Well, today I finished the second draft of The Nexus.
It was an interesting experience, editing 75,000 words of my own writing that I wrote four months ago or more. I’m not even sure what to say about it.
Sometimes I surprised myself. I forgot about things I wrote half a year ago, and was pleased when I came across them. But in other cases — several other cases — I read a passage and thought, What the hell is that supposed to mean?
The trouble with writing sometimes is that, in my head, I know exactly what’s going on in the story. I know what the characters are thinking, I know why they’re doing what they’re doing. Or sometimes I just know what I need them to do for the plot to work out, or the dramatic tension, or whatever. But when I’m in a frenzy of writing, just trying to get all my thoughts on paper before they fly away to the ether and are lost forever, I don’t always communicate it properly into the work.
So then going back in editing, I find scenes where lots of action happens, but it’s not always clear why. But that’s why we have second drafts. Now I can go in, see that the character motivation is lacking, and add in some dialogue or a new scene to help explain it.
And sometimes it’s weird how obvious is seems that something more needs to be added. I was about halfway through editing the novel and going to bed one night last week — trying to do so early so I could get up early to go skiing — and my thoughts turned to the novel and the editing and what I needed to do to fix some problems that I could see clearly now. And I realized there just needed to be this whole extra scene between two of the characters.
And then of course I couldn’t sleep because I was worried if I did I would lose everything I had just thought of — sentences and arcs going through my head — so I got up, turned on the light, and wrote two whole pages to stick in the middle of the novel.
And then I slept just fine.
Sometimes, it’s that easy. But sometimes, I’ll be reading through a few chapters, make a few changes to sentence structure and the like, think it’s going really well, and then two hours later realize that I’ve been too easy on myself. That some scenes need severe changing. That the thought of, something doesn’t sound quite right, but it’s pretty good, I don’t want to think very hard about how to fix it, just isn’t acceptable. So I go back and re-edit those chapters and it takes me twice as long but it’s four times better for the effort.
It can be really hard, though. I’m too close to the work. I wonder if the pacing is good, or if it’s too fast. I wonder if it’s clear enough, or if maybe I’m being too obvious. Am I giving the reader enough credit, or too much? I’m interested in the characters — but will everyone be? When I got to the end and read some of the last, climactic, emotional scenes, I felt a shiver go through me. The writing can’t be that good — was that just me reacting to what I know I intend to have written? Or will others actually have an emotional response to what I write?
I don’t know. I can’t know.
Which, I guess, is what we have editors for.