I was talking to someone the other day about editing as I am in the middle of doing a final edit on my Irish novel. I want to shout with joy, finally the end is at sight. It’s gone through many many drafts. They wanted to know– just when do I start my editing? I had to give pause and think back. I try not to until the very end.
All first drafts are the stolen joy ride, the passionate encounter with a new lover, its not the time to expect perfection, or a sense of finality from a first draft. It is mental vomit. It has to come out of you with force. It is just the blueprint for your story and meant to be erased, rearranged, played with, until you get to the heart of your dreams and then you can sit down to the finer points of editing, discovering that errant comma, finding a better word for errant, that sort of thing.
The first draft is where many writers stall. So much work, so much of yourself has gone into your first draft and the result is not what you envisioned. What did you see as you were writing? When I write, it is a film in my head, going too fast for my fingers to catch up and capture all the details on the paper. Characters invade my dreams, they argue with me, they laugh at me. I ignore it all and write as fast as my fingers will let me type, but it is not fast enough. But that’s okay in first draft. I have time to linger and ponder later on.
It is very daunting to realize that here are some 200 odd pages when typing that needs more solid hard work when the end feels so wonderful! A large stamp slamming down on white paper, the end! Firm, final, and satisfying, but, and this is something that I wish I had known earlier, the rewriting is just as much fun, just as exhilarating. Hard work is ahead, but this is what a writer does. Everyone has a different method; I’d be interested in hearing yours.
We are creators of worlds, we cross out sentences, even whole chapters, characters get red inked into oblivion, we fine tune until the house of our novel is built, sentence by sentence, chapter by chapter, character by character. There is great joy in this process. It is no longer writing at roller coaster speed, but rather we are in an open car gliding through the countryside, and we can take time to feel the sun on our faces, the wind in our hair, and hear the sheep bleating in the fields above us.