Honesty with Editing

Most writers know editing a story can be difficult. It isn’t simply a matter of having a great idea, writing it down, and making millions without doing any work.

In the past, the editing I’ve had to do has been a lot of work, but nothing like what I’m doing right now. I’ve been trying to figure out why this one is so hard and have decided it’s time for some honesty.

First off is the discouragement. The beta readers came back with very positive comments, and they loved the story. They had good, constructive criticisms. The editor, however, immediately caught all the things I’d subconsciously known were there, that I believe I’d been hoping would just slide by unnoticed.

Second is the fear. The characters are wanting to go into a darker place than I am comfortable writing about. But no matter how I try to twist the plot where I want it to go, their past keeps intruding. I believe I need to look at why I find this uncomfortable and why I don’t want to free the characters to face their true story.

All of this means I  feel at the moment that the whole story needs to be simply thrown away. I haven’t felt this low about writing since I was undergoing radiation and my screwed up brain chemistry told me I’d never write again.

However there is this. I am not so stupid that I don’t recognize this as a hole that can be edited out of. And I was smart enough to send off all my angst to the editor who keeps prodding me. And here below is part of her response.

Ghost Roads is a very good story. You need to make it a great story. You’ve got the characters, you’ve got the inciting incident, you’ve got the action moving from plot point to plot point, you’ve got it breathing life — now you have to add the passion. That comes from the characters having goals. And making sure they pursue those goals. That’s why I keep harping on the back story for Harlow, Leigh and Bonnie. Their collective past is influencing their present and driving the plot. I think if you look at each scene that way, you’ll find that you have not as much to do as you think — adding the undercurrent isn’t nearly as heavy a job as fixing a wandering plot.  In the piece between Bonnie and Harlow that you sent this past weekend, that’s what needs to be added to give it weight. And that piece is very important. It tells the reader the reason Harlow came home and why she isn’t packing up her backpack and dog and heading out when that’s what she’d really like to have happen. It shows us that she’s taking responsibility and facing down pain for the sake of someone else — and that struggle makes us want her to succeed. And, it’s not so much the words that grab the reader, but what the struggle of having that conversation tells the reader about the two women. Go for it.
Words of wisdom: sometimes this writing thing isn’t fun – – it’s hate-every-minute-of-it work.
Hugs. Pick up your sword and go back to the battle. You’ll win. I saw it in my crystal ball.”
Isn’t it amazing what a support system can do, especially when they are honest and won’t let you get away with taking the easy way out? I’m still feeling far from qualified to do Ghost Roads justice. But I just might be able to face the scene my editor references above. After that, well, we’ll see.