Shh – I’m working!

It was quiet this morning.  So quiet that my daughter fell asleep in the car on the way to preschool. I asked a teacher in the parking lot if she felt the same way, and she said, “odd, I just checked my watch to see if I was early, that’s how quiet it is.” The cloud covering must have been low and muffled all sounds. I drove home with the radio off, and tried to hang on to that stillness. I knew it would be good to begin editing with such outer silence brought in.

I can write anywhere, anyhow. It matters not to me if there is music and jumping and shouting. Yet, when it comes to editing, I need quiet.

“Sometimes everything has to be inscribed across the heavens so you can find the one line already written inside you.” David Whyte

I came across this quote the other day, and I scribbled it down. Being at an editing stage I thought it was very appropriate. Yet, I refused to place stake in it, even though at times it does feel like the stars have to align just perfectly for the words to fall into place.  I would not need some cosmic event to polish my prose!

My plan:  Read all the way through my ms while taking notes. Search for plot flaws, timeframe discrepancies, character weakness, omissions, and weak scenes. Once that was assertained I would begin with those problems. Prose would come later.  No need to make beautiful sentences if they won’t be in the final draft. I should know this by now.

So, I sat down and read to page 4. Then I began re-writing. I could not go 4 pages without stopping! Ok, the beginning needs to be redone, it just doesn’t fit, I have known this since I wrote it. I allowed myself to re-write it now because the words were there. They might not be there next week, I told myself. Then I proceeded to spend the rest of the morning writing one paragraph. One paragraph! I have a weakness for prose, can you tell?

Anyway, once I realized I had become utterly lost in the sentences, I pulled myself out and continued writing into the story. This morning I continued as well, not allowing myself to stop and make each sentence shine. This beginning might have to be scrapped and re-written again, and I do not want to give myself such luxury as polishing yet. I think another day or two and I’ll be able to move on and keep reading, sticking with the original plan.  Hopefully I’ll get further in than another 4 pages.

 Is there something that halts your progress when editing? Do you make a plan, or do you wing it?


21 thoughts on “Shh – I’m working!

  1. You said it all!

    I suppose my plan is something to the effect of, go through first draft for structure/plot, then re-write for character. I think I’m finding that structure plot fixes some character flaws, then fixing character flows over to scene tension, etc. But it’s very difficult to ignore prose, so I feel your one paragraph pain. šŸ˜‰

    It’s messy.

    1. Yes, Cathryn, I have noticed the same thing. It’s all interconnected, sometimes a matter of finding the right element that needs the work and the rest just falls into place.

  2. We published new posts at the same minute! This morning, I will finish another round through my manuscript. Except for the opening paragraphs, which I’m still not satisfied with, I think this is it before I leave it to an agent to suggest further editing. I do plan to read the whole thing through aloud. I’ve tried before, but before I know it, I slip into silence. This time, I’m going to record it, then play it back and if nothing strikes me as needing work, I’ll say I’m done.

    Good luck with your editing round.

  3. I often become stuck on a paragraph and simply can’t leave it alone until I’m happy with it. It is so easy to get hung up sometimes but one way or another I seem to make it through to the end. Right now I’m hung up on just how I want to write my next story.. I’ve had many beginnings but nothing that excites me. So I’ll keep working at in..In the meantime I’m also editing a piece and dragging my heels with that as well. I’m not sure why.. Of my….whine, whine, whine..I just need to settle down and do it..

    Best of luck with your edits, Jennifer..
    I imagine since you have small kids it’s a very good thing to be able to write anywhere!!!

    1. Def advvantageous with small kids at home, Laura. Also great that I can tune them out!

      I have polished some paragraphs for month unitll I am finally satisfied, and then decide to scrap them in the end because I don’t think they add/move the story. Oh well, at least I get practice.
      Sometimes it’s hard getting started, but once it’s going it goes. YOu’ll get there, sooner than later I am certain!

  4. I can’t do it either. I have not (and gave up trying) ever read my printed ms straight through without marking it up. I stop every few lines and write something or rewrite something. I wish I could program myself to do things a certain way that makes sense, but I can’t and I hate me most of the time because I can’t. I must learn instead to go with what does work with me and hope for the best.

    1. Sometimes I get hung up on these ridiculous notions of what I should be as well, Tricia.
      When I complained to my mom about how I worked, she told me it was good I was not too rigid. However, I do want to move and progress. All that to say, it’s good to be flexible, but there is also a time for kicking onself in the behind.

  5. mine for editing has and always will be I suppse the double think. You know the one– I write and then change the sentence and then rewrite a bit more and then go back and redo.

  6. I suppose I’ll have more to add to this conversation after I start reading my draft on Monday. Right now, I have a plan – but we’ll see how that actually plays out. I’m going to try to do things systematically, but…we’ll see! šŸ™‚

  7. I do my first read off of paper, pen in hand. I can jot notes or circle things that bug me, but no actual re-writing. I focus on storyline inconsistencies or plot holes, etc, although yes, cringe-worthy phrases/paragraphs get marked up.

    Starting the process this way helps me keep focused on the bigger picture–the story I want to tell. Time for nitpicking comes later.

    “Do you make a plan, or do you wing it?”

    I laughed really hard at this–I have a pyscho post outlining the intense novel-editing procedure I used two novels ago. I admit I have scaled it down a bit–I’m a better writer now. šŸ™‚ I’ll post the link, just in case you interested or someone finds it helpful:

  8. I think reading through the manuscript is crucial sometimes. I’ve just spent about four hours reading the first 39,000 words of my novel and making minor alterations. A lot of it seems better, but there’s always small things that can be done – for instance, making dialogue move better.

    All the best with your book.

  9. The only thing that halts the editing process is the fact that I loathe the editing process. I’m far too critical of my writing to honestly assess a manuscript. It’s a constant struggle.

    1. Vanyieck, it’s all part of the learning process. Editing was and is for me something that I had to teach myself. The prose came naturally – that doesn’t mean that I haven’t learnt or improved! I know some writers for whom the editing part came easily to them. Editing was a whole new thing for me. What helped me was breaking down the process. A few minutes ago I wrote in my notebook while I was editing: one of very last steps for me will be to examine my paragraphing. I wish you all the best with this!

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