Things are going well, despite my mid-week setback. I’m sixty-eight pages in (not far enough to be on schedule, but far enough to be making good progress), and my spiral notebook is bursting with thoughts and observations on what’s good, what’s not, and how things could work better.
One major thing that has occurred to me over and over again throughout the week is, as you can tell from the title of this post, the importance of being all there when you write, and also when you edit.
Though I haven’t gotten to read the last third of the book yet, the feeling I got while writing it still feels fresh in my head. Whenever I wrote the last third, I’d sit down, put pen to paper, and dig in deep. No, really: deeeeeep. I’d dig in to my senses, my emotions; I’d close my eyes; I’d imagine myself being the characters, being in the situation, feeling what they feel and reacting like they would react. Then, I wrote.
I have a feeling that when I get to the scenes I wrote with that kind of passion, I’ll know it.
Right now? It’s not that I wasn’t trying to get into the writing — it’s that I was thinking too much, trying too hard. The story is there, and it’s unfolding, and there is feeling; it’s just that it’s all going by too fast. In my attempts to be clear, to be spare and direct in my prose, with precisely the right words, I’ve quickened the pace so much that place and emotion and story are flying by faster than they should. It’s a skeleton. It’s choppy.
Some of this, I think, can be blamed on how some scenes feel like they take longer when you write them, because you spend so much time figuring out the right way to write them. Then, after hemming and hawing over it, you end up with a three-sentence paragraph that doesn’t set the scene at all, and abrupt transitions that could use a little more explanation.
Plus, it’s easier to see the problem when it’s in tangible black and white; things look different on the printed page than they do on the screen. Without seeing it from this perspective, I wasn’t aware of the problem, so I didn’t consciously try to fix it.
Though those may be valid contributors, I think the real issue is what I mentioned before: I wasn’t diving in with passion, every single time, ready to feel and think and work. It is work. Ideally, we could all feel ready to feel, every single time we sit down to write, but life happens, distractions happen, and these things take effort. It’s not easy to put forth that kind of effort, every single time you sit down to write. It’s tiring, and much easier to write the bare bones and tell yourself you’ll make it better later.¹
Even in edits, I’m finding that I have the tendency to want to trust myself to just remember what I want to change about a scene, and how. To counter this — because, logically, after 336 pages of just remembering, I (being human) will most likely not remember everything I want to — I’m disciplining myself to take complete notes, full of thoughts and ideas and, most importantly, specifics. To write why I do/don’t like something, rather than just writing this is crap with my pretty red pen.
Later isn’t such a friendly word to me; it leaves me with lazy, lackluster writing, rather than something with passion and creative nuance and specific sensory details.
I’m encouraged by what I’ve noticed this week, even though I’ve got some work to do to fix it. There’s great potential with skeleton writing, but it’s the sort of potential a coloring book has before it’s filled in with crayons. It’s not beautiful yet, but at least there’s structure, a clear picture. And, I’m pleased to say, at the moment there are no erratic scribblings of neon green and burnt umber to ruin it. That’s always a plus.
Have a great weekend, everyone! May your days be rainy (unless you hate rain, in which case I mean, um, sunny), your coloring books be unscribbled, and your work be full of passion.
Revision Update, Phase One | 68 pages down, 268 to go | 20% finished
¹What I’m not saying (at least, not for the first/second draft): spend years on one tiny scene, make it perfect, then move on. That = a recipe for never finishing. What I am saying: give it your all whenever you sit down to write. It probably won’t be perfect, but it definitely won’t be lazy.