Editing Woes and the Run-Up To NaNoWriMo ’10

At first I didn’t care about it. It was to be a one-and-done deal.

Then I cared a little more. Two. That’s it.

Now I’m seriously considering a third round of edits to my NaNoWriMo ’09 novel, not because I feel like this book is moving anywhere toward a publishable realm, but because as I’m working my way through writing the second draft (which I expect to grow nearly 50 pages from the first draft), I keep telling myself there are things that I will focus on next time through. I’m finding that, at least for me, focusing on one or two specific trouble areas (showing vs. telling, say) is what I’m going to need to do. I’ve been able to fix some of the show vs. tell problem spots, but certainly not all of them. This round of edits has been about organizing and clarifying. It’s about getting things where I want them to be (and moving things around, which I talked about in a recent post) and then working on more fine-tuning.

My pacing was pretty good. The past few weeks, however, have slowed me down considerably as I’ve had a number of engagements and obligations and other things to keep me abnormally busy. My goal since January has been to have the first/second edits (in my mind they’re different, but to some people they’d be the same) completed by the end of October – ideally well before the end of October – so that I could put it aside and move on to my next NaNo project.

But alas.

I have finally come to terms with the fact that I’m not a machine. As I’m doing a second round of edits while simultaneously re-writing my first round (a process that I’ve also explained in a previous post, and thus why the first and second rounds of edits are different in my mind), I’ve spent hours looking at the same three or four pages sometimes. That’s fine. And I’m glad that I’m paying attention to my writing. I’m glad that I’m picking up on my own nuances and that I’m learning more about writing by actually doing it again, this time on my own terms.

But I’m not going to finish by the end of October.

I’m barely half-way through the original manuscript. So now I’ve had to ask myself some pretty tough questions. Do I want to abandon my edits totally? No. That required no thought whatsoever. Do I want to abandon NaNoWriMo ’10 this year and focus on editing instead? No. I’ve already been planning, and I’m looking forward (very much so) to working with new characters, new language, and a new storyline (and sometimes for fun, I think about what literary criticisms would best be applied to my very non-literary work….perhaps a Freudean interpretation would be a field day for someone who felt the need to psychoanalyze me. This is what I think about in rare moments of self-aggrandizement :) ).

I don’t want to give anything up, and I’m too impatient (and too afraid of losing momentum or derailing my train of thought) to wait to do anything (I don’t want to say “Oh, I’ll get back to editing in December”). That leaves me with taking on the challenge of not just writing a NaNoWriMo novel next month, but also continuing to edit my ’09 novel as frequently as possible. This is going to involve a lot of self-discipline and excellent time management skills. People seem to forget what a masterful multi-tasker I am and how much will I have when something needs to be done. It’s no wonder I don’t sleep often or well. Do I have to take 24 credits in one  semester? Painful, but done. Do I need to work a full-time job (as a teacher, no less) and a part-time job while attending grad school 2/3 time? Done. Do I need to commute three-and-a-half hours from Pennsylvania to Virginia to finish grad school requirements? Sorry, car. Done. I will make this work.

(And if I fail, please feel free to come back here and tell me about it on December 1st.)

A legitimate concern, of course, is that if I’m editing one novel while writing another, one might end up influenced by the other. I could get some wires crossed. Also, those who know me know that I’m ever so slightly – ahem – prone to stress. It’s going to take a lot of work.

That being said, I’ve already started. I got my story idea over the summer. Some parts of it are blatant examples of “write what you know” while others (like writing from the perspective of a guy who tends to drink too much and swear like a sailor) are really, well, not what I know, per se. I’m interested to see how it turns out. I had fun with the first 13 pages before I put it aside to focus on editing (and because I suspected that I’d want it for November). But before I go back to it in a few weeks, I decided to plan a little bit. So the other day I sat down with my Padfolio o’ Fun & Ideas and I rapidly scribbled out six pages of notes. Four of these were a character sketch of my protagonist. I feel like I know him a little bit better now. His favorite food or band or brand of vodka might never make it into the story. But I know these things about him (spaghetti, Reel Big Fish, Smirnoff). I wrote down initial ideas for the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. As with the novel I’m currently editing, I don’t expect things will turn out exactly that way because the book sort of takes on a life of its own after a while (which still doesn’t cease to amaze me; I never understood how someone could be in control and still not be in control, but it’s fun to watch). It’s planned, though. I have an idea of where it’s going.

I’m trying not to worry about how it’s going to end. I get ridiculously anxious about endings. I’ve always had trouble writing them. I’m not good with goodbyes, and I’m not good with endings. One eventually came to me with the last novel. I’m hoping that it happens again. I have this fear that I was able to finish the first time through a total fluke and that I’ll never be able to do it again. Then I tell myself to shut up. Sometimes I wonder if you can write your way into and back out of sanity, or if writing can actually make you schizophrenic. But then again, as E.L. Doctorow so wisely said, “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”

In any case, I miss being in school and I’ve recently been looking at ways to keep myself academically busy until I find a job (my tally, by the way, is nearly at 100 jobs that I’ve applied for in the last 18 months). Ultimately, if I keep myself busy writing on my own, it won’t cost me thousands of dollars. I don’t have thousands of dollars to spend, so that’s good. So…. bring it on, November.

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4 thoughts on “Editing Woes and the Run-Up To NaNoWriMo ’10

  1. I think writing a new NaNo and editing the old one at the same time could possibly turn out to be a good idea. That way, when you’re stuck on one, you can always turn to the other for distraction. You’ll be procrastinating AND getting things done at the same time!

    I, too, got my NaNo idea over the summer (It’s kind of Turn of the Screw meets Suspiria, but not as gory as the latter nor as, uh, Henry James-y as the former.) I haven’t really worked on it until a couple weeks ago, though. So far, the most work I’ve done is to make charts–in color, no less–of the main characters’ class schedules. Not a single plot outline or character sketch. I feel like I should be worried.

    • Haha, no worries :) I think that everyone does things differently and that’s a good thing. You know their class schedules. That could come in handy (the classes people take say a lot about them anyway). I’m starting to feel very similarly to how I did last year around this time…. both anxious and unwilling to start, haha.

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