Editing Angst


I’m in the final stage of editing my manuscript for publication, which means I’ve been residing for a while in that special place in hell reserved for writers. See me over there? I’m tucked away behind the third brimstone pit on your left, smoldering notes scattered about me, and laptop clutched in my sweaty hands.

I need a break. I need inspiration. So it’s time to pause for a moment and remember why, of my own free will, I chose to be in Writers Hell.

 

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No truer words have ever been spoken. Any writer who thinks her/his first draft is ready to make its grand appearance before the reading public is delusional. Maybe the twentieth draft. Maybe.

 

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I butchered my story, cutting out description, exposition, dialogue, and backstory until I stripped its skeleton of all flesh. Lord, it looks so damned bare now. Does anyone have a spare jacket?

 

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I argued with myself–did I take out too much? Did I leave enough to give the reader a sense of time and place? Did I adequately reach inside the minds’ of my characters, and lay on the table for all to see their thoughts, emotions, and internal conflicts? Should I include this paragraph? Should I throw out that one? On and on.

 

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I ruthlessly “killed my babies” (more commonly referred to as killing your darlings), and the more I killed, the easier it became to spill red ink. I learned to derive a perverse kind of joy as I dispatched words, sentences, and paragraphs without regard to their beauty and innocence. Mary Cathleen Clark became a monster, an unabashed killer of words.

 

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Through editing, I know I have become a stronger writer, one who won’t shy away from doing what is necessary to turn out a good story, even if it involves what feels close to self-mutilation at times.

 

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When all is said and done, if we don’t edit, the smoke hides the flames we’re hoping to kindle with our words. And if we fail to do that, if we fail to set fire to our readers’ imaginations, we have failed as writers.

 

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I can do this.

 

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Now, I’ll take my glass of sweet tea and go back to work.

49 thoughts on “Editing Angst

    • I know what you mean, B, it’s like taking the words–the raw material–and molding them into whatever shape you wish. I used to hate editing; now I find it more enjoyable than writing the first draft.
      Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Hell is a good place to be for dark writers. Take notes while you reside behind the smoldering brimstone pit. Then use it in your next book. Hmmm, I’m not very sympathetic, am I? Been there, done that, hated it, loved it. Hang in there! ❤

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Wow, my friend. Hibernation takes its toll on the writer as it does the writing, and when you both come out after the appointed time, you’re both the better for it (and slimmer… haha). At least that’s what we writers keep telling ourselves. Very good post, Cathy.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Isn’t the process painful. Creating so much beauty only to go back and destroy. I can’t think of another profession where this occurs. We must be a special breed to pit ourselves through this torture.

    Love the Memes. lol Happy Sunday.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. To destroy is as much part of the whole art process as to create. I´ve created so many pottery pieces, statues and such, that I destroyed after a few hours because they just didn´t feel right when I looked at them – or better: I couldn´t stand being looked at by them! (I know, this last one might sound a little bit crazy 😉 ) Then I started something new, and almost everytime it was for the better. But I feel with you, editing sounds horrible and cruel even, although necessary. The quotes are awesome! I have every confidence that you will get out of this hell and shine even brighter – and darker 😉 – after it! Keep my fingers crossed for the last efforts! xxxxxxxxxxxxx ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on Julia Lund and commented:
    I do a lot of editing as I write, some authors leave it until they have a completed first draft. Whatever your editing looks like, Mary Cathleen Clark expresses how it feels to be a word-murderer …

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It is painful to the point of sometimes forgetting why I wrote what I did originally. Many times I find myself rewriting a sentence only to discover I had expressed the very same thing a few lines away. Sigh..

    Liked by 1 person

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