Headgames for Editing

No Telling

What have I gotten myself into. That’s not a question, it’s what I continually say aloud to myself between sips of coffee and staring hopelessly at the computer screen.
I wrote over 50,000 words of my Chesaleen story and did it in 28 days. NaNoWriMo was an incredible writing experience for me that alternately ate up my brains and opened possibility. Wouldn’t trade those 28 days for anything. At the end of the ride, though, there’s this pile of words that needs serious revision. Serious. Re-vision.
Step One: Since I wrote the entire thing in unconnected, nonlinear pieces, the first order of business was order. Cutting and pasting the whole mess was interesting and I’m still not quite sure that’s how it should be. Doesn’t matter. The beginning is at the beginning and the end is somewhere near the last of it. In between are some Very Big Holes. Good enough for now. I also made some big cuts of scenes too dreadful to read and left notes to myself in the empty spaces.
I’ve honestly never revised anything longer than twenty or thirty double-spaced pages in my life. And those were papers written years ago for my MA in English. Scholarly business. My creative output tends toward the brief – poetry, flash fiction, short creative nonfiction, blog posts, that kind of thing. I know how to edit a moment, what I’m drowning in right now is editing/chopping/revising/developing a whole series of interconnected moments. It’s a “can’t see the forest for the trees” kind of thing, only more so.
The best advice I’ve found so far was on the National Novel Writing Month website itself. One piece of advice is to sit down and write a 5-7 page synopsis of the novel before doing anything else. The objective here is to nail down the plot tightly so there’s no wallowing in sentences (trees) without first finding the damn forest on the map. Good advice. No one can ache and writhe over a few words or a line quite like a poet, and that’s just wasted energy on a project like this. Plenty of time for that later, after the culling of superfluous scenes and plot confusions.
Step Two: What is the book about? That’s a loaded question and I had to answer it in the synopsis. I thought this would focus things a bit, but instead it amplified the size of Very Big Holes I’ve left willy-nilly all over the story. This is good and bad, I suspect, because I keep opening the synopsis and staring at it, zombie-like, drinking more coffee and hoping for lightning or brilliance or sixty muses dancing on the head of a pin to release what needs releasing onto the pages. That’s not going to happen, though. I’m making peace with that right now and it’s going to take some time.
Step Three: Find some music. I know this sounds like a great way to put off the whole rewrite just a little longer – and it is a delightful procrastination – but without all those dancing muses and electricity and such, I need a little something to put my head where it belongs. In other words, I want to make sure my forest is still filled with loblolly pines instead of wandering off and becoming redwoods. This is not a redwood story. It matters. So here is my playlist thus far. I have to say it helps me slide quickly into the deer woods. If it doesn’t show up like to should, just click on “pop-out player.”

That’s where I am right now. A map and some music and more early-morning hours. With Christmas Break, I’ve got a little free time. All I need now is absolution.

6 thoughts on “Headgames for Editing

  1. Alice Cooper is my thinking music. Has been since high school. Whenever I really have to work through writing or editing that is the music I reach for. Fortunately, he was prolific, so I can work for hours without repeating a song. If you try Alice, you should let me know how he works for you. 🙂

  2. Oh my, editing.I’m struggling with my own synopsis, the first time I’ve tried to provide any sort of care to my NaNovel after the fact, and it is rough going. I’ve been allowing myself some away-time from the novel, as the soundtrack around here has been the buzz of an impending gift-giving holiday, and the accompanying mania in my children. I’m hoping to beg some time over the break to finish up: I’m at about the halfway point now, and the trees are looking thin and scraggly.

  3. So far, I haven’t been brave enough to tackle the novel that’s waiting in the dark recesses of my brain, so I’m amazed at what you have done. Thanks for sharing the ups and downs, and good luck with the revisioning.

  4. I’ve found that the best thing for my inner editor is to put some space between myself and my project. Stick it in a drawer for a couple of months, work on something else, then come back and re-read it with fresh eyes.

  5. Hello Monda. Forgive me for being so bold, but I’m doing a bit of blog surfing to invite people over to my blog to join my annual giveaway. There are no gimmicks. It’s just my way of celebrating two years of blogging. I’m giving away a free caricature drawn by me. I’d be honored if you came over to check it out.

  6. The Alice Cooper music tells me a lot about you, Laura. I’ll never be able to see you in the same way now.MP – writing the synopsis was the best first step for me. Let me give you one more thing to put off the rewrite a little longer – read The Artful Edit by Susan Bell. You’ll be glad you did.Sandy, writing that novel was more intimidating fun than I ever imagined. We poets aren’t made for such fast slamming-out, but the process taught me so much about story. It’s in the edit that I can be a poet again, aching and scratching over phrasing and timing and such. It’s delicious.

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