So I have been editing the novel lately. This is a particularly painful process, but a necessary one, and one in which I try to find scraps of joy, much as someone in my office apparently digs for the Cinnamon ‘n’ Spice oatmeal flavor in the big box we get from CostCo every month and hoards them from the rest of us. The problem with editing is that either you’re editing someone else’s work, in which case you always have in the back of your head that this is Someone Else’s Vision, or you’re editing your own work, in which case it’s Your Vision, and you end up either reluctant to change anything or disgusted at how amateurish it is, and in any of those cases there’s a sort of despairing tedium to the whole process that makes you want to chuck it out the window and go do something fun again, like writing.
If you are (as I am now) editing your own work, and you’ve gotten feedback from others, then you have to reconcile all of their visions of your work with Your Vision, and it’s a difficult line to figure out, that balance. Because they are your readers, and their visions are not irrelevant. At the same time, you are the author, and Your Vision should be the one in the driver’s seat. Your beta readers might insist that you stop off at Stuckey’s, and you can do that, but don’t let them take you to L.A. rather than Lake Destiny. (It is possible, sure, for one of your readers to have a vision that you like better than your own, but that usually will involve a rewrite rather than just an edit.)
So where is my Cinnamon ‘n’ Spice oatmeal in all this? Well, for starters, just the fact that people have read the manuscript and have put a significant number of cycles into trying to help me improve it is really flattering. Secondly, I’ve managed to take a little time away from the manuscript by working on the 48 Hour Film Project, so coming back to it, I can see the little problems here and there; the blinding glare of My Vision has faded somewhat to a nice office lamp. Thanks to my readers, I have a sense of the larger issues, too, so I can keep those in mind while tightening up language. So it’s exciting to me, getting to go back and add more in to some of the characters–one of the comments I heard was that the characters needed to be more sympathetic, which I interpreted to mean that you needed to know more about them and understand them better, not that I want to put in pages of exposition, but maybe an action here and there. It’s almost like I’m discovering the story again as I go through it, but this time with full awareness of how it will end.
That is, I have to admit, pretty cool.