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Monday, November 03, 2008

Prolific Writer, Stagnant Editor

I start a new chapter with a fabulous idea to move the plot forward.

I throw the idea down on paper with fervor, not pausing to edit for fear of losing momentum and ticking off the muse who has graced me with his rare and fickle presence.

At the end of the day, I smile at my genius. I laugh maniacally at my good fortune. At one chapter a day, I’ll have this baby done in a month and a half. I’ll give Karen Kingsbury a run for her money.

Next to "prolific" will be my picture in the dictionary.

The next day, I have a great idea for the next chapter, but before I throw it down, I decide to read what I wrote the day before just to get the feel of the story right.

The smile drains from my face. Who wrote this piece of crap? Surely it was not I. I am a genius. I write fine literature for the ages. Sigh. No matter, it can be fixed.

I spend the day adding quotes and periods, mundane things that any old hack could do. It feels like a waste of my genius and time, but I know one must shovel dung if one wants to own a purebred. A necessary evil. I’m not too proud to shovel.

At the end of the day, I reread my chapter, surely it must be brilliant now. I’ve labored two days on Monique (Monique is this chapter’s pet name. Don’t ask.).

With a grin I begin reading, with a grimace I end. This is not genius. This is trivial. Mediocre at best. Mundane word choices, half-baked ideas, absolutely no symbolism or foreshadowing what so ever. While reading it, I didn’t burst into tears or laughter even once.


I cannot move on until I’ve polished this piece of coal into a rare and sparkling gem. Two weeks of chiseling, polishing and praying over my words and at last I manage to fashion a chapter that I can live with.

So, one day to write a chapter and often a week or more to edit into something acceptable. I love editing, I truly do, but wonder if this part of the process comes as slowly for other writers.


  1. OY!!!!! I am sorry. I'm one of those who HATES editing. I love, love, love the creative process of getting it down on paper the first time. But I dread laboring (and really, doesn't it end up as BElaboring??) over editing. I admire (Okay, I even pity) those who love the editing process. But that's not me. *shudder*

  2. I love the editing process. Getting something new up on the screen can be fun too, when it flows, but most often it's plain word-by-word work. But once it's out of my head and staring back at me from the screen--that first dirty, papery layer of the onion--I can start peeling, and peeling again, discovering deeper layers.

    **While reading it, I didn’t burst into tears or laughter even once.**

    Everyone works differently, but not till I've gone deeper into that onion do I ever cry. :)

  3. I love the editing process as well. I get such a laugh when I see how and what I wrote on the first draft. It's a hoot! But I love editing, because it lets me put the flesh on my characters...that's so important to me.

    Thanks for the post.

  4. I'm totally the opposite, Gina. I have the hardest time getting teh story out of me, in moving it forward. I adore the editing part.
    That must be why we're good CPs. :)

  5. Oh editing is by far my favorite part but the writing goes quicker. I don't know when I got so picky about each and every daggone word choice but I have recently. I know that's good for the ultimate product, bad for efficiency!

  6. Editing is a bit like drying your hair. You can take ten minutes and do it right after washing, or you can run around getting other things done for twenty minutes – and when you come back -- the same job can be done in two. Something to do with infusion.

    But do you really want prolific? Most of that kind of work makes very little splash in the sea of humanity, and sinks into oblivion within months or even weeks of its launch. On the other hand, anything profound seems to float endlessly --like a buoy beacon-- even in the stormiest of seas. You, Ms. Holmes, are a profound and most amazing person. There is no one else like you. And you have already proven your ability to reach out from obscurity and touch the world. A sure sign that you are on the right path. I am convinced your fiction will do the same thing. It’s just up ahead of you somewhere. Not too early, or too late, but for an appointed time.

    So that “… they who read it may run.”

  7. May I never prefer speed to excellence. Thanks D. Ann. : )

  8. I am one of those who hates editing!

    I just got through the second draft on two WIPs, and was SO relieved to start something new!

    I know the editing is necessary- crucial, even- but I can't say that I enjoy it!

    I will enjoy it when my writing is flawless on the first draft. That happens, right?!?!??!?!?


  9. I join the I love editing crowd. After several years my manuscript has some fine and dazzling paragraphs. Now if I could just figure out which two and go on from there. =)

  10. I can't decide if I love drafting and hate editing; hate drafting and love editing; or hate them both. Sometimes I even wonder if I'm literate. But I very much enjoyed your article.

  11. I think editing is my biggest problem. I have this annoying habit of thinking I have to achieve perfection before I move on to the next chapter. Or the next page, or paragraph. It paralyzes me.

    I think some of the best writing I've ever done was when I didn't have time to think about it. I had a week to finish an entry for the Genesis and suddenly learned I was being sent to France on business. Instead of a week, I suddenly had one night. I started writing at 10pm and completely rewrote an entire chapter from scratch by 5am.

    Apparently I'll need a book deal with an impossible deadline in order to achieve greatness. Drat!

  12. I throw the story out on paper and feel sick when I read it the next day. I even continue to worry once it's out on the shelf! I just sent my next book off to production and am still worrying, so your post really me laugh at myself. Thanks!


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