Do as I say, not as I do

I’m a bad boy, apparently (In the world of NaNoWriMo. Which doesn’t make the “bad boy” title all that interesting. It’s like being the coolest kid at the comic book store: there isn’t that much competition). I do things during November that are frowned upon by the NaNo Powers-That-Be (myself included). I’m a rule-breaker. Who woulda thunk it?

What’s my crime? I edit while I write.

It’s a terrible example to set for my fellow November novelists. Editing during the writing process only serves to slow you down, and that’s not what NaNo is about. But I do it anyway. I can’t help it. I tweak, I twist, I tinker. I worry over words, and turns of phrase, and paragraph structure. Every day I re-read the previous day’s work and make adjustments. Sometime I go back even further to add, remove, and rearrange. While some people write linearly, my process is constantly looping and evolving as I progress through the story.

The result, luckily for me, is a pretty bad-ass first draft.

Unfortunately, it’s also where the brakes typically engage, completely interrupting the creative process. My first draft, while good, is never perfect (wouldn’t that be something?) and yet I find it very challenging to tear it down and build it back up. It’s like remodeling a perfectly functional house because the flow’s not quite right: some people could easily do that, knocking down walls and rearranging the kitchen appliances. I, however, see a functional house first, and can usually only bring myself to slap a new coat of paint on it (spelling and grammar, or word choice tweaking), or, occasionally, and with great reluctance, removing extraneous stuff. Actual structural changes? Like reframing a character or altering the plotline? Nuh uh. Not up for that.

It’s perverse, actually, that having an effective process for writing a first draft is actually a handicap when I move on to the editing process. One would think I would learn from previous years, and realize that perhaps I should spend less time editing during my writing, and save it for the actual editing stage.

One would be wrong, of course.

Though, actually, thinking about it, things may be looking up with this year’s manuscript. I think it’s a function of a) being incredibly busy during the initial writing process, and b) never really feeling all that attached to the story. At the time of the initial draft, I was disappointed by both of those factors: I didn’t really love my story, and I didn’t have enough time to dedicate to it to get it to a loveable state. Now, however, I feel more free to make the drastic changes that drafts deserve. Need to nix a scene or two? No problem. Character attitude needs a one-eighty? You betcha.

So, something new. An opportunity for structural editing, due to indifference about the initial process. Odd. All that said, I’m still not done with either the initial draft or the first edit, which are happening in a hodge-podge whenever I can spare the time. But I’m hopeful that, with time, I might end up with a more polished and saleable product at the end of the day. Time will tell.


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