Edit is a Four Letter Word

I have been sitting with my nearly finished full-length WIP for eight months. While I’m still struggling with the ending I think the real reason I haven’t been able to complete it is because the next step in the process is editing.

Not only do I not like to edit, I don’t have the first clue how to go about such a task.

And I’m not talking about copy edits. Those I can do. Or continuity edits. I can also catch most of those on a second or third pass. It’s the substantive edits that I have a problem with. Reworking a scene. Rewriting a character. And the dreaded *gasp* deleting of a scene or scenes.

While I am not a plotter – how can I plot something when the story hasn’t revealed itself to me yet? – I tend to edit as I go along. I’m not one of those writers that can lay the foundation, add in the “meat” and come back later to fine tune. If I can’t formulate a sentence in the exact way I want to that sentence won’t get written. I’ll rework it in my head until it sounds right – not that it is – before I put it down on electronic paper.

So this idea that I have to go back to a 250+ page story and whip it into shape is more than daunting. I don’t have the first clue how to go about setting things to rights.

And so it sits. Unfinished. With that ending just out of reach even though I know exactly (well, almost) how I want it to wrap up.

I do know my story needs work. I’m also not one of those writers who thinks that every word I write is golden. It needs a lot of help, actually. I have to decide if the tone got too dark as the story progressed or if it feels natural. I have to decide whether I went too OTT with certain misfortunes. I have to decide whether the romance that seems to have forced its way into the story is as developed as I need it to be.

And, frankly, I need to have someone – other than my family – read it to tell me if it’s a piece of crap and I should go back to the drawing board. Maybe take a writing course and learn how to outline. Or if I should keep at it.

I met these characters the day before NaNoWriMo 2011. I’m not entirely certain I’m the best person to edit their lives. We’re way too close. We’ve had too much history. And I think if I take the “red pen” to theirs, they might rebel.

The thought crossed my mind about hiring someone to do this task I equate with cleaning windows, dusting or getting chased by evil clowns, but I’m not certain how to go about that either. There’s a trust level that’s needed. There’s also an experience level that I’m not certain I could afford.

So I sit with this unfinished project of mine debating on whether or not to just toss it in the trunk and start on something new just so I don’t have to E.D.I.T.

On being prompted

I often find it easier to write a short story when given a prompt. Whether it’s simply a character’s name, a physical characteristic, or even just a nudge to continue a previous character’s story.

When given this tiny push, all of a sudden my brain unlocks itself and the lines just come tumbling out. Almost as if they were there all along.

But when staring at a blank page, I find that more often than not I’m blocked. Every so often an idea tackles me. Usually at the most inconvenient times when I can’t possibly do anything about it. But they’re few and far between.

Perhaps it’s because I have so many things to focus on in life that drain my mental energy – work, family, book blogging – or maybe it’s ennui. But when someone says, “Hey, you should write a story about a guy with green eyes!” all of a sudden that story starts to unfold.

It was much the same for the story I had published in the anthology. I was given a set of parameters – word count, YA, an anti-love story and Valentine’s Day – and within three hours the story was written.

The same cannot be said for my last installment in the “Cop and the…” series. Without a nudge, while I had the title in place, it took me nearly eight months to write it. My brain was on total lockdown and I had to fight against everything in me to turn that idea into a short story.

This morning someone asked me whether I planned on continuing Shelby’s story. (Shelby was my character in “Love Bites.”) I hadn’t. It was just a one-off. But as soon as I finished reading the question, the very next lines in the story hit me. And the story’s direction just started to fall into place.

Almost all the stories I posted on The WastelandZ are ones that derived from a prompt. I was given parameters (most of them quite silly) but it made writing the stories that much more fun.

I’m starting to wonder if it’s because of the fact that I can say, “Hey, it wasn’t my idea!”

Being prompted takes the pressure off. It takes the responsibility off in some ways, too. If the story is a total failure, well, it wasn’t really my idea to begin with. Of course that’s b.s. because it was my combination of words that caused it to fail. But I think it’s enough to trick my brain into feeling less self-conscious. It takes away the question of whether the idea is stupid. It takes away some of the self-doubt.

It’s very possible that I see a prompt as a challenge, a way to prove to myself that I can do something. While I’m not competitive with others, I am insanely competitive with myself.

So when someone says, “I wish you’d write a story about X!” my brain goes immediately into challenge mode and gears itself up to tackle it.

I just wish writing without a prompt, a nudge, a suggestion was easier. If the ideas came as quickly for those stories as they do when prompted to write, maybe I’d actually finish to satisfaction one of the full-length stories I’ve been writing fighting or maybe I’d try to write a few short stories that I could submit somewhere for publication – something I haven’t yet attempted.

Today I am an author

Love-Stinks-CoverI’ve been writing since I was a small child. I still own some of my earliest short stories, so I’ve considered myself a writer since my age was in the single digits. But today I can officially call myself an AUTHOR.

Which is probably the most surreal experience thus far in my life.

While some may say, “Yeah, but….” – because what I authored isn’t a novel but a short story, or because it was published by a small press publisher and not one of the majors – I say it doesn’t matter.

I was asked to write a story. I wrote it. And it was published. If people want to read that short story they have to purchase it.

To me, that is what being an author is all about. It’s not the size of the story or publisher that distributed it.

And the wonderful thing about having this label is that even were I never to write another story again, I would still be considered an author.

So if I let my fears take hold and never submit a story for publication, or query an agent, I will still have authored this one story.

And even if people despise my writing, rate my story below zero, it still doesn’t take that title away from me. Of course there will likely be a few adjectives added to the front of that title, such as “bad” or “horrific.”

But at least I made that move from writer to author. Something I used to always imagine would happen but never really thought it would.

As the anthology’s release is technically tomorrow, I am probably jumping the gun just a little bit. But since it’s officially now for sale at Amazon, I am taking that label, slapping it to me, and calling it mine, mine all mine.

I hope that this is the start of something new as opposed to the end. But that remains to be determined. And certainly not today.

Today I am going to revel in the fact that a story I wrote is contained in an anthology with some pretty amazing writers and that maybe, just maybe someone will actually read it.