A Little Note on Editing … and on Giving Up

First off, as I write, it’s 2:41 on Christmas morning, so happy whatever holiday you celebrate on or around this date … and if you celebrate none of them, then just have a great day anyway.

I plan to spend my Christmas day with packing my bags to go home, and editing a novel.  Oh, and delicious food might figure in there somewhere.
Such a party animal.

At any rate, quick blog post because it’s been a few days.

So, I’m editing a novel.  One that I wrote.  I last worked on this novel about four months ago now – beginning of September was when I put the hard copy manuscript down.

Or rather, I shoved it into a corner and then buried it under other things, like another manuscript.  I had finished.  Done.  It wasn’t ever going to be published.  The problems were too big.  I would take what I learned and move on.  No shame in that – it would be the third manuscript to get that treatment.  The first I began when I was 11, and … we don’t talk about it anymore.  The second I began when I was sixteen, and although the characters were excellent (many people were disappointed when I gave it up), it was a 75,000 word novel with about 10,000 words of actual plot in it.  The rest was … just character development.  Neither of these stories I regret giving up.
I thought this novel would be the same.  It had plot holes you could have driven a procession of camels, acrobats, and a Mariarchi band with elephants for trumpeters through.  I had an entire character (and character arc) who would need to be scrapped and rewritten.  About half of it needed to be entirely rearranged, whole arcs and sections rewritten.  Characters needed to be removed.  Other characters needed more screen time.  And at the end of that, I still wasn’t sure if it’d be any good, anyway.  It just seemed like there were too many things to fix, and too many that could go wrong.

Of course, as I said, I picked this novel back up.  I still shudder when I look at all the work that needs doing.  I have about three lists sitting here from when I was in the process of figuring exactly which angle to come at all the problems from, and which problems to tackle first.  I’ve deliberately moved excising and rewriting a main character to about halfway down the list – I should probably do it first, but I feel like I need to warm up to it – like stretching before an exercise.  I’m going to pull a writing muscle if I try attacking this beast cold.
But then, tomorrow, I might feel like I need to just dive in, like that first moment in the shower when you turn on the water and get blasted by the freezing water until the pipes are clean and it heats up to a reasonable temperature.  I hope I do.  It would be nice to get that out of the way.  Stop me cringing every time I read a scene with that character in it.

Thing is, I now have two other manuscripts, with far less work to salvage them into something readable.  Both need the beginnings rewritten, sure, but it’s not the huge epic disaster that this novel is.  So, why didn’t I decide to leave this one lost?  Chalk it up to experience and let it go?

Well … put simply, I loved the other characters too damn much.  There is a trio of characters in this book that just make me so gleeful whenever they get together.  Character 1 takes himself too seriously, Character 2 takes Character 1 too seriously, and Character 3 doesn’t take anything seriously at all.  They’re all quite smart and articulate characters, too, so whenever I get any combo of them in a conversation together, things just go right.  And I can’t take them out of their story context.  They just wouldn’t be the same, and they wouldn’t be themselves.  It’d be a crime.

And so, the story is getting rewritten, chopped up, glued together, cannibalised and reconstructed.  Purely and simply for the sake of these three characters I couldn’t bear to let go.

This is why I recommend never burning bridges – don’t delete that story file, even if you’re certain it’s the worst thing in the universe.  The things you loved about that story to begin with may demand that you bring them back.

Except for that story I started when I was 11.  I’m very glad I lost the file for that one.
Nobody tell me they’ve found it.  It’s the holidays, for goodness’ sake.

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