Today my colleague Becca Patterson and I are exchanging guest posts on the underrated adventure of editing. To see my post on editing, visit her blog, The Cat’s Mreauow.
It starts when you look up and see just how much work there is to even get started. You shake yourself pretending to limber up, but really you’re just taking a few more minutes to breathe before starting that long climb. When you can’t shake yourself any more, you reach out and grab that first hand hold. You lift your foot to the first rung. It’s too late now. If you back out you look a fool so you keep going. Hand then foot then hand then foot. You are aware of the progress, but don’t dare look back. Hand then foot then hand then foot and soon, you are at the top. All of a sudden things look different. You’ve made it to the top.
The top is only the beginning. From here you can see all the possibilities. There in the distance is your house, the roof just barely visible through the trees. You can see your car in the parking lot too. The one thing you don’t want to do from here is look down, but that’s where you have to go. Slowly you let go of the handholds and inch your way out on the platform. Step by inch you move to the edge. The adrenaline is taking hold now. Your breathing is getting faster, your muscles are tensing up. You know what you have to do, but there’s a part of your that doesn’t want to do it.
With a deep breath you silence that inner voice of doubt and fear. One, two, three, go. One last step and gravity takes hold. You are pulled down faster and faster, speeding toward your destination. And then, with a sudden deceleration, it’s all over.
Editing is like that. It’s a mix of exhilaration and fear as you work your way through the process. It’s an intimidating process with a breath taking reward. Just like jumping off the high board, it takes effort to get started. You have to do the hard work of getting ready. But once you take that leap, the process happens. The trick is remembering the fun on the way down rather than the terror of staring out over the ledge. Remember the feeling of relief and joy when it is all over, not the strain it took to get up there. Keep the goal in mind – a better story – as you face the unedited version with all it’s errors and missing words and scenes.
Editing isn’t all throwing yourself into the wind. You have to get up to the top first, but reading and understanding the problems in the story. This is the time when temptation can sabotage you. That little voice of doubt whispers in your ear that it’s too hard, the story isn’t worth it, you’ll only mess it up worse. Learn to ignore that voice the same way you ignore the temptation to climb back down the ladder. When you are at the top, ready to plunge into details and work of actually making the changes, take time to look around. Notice the view. From here, you can see the possibilities. Here is where you learn how not to make the same mistakes in the next story. Here is where you decide which way the story needs to go. You decide which dive to perform. Don’t let the possibilities paralyze you. You have to take that final step, make that decision and go with it.
Don’t worry. When you splash down you have plenty of time to look at your work. If you don’t like the results, the ladder is still there. Climb back up and try again. Just like diving, or writing, editing takes practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. And yet, that thrill of plummeting through the air never goes away.
That was very helpful and encouraging. I just finished rereading ‘Necromancer and Barbarian’. Comments coming soon. I wanted to see how things were going with you. It so happens that I am very busy with editing myself and yes, sometimes I am tempted to give up. It’s good to know other people have been through this. Thanks for the tips.
If only we could edit and polish real life – indeed!