Sunday, May 26, 2013

Editing question marks

The internal editor. Almost whenever I hear someone talk about writing, this person comes up in some form or other. Now that the early drafts are done, my editor brain is taking over. In my two rewrites, I've really gotten to know my story. Now that I understand it, my editor's trying to tell me what does and does not work.

When you add "infernal" in front of "internal," you're usually talking about when the editor comes up   -- unwanted -- during the early stages of writing. At this point, the editor tends to offer unconstructive comments and hinders writing more than helps it. But once it's got a good amount of material to work with, the editor ceases to be infernal. Actually, I think mine becomes a little insecure.

My editor brain likes to ask a lot of questions it expects my writer brain to answer later. Literally. Reading though my manuscript, I write down several comments for page. Most of them end with a question mark. Examples:

  • Hint at this character being old before this?
  • Do these people get named later?
  • Neaten up this sentence?
  • Are these two sentences connected enough?
  • More imagery -- show what background characters are doing?
  • Cut this part?
  • Plus dozens of question marks next to words I may or may not want to change.
Some of them are legitimate questions, but you'd think my editor would know when I need to neaten up a sentence. 

It's weird, because I do feel like I'm making progress. It's just funny to realize I'm taking note of a lot of problems and not necessarily fixing them. Maybe my editor's so used to being shoved back so I can get some writing done it's afraid to really come out.

I don't want to pull my punches, especially on myself, but this is the farthest I've ever gotten in editing such a large project. I can pick short stories to pieces, but my novel is being more difficult. It's hard to see how one change is going to fit twenty chapters down the line.

Maybe my editor needs to be just a touch more infernal. I need to loan it a machete and give it license to kill. I need to let it not just ask questions, but answer them.

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