I’m currently in the midst of a pre-publication edit of A Sixth Sense Of Forever. Yeah, Boz’s story. He played prominent roles in Faerie and Golden as the friend who kept his cool in the midst of Nial’s and Colt’s chaotic adventures. So he’s got it coming and he gets it – over the top and then some.
In the course of this edit, given the current state of the world, the job market and everything, I keep thinking – what if we could edit our lives? Think of the sections you could go back and rewrite. You could take back the phrase “I quit” or you could say it instead of saying “I’ll accept that.” You could respond differently to a job review or rewind all the way back to college and major in something different. You could keep the one that got away or re-script a fight or nasty e-mail exchange with your spouse so that the words you can never take back get taken back. So wouldn’t it be great to get a shot at editing your life?
Well, there’s a problem with that. Like the old cliche about woman’s work, editing is never done. What book is ever the absolute best it can be in the mind of its greatest advocate and worst critic – the writer? If Shakespeare had another shot at Romeo and Juliet or if Margaret Mitchell could revise Gone With The Wind would they change anything? As a writer who knows how I’d answer that question, I’m betting they’d find a hundred or more things they’d revise in what legions of readers find to be great work. Because if you ask any author whether this book or that play is the absolute best it can be, the answer is always going to be – no, I can make it better.
With this edit of Sixth Sense I find that the big bones of the story stand up well. It’s the little details I’m revising….a word here, a phrase there, rewriting a description or changing a comparison. Mostly, as is generally the case, I find I can tighten up the language to make the story flow along faster and smoother. The numerous places where I can tighten dialogue, edit lines and revise scenes are likely products of my creative process. When I sit down to write something new, I make no effort to contain or control – I follow my muse where she leads. With the hindsight of editing, I can make muse’s meanderings make sense.
I suspect that all writers are prone to editing, but I don’t know if they’re as prone as I am. I never like to post anything or send it to anyone without looking at it one more time. If I got a call from an editor or agent tomorrow saying they’d read the posted free samples of Brotherly or Faerie and wanted to read the fulls, I’d make changes. If they said they’d read the fulls and needed a word copy to present to a board or to revise themselves – I’d still make changes. I expect that if they published the book and I passed it on a bookstore shelf somewhere I could leaf through it and yes, find things I’d like to change. I wonder if my favorite writers – Julia Quinn and Johanna Lindsey – pick up one of their old volumes, flip through it and think – Boy, I could do that so much better today.
The bottom line of the editing process is that as long as I’m growing and changing, as long as I’m working and improving my craft, then I’ll see changes I could make to improve any past project. If I didn’t see those changes it would mean I’d stopped growing and learning and improving. And that would be a very, very bad thing.
It’s too bad that we don’t get a chance to edit our real life stories to make them flow more smoothly. Maybe that’s because the bumps and bruises, the miscalculations and mistakes give us the experience that got us to today. And maybe, where we are today is where we’re meant to be right now, at this moment.
We can’t edit our pasts, but we can use that editor’s eye to change our futures. We need to pull out the story of our yesterdays and see the places we’d like to re-write and revise and understand the spots we’d like to alter. We can’t change yesterday’s mistakes but we can refuse to bring the past into tomorrow.
Today is Volume I. Tomorrow is the sequel.