Thursday, March 6, 2008

BACK TO THE EDITING BOARD

I have cleared my calendar. March freelance jobs: Finished in February. Bills: Mailed! Tax receipts for 2007: Compiled. (Before April 14th--you heard it.) Besides choreographing a kids’ musical, the only creative activity on my plate for March is…THE BUS. In late April I’ll be attending a writing conference at which I have already been scheduled for a manuscript critique with a terrific agent. The plan is to have the second draft of my NaNoWriMo opus saved and printed before this appointment. So, when the aforementioned esteemed agent (in my dreams) asks when I’ll have a completed manuscript to share, I can say: “Now! Right now! Here it is, perfectly formatted in Times New Roman 12-point!” Obviously this is a dream as no self-respecting writer would let fly three sequential exclamation marks. And even newbie novelists know that dumping 200-plus pages of hard copy into the hands of an agent at a conference is unacceptable behavior. Still, who doesn’t make up Newbery Award acceptance speeches while they sit in the elementary school carpool line? (Oh, admit it. You do it, too.)

So, there’s the clear calendar, the critique appointment, the plan and the dream. What’s the problem? Revision is hard. (Note that I edited out a lovely adjective to make that high-impact, three-word sentence.) There are so many little plot and sentence structure errors to fix; moments when emotional description bulges and necessary dialogue feels weak; opportunities for subtle images and plot nuances that take time and effort to add; and the weight of all those pages… Perhaps the biggest challenge is my need to reread big chunks of preceding text before working on a chapter. I feel like each day I edit two chapters after reading the six that come before it. The phrase “time consuming” does not begin to describe the process. And when you are a writer-on-the-side, working only when your toddler naps or after your kids go to sleep, not every day offers a chunk of time sufficient for re-reading and seriously re-working enough text to make the whole endeavor worth attempting.

There is some good news. I still love the characters, the plot and its taught, stylized structure. I still feel excited by the prospect of sharing my story with readers. So, having indulged my love of exclamation points and parentheticals here on the blog, I am forcing my overwhelmed mind and keyboard-weary fingers back to THE BUS.

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