Wednesday, April 14, 2010
I Have Been Schooled
A few days ago, I was whining to one of my MFA mentors about how tedious editing is and how it makes me feel incompetent as a writer. Because, I mean, what writer doesn't feel flush with excitement and creativity as they write a first draft? Doesn't it feel as if it flows, perfect in form and content, from your imagination, out your fingers, and onto the page?
And then you go back and read it in the light of day and you realize it clearly needs work. Oh, sure, that seed is there - that awesome story, magical as it was when you were writing it - but it's not nearly as perfect as you thought when you wrote it. Now is the time for editing and revision.
So, "if only I could write the perfect novel/screenplay, etc. the first time thru so I wouldn't have to slog thru the edits..." I lamented to my mentor.
And then I got an earful. This was her sage opinion:
"The point I'm trying to make is if anyone tells you they write genius right off the bat, they're full of crap, because crap is most likely what you get the first time out. Editing IS hard, but that's where the real writing proves itself - as does the real writer. I constantly edit - over and over again - as I write, with each paragraph, each scene, with each draft. I finish it and I edit again. When I write a first draft, I'm kinda in a fog; there's a scene in my head I'm playing out on the blank screen, and I don't come out of it until it's finished (I call it "verbal vomit"). Only when I can sit back and take an objective look do I get to really craft the thing, and that's the part that's most challenging. It's like a big lump of clay I'm shaping, carving out the details.
So you're not practicing editing; editing is part of the process. All the world's greatest writers edit and have editors. That's what makes the world's greatest writers. Knowing what to add and detract is an art unto itself, and knowing that perfection is a journey and not a destination will keep us working toward it."
Isn't that great? I felt like a big baby after I read it. I mean, in my writer's gut I already knew all of that, I was just having a bad day and her words were just the kick in the butt I needed. Since then I have sucked it up and I am working determinedly at editing my novel!
As writers, who do you turn to for a kick in the butt when your confidence is low?
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