by Lillian Csernica on July 26, 2014
I’m about fifty pages away from completing this edit of my historical Japanese romance novel. I say “this edit,” because once I’m done I’ll be printing out the ms and letting it sit for about a week and then going through it again with the red pen. If my beta readers will do me the kindness, I’ll have them go over the ms and tell me if I’ve improved the weak spots. Then I will go through the ms and get a sense of whether or not the drastic changes I made to this draft really work.
New writers tend to get scared by the editing process. It’s almost as if they’re afraid they’ve got only so many words inside them and they just can’t make any more. Nonsense. There are always more words where the first batch came from. Yes, sometimes it’s hard to coax the “better” words out. When I wrote my very first novel, I hit a patch about three-fourths of the way through the process where my writing was terrible. I knew it was terrible. I had no idea how to find my way onward to improve the plot thread. That lasted for about three weeks. Then something made the light go on in my Idea Factory and the book started to work again. The important point here is that during those three weeks of hell, I just kept writing.
That’s one way to cope with a problem in the narrative. Another method is to just go wild and brainstorm possibilities. Thunder and lightning! Dramatic reversals! Oh my God, I never saw THAT coming! I mean it. Go nuts. Get past the insecurity and the anxiety and the frustration and the fatigue and just rip it all apart.
My best friend has been telling me that I’ve been missing an opportunity with a character that has worked her way up to joining the Main Cast. I should really find a way to work her into the climax, because given how she’s managed to take up her share of story time, she really should be part of the grand finale. I didn’t want to hear this. The ms was already too long. I was tired. I did not want to push myself to do the work that would result in doing justice to this character and her contribution to the plot.
Bitch, moan, whine, complain.
This is the moment that separates the wannabes from the serious writers. Was I going to let myself get away with a half-assed job? The character wasn’t all that important. There were at least two spots where one of the bad guys could easily have killed her. She’s my heroine’s key antagonist, so fine, let the bad guys turn her into koi chow!
Was I going to do right by all the time I’ve already invested in this project? Was I going to show respect for the time and effort my beta readers had donated? Was I going to do my absolute best to tell the best story I possibly could? There were no trumpets. There wasn’t a big thunderstorm with lightning. I just got to thinking about how and where I could fit this character into the grand finale. And sure enough, I found the exact place. And then I found the exact place where I could do the set-up that would put her in that perfect position. I now have the potential for genuine edge of the seat suspense as this character does her damnedest to kill my heroine when my heroine is just about to reach what she’s been after through the whole story.
This change, the tweaking of a few lines of dialogue here, the addition of maybe two scenes there, will make a serious difference in the overall quality of my story.
If you want to be a serious writer, resign yourself right now to the long haul. Good work takes time. Great work takes even longer. Hang in there, believe in yourself, believe in your story. And if you get stuck, remember Chandler’s Law: When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand.