Ever feel like someone hijacked your brain and wrote crap into your manuscript when you weren’t looking? Well, that’s me at the moment.
Let me explain. I’ve been working on Wolf’s Bane, the sequel to The Purple Morrow for two years. It’s been through numerous rewrites, about 3-4 different rounds of beta-reads and hours upon hours of editing. Why so much work? At over 102K it’s the longest and most complex book I’ve ever written, and it’s also my first sequel. There are so many moving parts to the story that I wanted to make sure that everything fit as well as read great. So when I completed the last batch of corrections in June, I thought I had the thing in the bag. I dotted the last i and crossed the last t and then put it aside to look for an editor.
Well, a few months later, I found a proof-reader so I decided to prepare a chapter or two so he could do a sample edit, when I almost had a heart attack.
Agape, I stared at the computer. Then I stared harder. “No, no, no,” I thought, “this is some cruel joke. Somebody must be messing with me.” But that wasn’t the case.
As I reread the prologue, I cringed. Physically, like in movies. Why hadn’t I seen all these mistakes before? Why had I left in all that exposition? The over-writing? I mean, who needs four bloody adjectives in a row?
I set to rewriting, immediately. I couldn’t stand it. There was no way I was going to let that mess stare me in the face without doing anything about it. I finished the rewrite and sent it and the first chapter off for the sample edit, feeling good about the changes. I was happy when the proof-reader gave positive feedback, which seemed to confirm that the rewrite was needed. But then I had to consider that other 100K words needed to be reread. And revised. Again.
I got to work. I’m about halfway through and I’m still shocked at what I feel I have to revise.
So why am I sharing this? Because I think it proves the point that our writing is always in a state of evolution. What was good enough of us one day just won’t be down the line. We are constantly learning and trying new things, so it’s only natural that we will look back on our older work and sometimes feel, yes, even embarrassed.
I admit I get frustrated about that. And worried. If I notice the difference compared to my older works then others might too. But then, think about it: the writers, film-makers and visual artists we revere didn’t come out of the gate at the top of their games, did they? No, they started at a certain point and improved as they matured and gained experience. I bet more than a few of them looked back with a sort of shock and dismay at their earlier projects as well.
So, I guess we can all give ourselves a break. Right?
This time around, I actually feel as though my manuscript is finally on the right track. I feel a little giddy with excitement as I sit down to figure out which sections to take out or how to rewrite them. Cutting out bad writing and replacing it with something infinitely better is so satisfying. And, now that I’m looking back on the story with a better understanding of the characters, I find it easier to express certain ideas, aspects of their personalities, and motivations that I couldn’t before. Over all, what started as an almost traumatic experience is actually turning out for the better. I like to think that deep down I knew the story wasn’t ready and that instinct urged me to take one last look at it. Thank goodness! If all goes well, I hope Bane with be published in the fall. 🙂
How about you? What are your thoughts on when your manuscript is ready for the final edit? Have you been horrified to look back on your old work and how did you cope?