Editing: My Personal Nightmare

For weeks I’ve been editing, or rather, rewriting, False Prophet. I want to be working on the half-dozen outlines or projects that need outlines, but instead I’m fixing the mess I made of this one. If I want to publish it after The Legend of Jackson Murphy, then I must polish it, right? This project has been a pain in my ass since I typed “THE END” on the rough draft. For months I tried to ignore it, because I knew the editing process would be horrific. The problem? This is the first novel that I worked on in pieces, by which I mean individual scenes or chapters written out of order. I usually begin at chapter one and move sequentially toward the end. Never do I flip back and forth and I NEVER write a scene out of sequence. I might make a couple of notes, but I don’t write the action until it takes place in the story. 

Can I just say that anyone who does this all the time is either insane or brilliant? Not that there’s much difference between the two. I will NEVER do it again. 

Why did I do it this time? Well, I was working on a couple of other things and False Prophet wasn’t an actual WIP for much of the time I was writing it. Problem was, it was outlined and now and then I’d dream a scene or one would pop in my head as I wrote something else, so I just wrote the damn scene, stuck it in the file and moved on until the next one bothered me enough to jot it down. When I finally sat down to write it, I had to insert said scenes into the narrative as I wrote. I’m not really sure what I was thinking when I did that. 

Anyway, it’s made editing a nightmare. The entire manuscript pisses me off to be honest. Do you know, I’ve used the same damn name for the female protagonist in like three manuscripts? I took a mental holiday somewhere but didn’t get to enjoy it. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. 

But then, every time I have to edit a rough draft, I’m beyond angry and irritable. At one point, I deemed In the Bones a giant cluster-fuck that would never see the light of day because I didn’t believe I could ever get the stink of awfulness off it. I was wrong, of course, as I am with every rough draft. 

The bottom line is I’m not a fan of editing. I think the biggest reason I hate it is that I realize there is no natural ability in me to write smooth, fluid prose right out of the gate. Sure, it might not be in anyone, but that doesn’t make it okay in my mind. Sometimes I wonder if I was high while writing. I don’t recall getting high, but it’s the only way to explain some passages. I miss words, include incomplete sentences, thoughts, dialogue. Sometimes I even have characters that don’t belong. In False Prophet, there was a scene with a guy who just floated in for like three paragraphs, and floated back out, never to be seen again. WTF is that about? He’s not even in the outline! Where did he come from? I don’t even know. But he’s gone now. Infiltrating bastard. 

Is there anyone out there that loves editing their rough drafts? Who are you and what kind of meds are you on? I’d like some please.

 I guess I better get back at it. Tomorrow I’ll be stopping by Mallory Heart Reviews. Mallory has been kind enough to read and review In the Bones, so come with me to hear the verdict. On Saturday tag along with me for an interview at Andi’s Book Reviews, and on Sunday, see what a Crazed Mind thinks of In the Bones. Actually, it seems the appropriate place to visit. We can all go off our meds there. Good times.

12 thoughts on “Editing: My Personal Nightmare

  1. I don’t have as much experience editing rough drafts as you do, since I’m still working on my first novel, but my rough draft sure as hell pissed me off like nothing else. Compared to the story in my head, it was nothing but a huge, steaming pile of monkey shit. I couldn’t even read it through, I was so mad. I stopped at about half, scrawled FUCK THIS with red marker all over it and threw it away. Then I immediately started rewriting the story, hoping I can somehow undo that awful nonsense, give the vision in my head a fair chance.

    Now I can honestly say that draft number two is an entirely different novel, except for the characters and major plot points. It feels as though someone with a brain wrote it, as opposed to that first draft, the delirious spittle of a lobotomized mole rat…

    1. You summed up my feelings for every single rough draft I’ve edited. I always forget the euphoric feeling I have when I read through the completely edited, totally polished version. It’s in that “final” draft phase that I think “Maybe I love editing” but then the next one comes along and I’m all “Nope. Do not love it at all.”

  2. Yeah, not only a nightmare. Editing is my personal hell. I read. And read some more. And the sixth time I read the passage, I stumble across a typo I somehow managed to ignore for the past five iterations despite its massive red wave below it. Then I read it a seventh time and realize the protagonists wouldn’t jump out of a window in that situation, but rather break a hole into the floor to escape.

    I find myself regularly goofing around and wandering off to do illustrations for the cover and insides of the book (and at times I wonder whether or not I have more talent in that area rather than being a wordsmith).

    Plus I have so many more stories I want to tell, but I won’t be able to get to them unless I finish Grieving Suns. I won’t have peace of mind otherwise. Sigh.

    1. You’re not alone Mat. I do the same things. Isn’t it frustrating having all of those stories in your head, but knowing that you can’t properly write them until you close the previous book in your mind? I’ve had In the Bones through countless edits, a few rounds of beta readers, and then a final proper edit, and after publishing I STILL found a couple of typos. I can’t describe how pissed I was that I missed those typos during the bazillion reads prior to that. :_

      1. Frustration isn’t even beginning to describe it I think. I have constantly ideas popping into my head. There is one really unique character I want to explore, but I think that one will end up as a short story rather some full-blown epic.
        Oh, and I’ll probably be kicking and fussing about any typos found doubly so. I still can’t quite remember why I thought it was a good idea to write an entire story not in my native tongue. But then again, I’m a madman.

      2. You’re braver than I, Mat. I can barely manage writing in English, I can’t imagine having to do so in a second language.

      3. Brave? Maybe. But courage, as so famously put before, is not the absence of fear, but the perception that something is more important than said fear.
        And that more important stuff, for me, is getting some stories on paper. Otherwise I’d probably go insane.
        More insane than I am, anyway.

  3. I like it when I’m into it, and starting it sometime after when I can see it with cold eyes. It can be restful – and every day you know what you’re doing – and, the killer punch – it’s such a relief to have something in the first place that you can edit!.

    My bugbear at the moment is the fact that I’ve just spent good money on Scrivener – and boy am I finding it difficult to use/work out. I’m sure it will be brilliant once I’m fully conversant, but the learning curve is, I can tell you, buggering the flow of my writing at present : ) Editing? pfft!

  4. You’re right, it’s nice to have stuff to edit, and when you compare a first draft to a fourth or fifth, the difference is awesome. On Scrivener, I used a trial version a while back and by the time my trial period was up, I thoroughly despised it. But that’s because I couldn’t master it.

  5. Renee, can you let Cathryn grant know her interview is up on ofw? Sorry for this weird route but still in France with no easy Internet access or own computer . Her email adrreees in,interview link

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