There’s an icon on my laptop that mocks me. Incessant in its blinking, a pencil scrolling across an open book as if the words can’t move from the head to the hand fast enough. Yet, once I stop typing, the scrolling ceases too. Even worse, when the graphic pauses, a red X covers the pencil. A damning reminder that I’m not writing. Not meeting my deadline. Not finishing my book. I hate that button.
Sometimes the pencil does fly furiously across the pages. I allow myself the freedom to simply write what comes to mind, whether the quality of work is worthwhile or not. Yet, more often than not, I’m as slow as if hunting and pecking the keys, editing as I go. Which is not a fun task but for some reason I can’t seem to resist.
There’s a bittersweet joke among authors that editing takes much longer than writing. And, even worse, the sense of accomplishment is way less. Almost non-existent. Like making a gourmet dinner that looks gorgeous and tastes fabulous. Then ruining the bliss by having to do a sink full of dishes after your belly is full and you’d rather just push away from the table, sleepy and sated. The end! Throw down your napkin and walk away. Relish the high of completion.
But, sadly no, the editing process doesn’t work that way. You have to read each and every sentence again. Easy things are like loading the dishwasher – looking for typos and adverbs and dangling participles. Doesn’t take very long and clears off the countertops quickly. You’ve made progress!
Tough decisions – running a sink full of sudsy water and tackling the pots and pans – require more time and effort. Does this scene move the story forward? Is the back story necessary? Does the protagonist’s behavior match the characterization you’ve created so far? You wash and wash but there is some satisfaction in seeing the drying rack filling up with squeaky clean dishes.
The worst is when you have to make the deep cuts. The burnt on baking sheets that need to soak but you can’t seem to stop picking at them with the scrubber because you just want to be done. Not come back in thirty minutes and start all over with fresh water and a dollop of soap to clean them. Thousands of words that no longer seem right. Or maybe need to be re-worked and moved to a different chapter to streamline the story. Days in the making that a single second of cut and paste, or even worse delete, make them seem like they never existed. Sleepless nights. Missed t-ball games. Ignored voice mails. All for nothing.
I guess I’m a glutton for punishment and try to edit while I write. Or maybe I’m just too lazy to do the dishes. In real life I’ll eat out of the pan if it saves me from washing utensils. I’ve been known to cover cookie sheets with aluminum foil that I just have to scrunch and toss before putting the pan back into the cabinet. Food never touched it directly – so it’s clean, right?
And, if I edit as I go, I’ll save time, right?
Nikki writes contemporary romantic thrillers and admits to a weakness for alpha males and bad boys, especially ones who can’t live without the strong women they love. She spends more time in her characters’ lives than her own. But, when she’s in the real world, her passions include reading, wine appreciating, running, and spending time with her husband and daughter. You can connect with her at http://www.nikkibelaire.com or http://www.facebook.com/NikkiBelaire