Editing? Sure, I’ll Take Another Paper Cut to the Eye Ball. But…

Reality

Reality (Photo credit: Beatnic)

Let’s talk about editing for a moment. You know, that thing new writers think is a slam dunk. Wham-bam thank you Mam and look at my shiny, new book! I’ll be so great the first time around,  I’ll just do a quick spell check and be on my merry way, all the way to the bank, with my big, fat check in hand. Move over, Stephen King!

Now back to reality. Editing is a joy for some writers, but then there are the rest of us—the tired, weary-eyed writers who open their computers and reluctantly set out to edit. But that’s not to say it’s all bad.

When I started writing my first novel, I did a lot of reading up on the ol’ editing process. Yes, yes, that joyful middle ground we writers wade in for what feels like an eternity. I read some really great books on the subject, and I also read many forums where other writers shared their experiences. Some paint editing out to look like a writer’s purgatory of sorts, and some jump for joy at the opportunity to edit. As for me, before I even finished my novel, I knew damn well that editing wasn’t going to be a fun roll in the hay. I knew it was going to be hard work, and a ton of it. I went in eyes wide open and totally aware of my lack of brilliance. I would need to edit—and edit I did.

Now, for what I didn’t know: I didn’t know that editing wasn’t just editing. Sure, I thought it required going through your work with a fine-tooth comb, but what I didn’t realize was that editing is really re-writing. The reality that you’re going to re-write your entire book—over and over and over—kind of hits you like a sack of really big, really pissed off potatoes. That’s right, young people and new writers, editing means re-writing, and then, once you’ve re-written your novel to near perfection—whether that be 5 times or 25—the simplistic editing comes in: spell checks, grammar checks, polishing. This might sound insane (I know it did to me at first) but there’s a reason for the madness. Writing your book several times isn’t something you do just to prove to the world that you’re willing to slave away for your art. Nope. It serves a valuable purpose. But if you just need a pat on the back for trying so hard, go ahead and ask someone to do that for you.

Let’s use my first novel as an example: it was a whopping 238,000 words. Needless to say my book required massive amounts of editing, and guess what? I’m still editing the beast. It was when I finished it, when those blissful words were written: “The End” (actually, I didn’t really write “The End,” but just go with it—I’m trying to be dramatic here), that the amount of work still ahead became clear. Sure, I had this novel that I loved and was proud of, but good God, if it wasn’t the most pitiful thing I’d ever read. And that’s the most important thing to remember about editing: everyone’s first draft is horrible  Absolutely, stinking, horrible. No one is immune to it, and if you think you are—because you’re that one in a million writer—watch out, ’cause your book is probably the biggest stinker of them all. This profession requires humility, so remember not to get too big for your britches, grasshopper.

Now for the really cool thing about editing. Yeah, yeah, it’s a heavy load of work and it’s not always easy to do, but something really amazing happens in the process. When you finish your first draft and put that sucker away for a while, you’ll go back later and read it straight through, and then the pissed off potatoes come out to play. Abusive buggers, they are. You read your novel and realize that it’s bad. Real, real bad. Then you beat yourself up for a while, eat mass quantities of processed garbage, tell yourself you’re a hack—do whatever you have to, and you will have to do something to ease the pain of reality. But after that, when you’ve come back to reality and get to work again, that, my dear readers, is when the clouds start to part and the silver lining appears. That’s when you find out that something very special happened to you in the process of writing your first (shitty) draft: you became a better writer. Now you get down to editing (rewriting) that trashy manuscript, and as sure as the sun comes up, you’ll see something amazing happen to your novel: every sentence you restructure and every word you replace will be far better than the last. You’ll be amazed by how much your writing will have improved between the time you wrote page 1 and edited page 1.

I’m into the third re-write of my book, and while there are days when I just want to work on a new story with new characters and new plots, I have to admit that I enjoy the simple act of fixing my work, of replacing poorly written material with better material. Every rewrite I do will render a far better book, and I’ll be a far better writer for it.

So, for anyone out there who’s embarking on the editing journey: fear not, and don’t get discouraged. It’s a long, bumpy road, but it’s the best learning tool in the box. Nothing will improve your writing like editing will.

© 2013 Sloane Kady

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Time to Give a Little Shout-Out.

English: CMOS 16 cover image.

English: CMOS 16 cover image. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’re like me, you’ve read more books on writing and grammar than you can shake a stick at. While I adore my books, and I’ve yet to read a single one that hasn’t left me with at least one useful tidbit, I have found myself frustrated by the number of books I’ve had to accumulate to get a well-rounded source of information. And that’s not considering the internet and all it has to offer—of which I am a fan. But still, that’s a whole lot of books on my shelves and a whole lot of bookmarked pages in my computer, so I was left asking the question: where can I find a one-stop-shop book for writers?

After much research, I think I’ve found my absolute favorite book. It’s not exciting—unless you’re like me and eat up grammar like a starved, rabid beast—but it offers a wealth of knowledge and is simplistic enough for most readers.  Do be aware that this isn’t an instructional book on outlining,  plotting, character building, etc.  It’s a hefty manual for all those who work with words, and if you’ve ever found yourself debating the rules of grammar, this will finalize any questions you have.

It’s the Chicago Manual of Style: sixteenth edition.

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_9?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=chicago+manual+of+style&sprefix=chicago+m%2Caps%2C178

If you’re looking for personal, one-on-one instruction, look elsewhere. But if you’re in need of a book that covers nearly every aspect of writing, look no further. Also, I’m not affiliated with this book in any way. I’m just a fan and happier writer because of it.

© 2013 Sloane Kady

Don’t Pop the Clutch on Your Writing.

English: Diagram of a Manual gear layout (4-sp...

English: Diagram of a Manual gear layout (4-speed). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you ever started and finished a project without realizing how hard it was meant to be? Maybe you did a fantastic job, or at least got the job done, but when it came time for a subsequent attempt at the same activity, you did poorly because, in the interim, you realized that that activity (whatever it might be) was meant to be damn difficult to begin with. . .only you were too naive to know it.

When I was 15-years-old I was taken into a large parking lot to learn how to drive a manual transmission. I’d never driven a stick-shift, but being the confident teenager I was, I didn’t walk (or drive) into the situation with preconceived notions about the difficulty of maneuvering a stick shift. When we’re that age, we think we can do anything, and while we were usually wrong, I sure wasn’t. At least not that night.

I got behind the wheel, my parent was fastened in next to me, babbling about “not popping the clutch.” Over and over, I heard, “Don’t pop the clutch.” “Now, you’re going to pop the clutch, so don’t get scared when you do, but try not to pop it.” “Just don’t pop the clutch!” I had no idea what this meant, and quite honestly, I didn’t pay much attention to it. Being clueless really helped, because I didn’t know how hard not popping the damn clutch was supposed to be. I listened to everything else, though: how to change gears, how and when to step on the pedals, and within minutes, I was driving that stick shift like a pro. And guess what? I never popped the clutch. The evening went on and I continued to drive flawlessly, but unfortunately my parent wasn’t very pleased with the situation. Apparently I was supposed to pop the clutch. I had to pop the clutch so I would know what it felt like. This made no sense to me, but hey, who was I to question the clutch? That’s when I was ordered to pop the it, and still having no idea what that meant or how to make it happen, I had to ask how to do it.

To make a very long story short, I did as I was told and popped the clutch. Our necks went lurching forward; a one-vehicle game of bumper cars. Can you guess what happened next? Well, I’ll tell you—I couldn’t stop popping the damn clutch. Every attempt at changing gears failed, and the rest of the evening was dedicated to giving everyone in the car a mild case of whiplash.

To this day, 17 years later—and after several more failed attempts at mastering a manual—I can’t drive a stick. I pop the damn clutch every single damn time. Needless to say I was a little resentful about being made to perform poorly when I had been doing so well. It’s a bit like teaching your slugger of a son to hit pisser ground-balls  when he keeps nailing homers out of the park. That night, had I been allowed to do well and get comfortable with a stick-shift, I may have thought nothing of popping the clutch, whenever that time came—by happenstance.

Now, what does this have to do with writing? I think it’s got everything to do with writing. And here’s why. . .

When I decided to write a novel, I had a very basic idea in my head, like many of us do: I’ll just write a book. I was a lover of books and a very creative person, but that’s all I had: an idea, passion, and wishful thinking. It took a while for my story to come to me. You know, the nuts and bolts. And as cheesy as it may sound, it was while on the cusp of sleep that it hit me. BAM! WHAMMO! There it was, my great premise, and it hadn’t taken months—just weeks. Next was the outlining process. I fleshed everything out: characters, locations, characteristics, backgrounds, historical aspects, etc. Then came fleshing out the plot. I spent months and months creating an outline, detailing each chapter segment as much as possible. I guess you could say I had the entire book written before I ever opened my computer. Then it was show time. I wrote the damn thing—all of it—in its entirety. That part took me two years. Yes, that’s right…two whole years. But if I’m being honest, I have several other responsibilities, and I was never in a position to write all day, every day.

When I finished my book, I had a 238,000 word honker on my hands. It took a lot of time, a lot of work, and a lot of dedication, but there it was, in all of its bloated glory. What a magnificent feeling that was! Now I’m in the editing phase. Yes-yes, that odd middle ground where you’ve completed your book only to realize how far you are from completion. It’s a bitch.

Before I get ahead of myself, let me back up a bit. When I set out on this journey, I didn’t just pull out my quill & parchment and go to town. Nope. I read and studied and read and studied, and when I was done with that, I read some more. I bought and read so many books on writing that I acquired quite an extensive library. I also spent so much time researching online, educating myself, and freshening up on what I had forgotten since school, I’m still surprised when I find a new site I’ve never read. In all the time that I read and studied and wrote my heart out, there’s one thing I didn’t do. I didn’t take the time to read the plethora of sites and books that tell you how difficult it is to write a book. I don’t mean how difficult it is to get published, because that’s a well known fact. But I mean all those sites that drive home how astoundingly difficult it is to simply open a computer and write—to be creative. I am an absolute realist at heart, and at times I barely mustered up the courage to keep going, but if I had bombarded myself with too many words of discouragement about how most of us can’t even hack the writing process, I would have crumbled. I couldn’t risk the discouragement.

So, I wrote my book, and I filtered everything else out. It wasn’t until I completed my first draft that I found myself open to reading the rest of the discouraging information out there—and thank God I waited. See, that’s the thing: I was never scared, but I was doubtful of my abilities. But I wasn’t weighed down with the same doubts and fears that plague some writers. The whole point is: I didn’t know how hard what I was doing was supposed to be. Was it hard? Absolutely. But was it impossible? Absolutely not. But the key was: I got to find out on my own that this process is a very time consuming, all encompassing one, and it must be a calling you’re passionate about. But I didn’t go in with shaky knees and sweaty palms. Had I been saddled with such words of discouragement before ever writing, those discouraging words might have been my writing clutch, my “you never let me spread my wings and try before knocking me down” clutch. As people say, ignorance is bliss, and so is setting out on your dream without everyone in the white pages telling you how impossibly difficult each step is going to be. Let’s face it, it’s not like all us writers don’t end up in the same boat. We all realize how hard this gig is, we all find ourselves discouraged, but does driving home how hard it is produce better writers? Does being discouraged before you give something a shot increase your likelihood of success? No! Just imagine if thousands of people had told Vincent van Gogh how impossible painting was, and how most people can’t master it. Clearly he had a stroke of low self-esteem, and he might have succumb to such negativity. But that didn’t happen. He probably didn’t think or over analyze. He just painted.

The most ridiculous thing about the boring stick-shift story is why things wound up the way they did. A few years after that night, I was teasing my parent about my inability to drive a stick, and that’s when I was finally told why I was made to pop the clutch. Come to find out, poppin’ the ol’ clutch had been a particularly nasty habit for my parent’s, and it took years to conquer this. When, at 15-years-old, I was able to handle the stick shift without encountering the same problems, my parent thought it was necessary to point out a potential hiccup that, in reality, was their problem—not mine. Pretty silly thinking, eh?

So, moral of the story is: if your deepest desire is to write a book, or to pursue any other difficult calling, try not to focus on how incredibly arduous everyone says it is, because you never know if you will encounter the same troubles everyone else has. Trust me, you’ll encounter troubles on your own, so why walk into any situation with the preconceived notion that what’s hard for others will be just as hard for you? Yes, have respect for the undertaking, but dive in head first, write your heart out, and when it’s all said and done, you’ll know where you excelled and where you fell short, but it won’t be because you were programmed to do so.

I wrote a novel, and one that I’m proud of. It wasn’t, and still isn’t, perfect because perfection is unattainable. But I did something that many people talk about doing but never actually do. I think my secret was that I wasn’t aware of how hard it was supposed to be, or what an impossible task I was taking on. I didn’t pop the clutch on my writing, and I surrounded myself with people who said, “Hell yes, you can write a book. That’s amazing! Now get to work!” No one told me I couldn’t do it, and no one told me how many ways I could fail before I even started.

Don’t pop the damn clutch on anything in life.

Don’t pop the damn clutch on your writing.

Just don’t pop the damn clutch!

© 2013 Sloane Kady

A Nod to You, Influenza.

Standard TEM version

Standard TEM version (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today was meant to be a productive day. You know, lot’s of writing and just generally being amazing, until I read back what I write and realize I’m merely human, and that my writing’s capable of…well…sucking. But none of that happened. It was far more awesome than that!

Today was dedicated to being sick and having the kind of lower back pain that could take down a Rhino. Everyone in our house is sick: husband, kids. . .hell, if we had a dog it would’ve come down with an aggressive case of explosive bowels, I just know it. Luckily there’s no dog, though, and no explosive bowels—as of yet—but there’s always time for that to kick in. And why not invite all of Influenza’s friends to the party? For now, there’s lots of sniffling, nose blowing, coughing, and even puking. Our floor looks like a Kleenex minefield. Kleenex versus snot: the snot won; heavyweight contender of the world!

On the happy end of the flu-stick, I had time to lounge around and watch a little boob-tube. Even watched a bit of Hollywood gold. You know, the Blockbuster hits that require you throw out your ability to reason and use logic. No tapping into the ol’ grey matter today. Nope-nope-nope. I guess it’s all well and good, because I’d hate to see the drivel I would have produced while under the influence of SICK.

Here’s to wishing my fellow writers a productive day. As for me, I’ve got an episode of The Walking Dead to watch. Talk about life depicting art. If the producers need some extras, my family is ready to go. Green and pasty—no makeup required.

© 2013 Sloane Kady

There is Nothing to Writing…

writing

Throughout the writing process, particularly while writing an emotionally charged scene or disturbing subject matter, I’m reminded of these very accurate and profound words by Ernest Hemingway. There’s likely not one writer out there who can’t relate to this. My first novel definitely called for some blood, sweat, and tears.

Family Secrets…

book snippet

When skeletons lurk in every closet and buried memories are too chilling to unearth, it may take a living nightmare to push a victim into the terrifying light of discovery. This family has secrets so disturbing, they might just prove deadly.

Keep an eye out for Sloane Kady’s new novel. Release date to come. 

© 2013 Sloane Kady