Editing. It’s exciting to reach this stage. It means my “work in progress” is finished, my word count goal accomplished. So why does the word make me take a step back? Maybe it’s because I’ve just spent countless hours transferring ideas, plot lines, character descriptions, and emotional dilemmas from my head onto paper, and now I have to review all of it with an objective eye to delete, cut, and streamline everything I’ve worked so hard to create. It’s like reaching the summit only to realize another mountain twice as tall is waiting to be climbed.
I’m not one to shy away from a challenge, so I take a deep breath, retie my boots, and trudge ahead with my focus on the next task. Along the way I discover dozens of foot paths I didn’t see before, each one representing a different dialogue, a different side-plot, a different scene. Eventually they will lead to the same end, but I’m reluctant to leave my clear-cut trail, the one leading so directly to the final chapter. What will happen if I take one of these diversions, I wonder. Will I lose sight of my ultimate goal? Is my manuscript at risk of being completely overhauled?
There’s a good chance that my novel will be that much better if I follow an alternate route. Intellectually I know that and at the same time, I feel “locked-in” to what I’ve got. If I change X, I have to change Y, and then Z needs to be smoothed out. As I follow the thought farther, I realize, hey, why stick to the paths I can see?
Now I need a bulldozer.
Oh, boy, one “simple tweak” has turned into a massive reconstruction. This catastrophic mode of thinking happens all before I take even one step. Checking myself, I wonder, what’s so bad about editing? It’s silly to be defeated without even starting. I may find an undiscovered trail leading to a bright oasis. Or I may learn something about my character I never knew before. Editing is an invaluable journey. Hey, now I’m getting excited again.
Phew. Back to work.
I wonder how others cope with facing the challenges of editing. Please do share.