The Daunting Task of Editing

What is it that drives an author to sit their ass in the chair for hours (sometimes it's only minutes when you're a busy human) and write a bunch of words that may later be deleted?

Seems like a painful, tedious, and maybe an irrelevant exercise.

It is. Oh boy, it is.

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For me, the writing is the easy part. It's the editing that's frustrating. I've written 85,000 words in my current work-in-progress and only about half of them are any good. In fact, I've archived almost 40,000 words that were probably written on a whim with no semblance of order. During the editing process, I found those ideas and situations that I thought were utter brilliance--were total garbage.

So why keep at it, one might ask. If you spend all that time, writing words you'll only end up deleting, why even bother?

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For some writers, it's a means of survival. It keeps food on the table if you're lucky. Maybe it's part of your job. Or, it's something innate with the wiring of your brain. That's my deal. I have stories inside my head that I need to get out. I can't not write them down.

No matter how much work they might need on the back end, I've always dumped those words onto the page knowing I'd have to go back and fix them later.

And that's the hard part. The fixing. Seeing a huge novel in front of you, knowing maybe half of it isn't worth it's salt. Realizing all that time you put in will probably double because of rewrites.

Why not try to get it right the first time?

Easier said than done.

I've spent enough time in classes, seminars, conferences, and behind a resource book (or a dozen), that I've been able to train myself to write with an editor's eye. The result is that it takes me a lot longer to put any words on the page because I spend so much time trying to get it right. Talk about tedious. Plus, I feel like I'm doing myself a disservice when I do it.

Sometimes, letting the words flow and going back later to chop them like Gordon Ramsay in Hell's Kitchen, is the way to go.

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But it's so ominous, this editing business.

It is. That's why it's key to set targets for yourself. For example: "Today I will edit two chapters" is realistic and more likely to be completed than diving in without a plan.

Next, carve out time in your schedule, even if it's only on the weekends. 

If you're like me, you might even print out those two chapters, close your laptop (so the time-wasting interwebs don't call to you), and grab that red pen. Make sure you have some sort of outline for your story nearby, even if it's incomplete or will change as you go. It'll keep you on track.

If you haven't been at this for as long as I have, google yourself some editing guidelines (or reach out to me, I can point you to my favorite writing helpers' websites).

Perhaps the most important piece of this editing business?

Cut words you don't need.

I have called myself the "queen of words" at times because I use SO MANY of them. I'm sure if I went back and reread this blog post again, I'd find a dozen words to cut. 

It's daunting this writing business. I've been at it for 40 years in one way or another. Sometimes, it's so intimidating, I don't write for weeks.

But then, I remember why I'm doing it.

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Wait, it's already February?

I forgot to blog in January. Just. Plain. Forgot.

Looking back at my last blog of 2017, I wrote:

Anything I attempt to tackle in 2018 falls under the "awesome umbrella."

Even if I attempt to do absolutely nothing. LOL.

I guess I was just being lazy the first month of the year. Therefore, I've exceeded all expectations!

Still, I need to be better with planning my time.

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Calendars, next to journals, are one of my favorite things. You know, the ones you actually write in using an old fashioned pen? While I do put things in Outlook for myself, work and personal, there's nothing like an old school planner. I get super excited when it's time to buy a new one each year.

I always keep one on the island in my kitchen where I park all the important stuff in my life (purse, backpack and jacket hung on the chair). It's the corner of the house where I leave myself notes, create lists for the grocery store, keep that important piece of paper I don't want to lose or forget about. And for years, I used a rather large monthly calendar. There must be something about visually seeing it every day that reminds me of the important dates and events coming up. Plus, whenever my sis comes over, she leaves funny little notes in them that I find later. 

When I was in the market for my 2018 calendar, I thought about buying something I could use to help me manage my life better. Lately, I find myself drawn to the goal-setter type of calendar. I have the ARC system from Staples but I grew tired of carrying around the equivalent of a small binder with me. Then I checked out a nicely bound planner, like a moleskin journal. It offers areas for daily goals, gratitude and things you're excited about. Some even let you jot down an end of day review. Some have places for "best moment of the day" and "things I can improve." They look really cool but there's so much work involved, I'd have to schedule time in my planner to fill out my planner. 

For now, I like this smaller monthly calendar with the llamas on the front. I bought it in the small store in my office building. It takes up less space, and is used for only the most important events--and notes from my sis. Plus it's cute!

I guess it's time to schedule the remaining blogs of 2018 in that darn thing.

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The Year in Review & a Look Ahead to 2018

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This year has gone unbelievably fast. I know as you get older time seems to speed up, but this is ridiculous!

Every year, at Thanksgiving, my hubby and I sit at our kitchen island prepping the stuffing, listening to "Alice's Restaurant," and we always comment on how the last time we chopped up chestnuts seems like it were yesterday. A year feels like months, hours like minutes (unless you're at work, I suppose, where time sometimes seems to stand still, LOL).

I look back at some of the goals I set for myself for 2017, and have to admit I'm disappointed I didn't stay focused enough to achieve many of them.

But, rather than obsess over what I didn't get to in these measly 12 months (like finish my novel), I thought I'd end the year looking back at one goal I did achieve (even when I "phoned it in") and, of course, make a few resolutions.

12 Months of Blogging

This was part of my business plan as a writer and really the only thing that stuck. I mean, how hard is it to find twelve topics to write about? Funny enough, pretty dang hard! But here are links to all the topics (and a few comments) from my blog this year.

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January - Hello 2017

I start off the year with a few resolutions to write, read, share knowledge and blog. I did spend a lot of time writing, but I still haven't made the progress I wanted. However, I was able to finally flush out the third act in my outline for Tame My Racing Heart, so I can finish the book. 

I had a goal to read 24 books. I read 19. Most were for pleasure. The books I loved this year were "All In (Only One Night #1)" by Simona Ahrnstedt, "Hollywood Dirt" by Alessandra Torre, "The Collector" by Nora Roberts, and "Bet Me" by Jennifer Crusie. But the BEST book of all (followed by the HBO mini-series) was "Big Little Lies" by Liane Moriarty. So, so good.

February - What About Love?

I discuss the history of the romance novel, and a few movies whose love stories have affected me.

March - Is It Just Blind Luck?

The key to becoming a published author is shared in this blog. It even includes some words of wisdom from a revered author who has several publications under his belt. 

April - 20 Years, 2 Decades, 10 Bienniums, 4 Lustrums

An obsession with a band I played on the air in college radio led me to twenty years with a man who is my best friend, my biggest cheerleader, and my husband. 

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May - A Nod to Non-Moms

A continuation of April's blog, sort of. I talk about losing my mom seventeen years ago and the moment when I made a decision that changed the course of my future. 

June - What I Learned about Myself While Reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Read this on the plane to and from Charlotte (a business trip I took, that ended with a Nascar race aka research for my novel). I created my own "12 Commandments" per the author's suggestion. It's also where I call myself out on the excuses I make, thus sabotaging myself from hitting my goals.

July - Ernie in the Sandbox...My Very First Story

How a puppet from Sesame Street encouraged my imagination, and led to a lifetime of stories about cute boys and love.

August - TMRH

I will admit this was a month I cheated a little by taking an excerpt from my work-in-progress and using it as a topic. It's one of my favorite scenes from TMRH (Gray and his mom talk about edibles, LOL) and I'd been working diligently on the weekends trying to make progress on the outline. August was a month where I tried to spend more time writing and less time procrastinating.

September - Back to "School"

My notebook obsession is in the spotlight here. I can't help myself when I see a cute notebook. Most of them I don't even write in! The words have to really be important for me to put them down in these blank pages. Some people have a purse obsession (ok, I do too) but really it's the notebook that brings me joy.

October - Location, Location, Location

A trip into the city (where I work every day and spend some of my evenings in too) inspired me. Chicago has been the backdrop for many of my stories. Here I reminisce about the mystery of the city when I was younger, and tease the plot of my next novel.

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November - Superstar (Not Me, Just the Name of my Story, But Also Me)

I took a break from my novel to participate in NaNoWriMo, and this is the result of that endeavor. Although it's unfinished, it was a story I'd been wanting to get out for years and will be something I go back to eventually. Based on Jesus Christ Superstar (without the religious connotation), this is a modern day story about betrayal and stardom.

December - you're reading it!

2018 Goals

Really, one goal...

Be F***ing Awesome!

Really, that's it.

I made a deal with myself. Anything I attempt to tackle in 2018 falls under the "awesome umbrella." Even if I attempt to do absolutely nothing. LOL.

BTW, that's a trick...the second I made that deal with myself, I was inspired and motivated and actually did stuff. So, if rule #1 of my 10 Commandments is "don't sweat the small shit," I will be able to achieve great things this year because I'm not obsessing over the unimportant stuff.

Hope everyone can do the same and Be F***ing Awesome too!

Happy new year!