I've been editing a novel for a good chunk of the summer and into the fall (It's the second book in my Christian dystopian series that I've been working on over the course of a few years). This wasn't the first time I've edited it.
The whole summer, I thought to myself that it was going well. That writing was easy. That I could just put in a bit of effort and it would fix itself. I chalked off the nagging feeling that something wasn't right to my inner editor not being given her allotted amount of chocolate for working overtime.
I edited it once and wasn't happy with it. I took some time off, re-read it, and decided that it still needed just a bit of something. I edited it again.
Perhaps I wasn't happy with it, but my inner editor was exhausted. Three months of work and she hadn't been given extra coffee, better chocolate, or vacation time. And I didn't want to look at it again. I'd edited it three times. Shouldn't that be enough? How many red pens had to spill their life's blood for the sake of one novel? Surely it'd be fine.
I sent it off to my wonderful critique partner, Victoria, who gently told me what I didn't want to hear.
I still have a lot of work ahead of me.
She put the words to the nagging feeling that had plagued me all summer. Words that I wanted to throw away, but couldn't deny their truth.
The feeling that I couldn't get the pacing right? She nailed it on the head--no climax and my characters acting like a handful of houseplants (my words, not hers). The feeling that I couldn't figure out where my characters were going? It helps when your characters have goals.
She saw what I didn't want to see and didn't shy away from telling me about it. (And I wouldn't have it any other way, either. Critiques are only useful if they're honest and constructive. And she was super nice about it).
I don't know if this is what Hemingway meant about sitting at a typewriter bleeding, but I feel like it could be. I left my life's blood on the page and more is required. Elbow grease is expensive to buy, but sometimes it's the only thing that works when you have a broken manuscript.
So it might be back to the drawing board. I'm debating investing in a larger white board to draw stuff out. I've already got three colors of neon sticky notes in my drawer that have been slotted for enlistment into the editing armada.
I'll need some time to get away from the story a bit. My poor, whimpering inner editor has earned that, at the very least. So for now, I'm plotting something different for NaNo.
But come December 1st (or Christmas break, depending on scheduling), it'll be time to roll up the sleeves again. My inner editor will have had a couple months of much-needed chocolate and coffee vacation time in her office (I think the only time she leaves is to buy more red pens).
It'll be back to the drawing board. Back to the blood-covered typewriter. Back to writing a story I love and making sure it gets told the way it deserves.
Until then, it's time for a fresh story and some more blogging.
(Also, you should check out Victoria's blog, because she's also an awesome blogger).