Yes. I’m editing. Lydia’s Letters is undergoing massive reconstructive surgery. And it is painful. But it is also needed, very much so.

My super beta readers have come back to me with their constructive comments. Even so, I’ve been plagued with thoughts of how I can best fix this novel that’s been tormenting me for a decade!

The good thing is that it’s not all hard work. There are some easy changes, and they’re usually the ones when two or more (usually more) readers all say the same thing. In fact, I was lucky with Lydia’s Letters, because all of my friends had a problem with the ending…so, that won’t be hard to change. And, if I’m to be completely honest here, I wasn’t too happy with the ending, too. So…all good on that front.

But, the real challenge has to do with some main characters and the way they’re behaving (or misbehaving in their case)!

I am reminded of the following quote:

 

 “... The Book is more important than your plans for it. You have to go with what works for The Book ~ if your ideas appear hollow or forced when they are put on paper, chop them, erase them, pulverise them and start again. Don't whine when things are not going your way, because they are going the right way for The Book, which is more important. The show must go on, and so must The Book.” 
~E.A. Bucchianeri

 

(Am I whining? I hope not!)

When writing a novel, characters have their own way of appearing to me, of showing me who they really are and how they want to grow within the story. I have always trusted their voices, taken them at their word and have written them the way they’ve wanted to be written. But, sometimes, they do things that are just…well…not quite according to character.

Some may argue that I don’t know my characters well enough. Perhaps. I don’t think that is the case, but it is a possibility. I like to think that it’s only because it’s a first draft: we’re all getting to know each other in a friendly way. We’ve met out walking, or in a coffee shop, and we’re discussing general ideas. That’s how it feels like to me. With each chapter I write (always in the first draft), they’re unfolding, opening up, showing me a little more, telling me one more secret. And, I write it all down.

 

Still, as Ernest Hemingway very rightly said:

 

“The first draft of anything is shit.”

Ernest  Hemingway

 

But, as with every relationship, I get too involved, too obsessed and often miss things. My beta readers help me see these flaws clearer, because they’re not connected the way I am.

And so, the first edit begins.

This part of the relationship is where things start to get messy. I challenge my characters at this point, ask them why they would do something that isn’t really believable, or is wrong. You’d be surprised, but, they come up with pretty good answers.

And so, once again, I listen. But, this time, I push them a little, I confront them, and they come out with something that resonates at a deeper level and helps the writing grow. They explain that, yes, they acted out of character, but it’s only because of the pain they felt, or of the frustration or anger or...the list is long. They sometimes reproach me for not having believed in them enough. But it’s not true. I do trust them. And I show them this by cutting what is unnecessary, or filling out what was missing. Sometimes, that means a whole chapter...or two! But, more often than not, it means cutting out. And rearranging.

Stephen King’s famous bit from his book, ‘On Writing’ comes to mind here:

 

Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” 
~ 
Stephen King, On Writing

 

He’s right, of course!

This goes on and on, and with each edit, it does get easier, because barriers drop and I no longer have to ask them any questions – they answer willingly.

I am looking forward to that part.

But, I am not there yet. I am at the point of that second, deeper unfolding. The first edit. And, it isn’t always pleasant.

Still...I shall persist. I believe in this book and in my characters with my heart, and want to give them this chance to become what they were meant to be.

So, I shall leave you with one more quote, one that gives me courage to go on:

 

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit.” 
~ 
Richard Bach

 

And I ain't quitin'!

 

(The photo is of my desk this afternoon) 

Theeditingprocess

 

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