Blog No. 123
One of the major parts of my writing day is looking at other people’s stories and giving them an edit. Often I’ll catch a couple of typos, notice some structural weak spots and grammar mistakes, and make a bunch of suggestions on how I think the story could be improved. The things I notice jump off the page (fresh from the pile of new story elements I learned about) and if the story is well written, I can be done a couple thousand words in half an hour (extrapolate for longer stores, chapters etc). Sometimes there is a lot more to point out and the task becomes an arduous task filled with long winded explanations and edits based on assumptions and what I know about the author, but usually things go smoothly. If I can avoid supplanting the writer’s voice with my own, I find I add something to the story, helping the author and learning something about my own writing in the process.
Generally I enjoy editing other people’s stories, most of the time I don’t mind giving my own stories a cleanup and rewrite either. Having other people edit my writing has been an eye-opening experience and I’ve learned a lot (especially that no matter how good you get, there will always be a need to have others edit your work). Sometimes it’s hard to sit through criticism, but I’ve found that most of the writer’s I’ve worked with (The WOW group and others) are direct, clear, and helpful. There are those who seem to lack tact and self awareness, but they are in the minority. I realize that the people editing my writing genuinely want to help and generally have solid observations. So what’s the problem?
I only have two stories left to finish my second draft on the collection and I’m struggling. One of the ways I manage to get through the first draft is by knowing I’ll have the second draft to go and fix everything. I’ve found enough mistakes and weak writing by looking at the stories on my own, having other people edit them has resulted in a landslide of edits (that sometimes contradict) burying the initial story. Just going through and making corrections becomes a chore, rewriting created more mistakes, and knowing how to follow a concrete structure and actually making it read well are two different things. Eventually the story isn’t fun anymore.
I’m currently sitting on the first four chapters of my novel. I’m eager to get back to it, my mind racing through scenarios and possibilities whenever my concentration drifts. Writing is fun and exacting, and sometimes daunting. Editing is the exact opposite. I like making my stores better, but not every edit manages the task. Sometimes the story gets muddled and dull and the overall narrative is overshadowed by the sentence structure (or perspective or consistency or…). I’m trying to take it one edit at a time, but I feel like I’m letting down the people who have to keep fixing the same mistakes. I know I’ll learn eventually (and that there will always be some mistakes) but I just want to write good stories well.
Everyone has to start somewhere and every writer has strengths and weaknesses, but facing your limitations is challenging (and draining). One of the biggest challenges I’ve had is believing in what I write when others don’t get it. That’s not to say, ignoring the edits and suggestions of others, but knowing that you are telling a story that people want to read in a style that will find readers of its own, matching the standards you set for yourself. I don’t know if that makes sense, but I know the answer isn’t writing in someone else’s style, even if that person knows more than you do. We’ll see if I’m right when I have a book to sell.