Take a look at that image to the left. Go ahead…click on it. Make it BIG. I’ll wait.
Done looking? Tell me, does it look familiar? Well, not familiar in that you wrote it or anything, but familiar with all the scratch-ups, rewrites, highlights, arrows, lines, numbers, and copy editing symbols? I’m going to assume, even if you don’t edit on paper like I do, that your answer is “Yes.”
I have written and edited this scene, in which Susannah’s uncle finds out Napoleon has left France ahead of “schedule,” about twenty times. All of the editing I’ve been doing lately is starting to make me feel that for every two steps I take forward (I finish a new scene, I make changes on another), I get pushed back some twenty-odd steps by the dreaded Inner Editor in me, because she Just. Won’t. Stop.
I was talking with someone the other day (my muddled mind can’t remember whom, but they were asking polite questions about my book and my progress) and it struck me that I need to be done with this book. Not that I am done, because I’m not. I have gaping holes everywhere. But I need to be done. There’s a big difference. Whoever said that writers are never finished with a book, but rather they just have to stop working on it was right. I need to write, edit, and move on. Pronto.
To be fair (to myself), that’s what I’m trying to do. I’ve finished another substantial edit/rewrite of the first two scenes and have sent them to beta readers (thank you! You know who you are!). I just finished cleaning up the scene in the photo above (#3), and am about to make my first round of edits to scene #4 (which used to be scene #1, where Susannah learns what her uncle has in store for her…I’ve completely rewritten it). Then those, too, will hit my beta readers.
I’m also limiting myself to three passes when I write a new scene:
- First-pass edit (I’m pretty skimpy on details when I write a first draft…this is where I flesh things out some more)
- EDITS system edit (that’s the highlighting that I talked about here)
If it’s a scene I wrote awhile back (but is still in first draft stage), I’m limiting myself to steps #2 and #3.
After that, I have to just let it go. Let it go, get the whole thing done, then print the sucker out and give it another read-through (after a brief time away, of course). If I don’t do that, I’ll find myself in a perpetual whirling vortex of editing. How many times can I go through each word, each phrase, trying to wring the most emotion and feeling from them? At some point, I’m going to get negative returns, and the changes I make will hurt more than help (that’s part of the 23 steps backwards I’m trying to avoid).
So…I will move forward. I will make progress. And I will be done with this Damn Book. Pronto.
Do you have self-imposed limitations when you edit?