Machete Meet Jungle

Easy to get lost in here. Chrissy, bring me the big knife!

Easy to get lost in here. Chrissy, bring me the big knife!

When I’ve completed a draft of a manuscript, I have to get away from it for a while. Sometimes it’s a week, sometimes it’s a little more. During that time I’ll begin work on something else or pick up another manuscript that needs some attention.

I like to sit down with a red pencil and a paper copy, but that’s not always possible.

See, when I’m on the computer I have had a hard time in the past (and especially lately) getting distracted by the Internet. I refuse to buy software that I can turn on and off if I really want to be distracted. Doesn’t make any sense to install something I won’t use and can work around. All my writing, and editing, is about rhythm and desire. Forgive the digression.

Am I ready to dive in? How much do I want this? Everything depends on the day job and its requirements of me and what’s going on with my family. I haven’t hit the lottery yet and I’m not daring enough to take the plunge on being a full-time writer. I need to make house payments and eat.

So really, the first step is getting into the proper headspace to pull out the blade and begin excising the cancerous words and phrases, marking the bits for improvement or deletion.

Then comes the cutting.

Stuff has to go, stuff has to be reworked. Things have to change.

Thank goodness it’s not all plot stuff any more. The last year has been spent mired in learning about passive voice and how awful it is. The ability to recognize it escaped me for so long that plowing through the novel to reshape those bits was daunting. I took several weeks off while doing that because I couldn’t believe how bad it was and how much I hated that I’d done it. Worse, I offered a couple of critiques where I pointed out passive voice that was obviously intentional in retrospect. I was so trapped in that mindset the crits were bad.

Learning experiences, I suppose.

But then my process for editing includes sending out the manuscript to others to read, if they have the time. Then waiting for notes back.

So I pick up something else that needs attention or I write blog posts (like this one) or I veg out in front of the TV. (Which I know isn’t good for me but sometimes I need to hear or see other people’s stories.)

And when the notes come back, it’s stepping onto square one and starting again. Wash, rinse, repeat as necessary.

In the end it’s good for me. I’m learning. Doing is learning as long as one isn’t repeating the same mistakes over and over. Spinning Wheels belong in songs, not in a writer’s process, right?

Jason Arnett is a storyteller living in Kansas and writing in the plains of the fantastic. Some of his work can be found at

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