Learning to Love to My Inner Editor
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few years of writing fiction, it’s that writing isn’t simply about putting one word after the next. Writing is a process. A long and complicated process for most fiction writers, and one that we all do differently.
For me, the writing process has distinct stages, and as I’m becoming more experienced at my craft, I’m finding that there are more stages than I initially thought. If you’d asked me how I did it when I first started out, I’d have said, “I write it, then send it.” Ha! The naivety! Okay, I’m being a bit disingenuous there—I would proof read my work as well, before sending it.
But gradually, the write-and-click-send turned into a longer, multi-stage process. The whole exercise has become drawn out as new elements have been added. This has resulted in me understanding the craft of writing far better than I used to, which has been in turn, I hope, reflected in the quality of my writing.
What are the stages? Typically, if the WIP (work in progress) is a novel or a novella, my process might go something like this:
- Germ of an idea
- Develop into a workable premise – when A happens, character does B
- Move to a story outline
- Re-interpret outline in Hero’s Journey format – yes, I do use the Hero’s Journey model for plotting my stories. I’d be interested to hear if other writers also use it for erotica…
- Character development. (The order of this might suggest that my writing is mainly plot-driven and to a certain extent it is – but character development actually goes on in parallel to outlining.)
- Chapter breakdown – a detailed summary of what happens in each chapter. This stage will run to many pages and this is the actual act of creation as far as I’m concerned.
- Writing the first draft – using the chapter breakdown as my roadmap. This is when I get to have fun with words.
- Then the agony begins – the editing. I can’t even talk about my editing process because it’s an activity I hate so much. All that work in the earlier stages – it has one, single purpose – to keep editing after the event to a minimum. I rarely make plot alterations at this point – that’s the point of that heavy burden of plotting in advance. But even so, words gotta be edited.
- Sending out to my gorgeous and treasured beta readers.
- Responding to and making amendments in line with their comments. (Sometimes!)
- Hit SEND!
Ah – if you remember back to the dim and distant title of this post, I alluded to learning to love my inner editor, didn’t I?
Right – up until recently I didn’t even realise I had an inner editor. I hate the editing process so much that the poor creature was probably in hiding. Curled up into a little ball somewhere in the outer reaches of my brain. But over the last couple of months, as I’ve been writing, this shy creature has started to show herself – and thank God she has!
If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you might have seen the odd post about my progress on the current WIP – Alchemy. It’s an epic story that I’ll be serialising over the course of 2015. My magnum opus, if you like. And you may have spotted the occasional tweet in which I admit to deleting huge swathes (by which I mean a couple of thousand words at a sweep) that I’ve written the day before. Ruthlessly cut. Delete button mayhem. More brutal than the Texas chainsaw massacre…
How could I do this to my work? How? This is the question I’ve been asking myself, because it’s a pretty new departure for me. And I can put it down to one thing. The emergence of my inner editor into the light of day. She has the guts to do what I can’t. She can sniff out a plot twist gone awry, a character behaving, well, out of character. And she’s not having any of it.
So she and I have gone pruning. And in every case, she’s been right. It might set me back a day on my schedule but the new words that replace the victims of the purge are invariably better – the right words that should have been there in the first place. And this is all happening during the execution of the first draft. When I’m still playful and optimistic about the story. Hell – I couldn’t hack it during the editing stage, the period, for me at least, of doom and gloom. So far, though, she’s got her timing absolutely right.
Damn! Got to love her!
But what does it all mean? It means that, as a writer, I’m growing. I’m finally learning my craft. And it’s a process I know won’t stop until the day I finally stop writing. And that won’t be for a long time yet.