Saturday, January 8, 2011


A couple days ago I mentioned that I was reading Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.  After plowing through two chapters I was feeling thoroughly chastized!  I had already edited the first four chapters of My Thankless Job, and last night I started over back at the beginning.

Yikes.  I hadn't even realized it, but the first two pages are nothing but narrative summary.  Time to tear that baby apart!  I attacked, viciously, with a highlighter (by the way and completely off topic, have you seen these?  They rock!) and red pen.  I completed five pages before my brain started to hurt and called it a night.  I found a new place to start (right as she's arriving at work), chopped the dickens out of a bunch of explanatory stuff (Stephen King would be proud of me for "killing my darlings" as he puts it in On Writing), most of which had been thoroughly explained via action, and rearranging paragraphs all over the place.  Whew!  A good night's work, but I'm going to have to find a way to get more than five pages done at a time or I'm still going to be working on this five years from now, and I'd really prefer not to get all caught up in that endless cycle of editing. 

The other thing I'm noticing is my tendency to explain a character's personality rather than letting it shine through, so I highlighted a whole bunch of that stuff and wrote out some quick sketches to add it into the conversation the characters are having.  It's hard to keep Cathy (my main character) fom trying to explain everything!

Writers --  what are your quirks that you find yourself constantly having to edit out?


  1. I had to go back through and deal with most of what you mentioned, and as an intern for a literary agent I can tell you that even people who think they're ready to be published still have to deal with that.
    Remember the learning curve also. When I first edited something it took forever (as it still does) and I got very discouragd. The next time a few things came a bit easier.
    I am finding that revision is a muscle (wrote a blog post about it last year) like anything else and I have to build: patience, endurance, focus, and the knowledge base to know what I am doing wrong.
    Keep at it, sounds like you are definately on the right track.
    As far as I've heard, on the talent vs. hard work debate, hard work beats talent any day of the week. As long as you keep working you'll get better. I'm proud to know you.

  2. Awww! I'm proud to know you too! You've been an amazing inspiration! And your website is beautiful by the way :-) I need to play with mine more and make it pretty, it's really bare-bones right now.
    I remember your post about revision as a muscle (perfect analogy by the way). Certainly explains my brain's complaining last night! I don't feel discouraged, part of me feels excited and the other part feels a bit overwhelmed. I'll get there!