Exercises in Failure & the Editing Process

I hate editing. I have failed every goal I’ve ever set when editing. I stumble in the same spot every time.

It’s not killing my darlings. Whatever, kill those bastards. I never liked them anyway.  (Oh my god that’s such a lie, please, come back, babies.) I like going through the novel and finding the things that worked. I like those moments when you realize, “Wow, this is a legitimate novel,” and the moments where you throw the manuscript across the room and scream, “I WILL NEVER WRITE AGAIN.”

Here’s my process. 1. Print out the novel. I can’t edit at a computer very well, unless it’s something short — i.e. blog spot, and even those tend to be riddled with typos and grammatical errors. As I understand it, this is standard. Most people can’t process errors on a screen.

2. Ignore the novel for about two weeks to six months. Hey, can’t argue with the process man. But seriously. Sometimes I start out with enthusiasm, and then promptly degenerate into a spiral of Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and Television. If I’m lucky, I’ll start working on something else.

3. Edit on paper in a frenzy for about two weeks to six months. This is just how it is. I enjoy this part. I’ll be struck with excitement, and it’ll happen. I’ll reach the end. I’ll be awash with satisfaction and accomplishment. Look at me! I just editing this novel! I am a champion!

4. Ignore it forever. I hatehatehateHATE typing edits into the computer. I hate everything about the process. It’s uncomfortable, and I feel like I’m repeating myself, and at this point I usually swear that next time I’m doing all my editing on the computer. (Spoilers: I never will.)

5. Realize it’s been a year and re-dedicate myself to the novel.  I will usually sit down with my husband, and we walk about how reasonable my plan is. I’ll set a date, and usually — because I tend to write short novels — it’s only a couple pages per day.

6.  Reunite with all my friends on Tumblr.

7. Drink heavily. Alcohol. Coffee. Coffee spiked with alcohol.

8.  Dive headfirst into the novel. I spend something like two or four weeks dedicated to finishing this fucking novel. I hate this novel. I hate myself. I hate everything I stand for as a writer. I suck at this.

And then I hit the end of the novel, thrilled. I give it to one beta reader. Promise to give it to many more, but panic. Move on to something else. Keep promising to send that off. Panic some more.

There’s a reason that I’m just now at the beta reader stage of my 2010 NaNoWriMo novel, and there’s a reason my first novel is sitting untouched after finishing the on-paper edits. Writing is fun. Editing is even interesting, but when it comes to actual completion of a novel, I pretty much fall apart.

Man. I hate editing.

Ashley M. Hill found her voice in science fiction when her curiosity about technology coupled with the lifelong urge to tell stories. Her interest in social and feminist issues shapes how she approaches the genre. She's pursuing computer and network repair for her day job.

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