I think I’ve discovered my problem with editing. I always thought I was just lazy, each time I found myself resisting the necessary process of honing and polishing my work. After all, serious writers spend months and years editing and I can hardly bring myself to do a few days before I’m ready to start writing a new novel from scratch. I’m clearly not a serious writer, just a housewife with delusions.
But maybe it isn’t that at all (well, perhaps the delusions bit is true).
I think the problem is to do with visible progress.
When you write a first draft you can watch the word count growing, the number of chapters increasing. Characters develop and do crazy things, taking your carefully crafted outline in a new and unexpected direction. It creates a buzz, fills you with euphoria. It’s like going for a run, when everything is working properly and you feel like you could fly if only you knew how.
With editing there is no way to track progress. Word count, if anything, goes down. Chapters need to be moved, re-numbered, scrapped. And who’s to say the chapter you’ve just spent three hours rewriting is actually any better? It’s more akin to doing housework: five hours’ of effort and what is there to show for it, particularly after the kids have been home five minutes.
I get confused, too, with what I’m actually doing. Am I checking for readability? Grammar? Continuity errors? If I’ve spotted a character gap do I go fix that, trying to find the right place to add in extra scenes or sentences that will make the character work, or do I stick with my linear progression through the novel?
I’m not the most organised person and I find it hard keeping track of what needs changing, particularly when I only work on it two days a week, with two or three days of childcare in between. (There’s nothing like 57 verses of Wheels on the Bus to dam your creative flow.)
I could do with a tool that magically highlights everything written about one character in green, another in red. All adverbs could be in blue, all passive tense in orange. Clichés could be highlighted in flashing letters so you can pick them off one by one. Even better would be a tool that says ‘This bit’s great, this bit is pants, re-write it.’ (I know, now I’m just being silly.)
Thinking about it seriously though, there are probably thousands of writing programmes out that that might make me more organised. Maybe I should look for one. Or is that just another form of procrastination (like starting a new novel or short story) to take me away from the unavoidable hard slog of editing? I think I probably know the answer.
Still, if anyone knows of super-organising software that won’t kill my netbook, I’d love to hear about it.
P.S. Since writing this post (while out walking the dog, as usual) I have downloaded the free trial of Scrivener, which I have been meaning to do since completing Nanowrimo last November. So far I’m half an hour in to the two-hour tutorial and it does look as if it might be helpful, if only I can figure how to use it!
Anyone used it before?