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