Editing. The true craft of writing.

All writing is rewriting – Richard North Patterson

It’s been almost five years since I was told by my then-English teacher that when I finished the first draft of my current work in progress the true work would begin. I would then begin the craft of writing. At the time I sort of assumed she was just talking down to me, and more or less ignored her advice to rewrite. I took other writers’ advice, most notably that of Michael Stackpole given on the Secret’s Podcast and simply started thinking of a new book rather than trying to rewrite that first one right away. My first novel went back in my hard drive and I tried to forget all about it. When I finally did look back at the text I’d written, all 75,000 words of it, I was struck by how ugly and incomplete every piece of it was. I’d created a monstrous, horrible thing. Every writer had troubles starting out, or so I’m told. I never did manage to stomach editing it, and now it is lost in a crash I had since then.

Between the time my English teacher told me to edit I wrote about 450,000 more words in many different works, mostly in 3 complete novel-length works. For those uninitiated this means to me roughly 100,000 words each. I didn’t edit any of these new ones except for the oldest in any serious way until this summer. I was working on what might end up being my 5th full novel back in June but never could focus on it. Following attendance of the Write-By-The-Lake workshop in Madison Wisconsin I felt like I had enough chops and knowledge to finish the book with ease, and probably several others too. I haven’t done that yet. Instead I was convinced by my brothers to edit. Isn’t that funny? My plans are always reversed in practice, like some sort of perverse double-think.

Fast-forward to today.

Never have I been this close to finishing a novel that I can finally be proud of, a novel edited to the best of my ability. This novel is called White Curtain, but the name isn’t as pretentious as it sounds. It’s literal with a bit of fantasy meaning in it. It’s fantasy, perhaps the most ‘fantastic’ fantasy I’ve written yet, and centered on the concepts of Limyaael/Arin I Asolde, the fantasy ranter I could practically be considered a disciple of. I will return to typing in the edits I put on the hard-copy of White Curtain when I finish here. I feel as though I may finally be on my way to being half the writer many people who know me seem to think I am…

…And I still mocked that teacher who told me to edit just last week. The reason for that mockery is simple (and I’m not rude, I didn’t track her down to insult her or anything). I don’t believe her advice was quite right. The first book a writer writes won’t necessarily be good. Mine wasn’t, that’s for damn sure. In fact, my second novel is pretty much a stinker too, even after substantial editing. Only with the experience provided by the other 400,000 words I’ve written, as well as the many other lessons I’ve learned am I now able to feel confident in my editing ability. Only now can I truly live by the quote I put at the top of the this post.

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