As a young teen, I spent a few summers at a Boy Scout camp with my family. The counselors there coined phrase that we used for everything; “It’s only funny until someone gets hurt … and then it’s funnier”.
Between Fun and Funnier – that’s where I am these days.
Writing is a lot of fun. Seriously. I love coming up with the characters, their names, their jobs, their quirks, the whole nine yards. I love crafting the story. I love how it feels to be so entrenched in the first draft that I literally FEEL every single emotion. I float around in a satisfied fog for days after I finish a first draft. Hope is alive!
After awhile, though, that fog wears off and life intrudes. In a desperate effort to get that happy state back, I pick up my completed manuscript with the *completely unreal* expectation that it just needs a little polishing – some commas here, replace a word there. Yep.
Several drafts will come and go, that satisfied glow dimming a little with each pass until one day I think, “This is good stuff”, and send it off to the publisher. For a few days, I revel in the glow I’ve managed to reclaim. It’s done! Another book on the docket.
Then the edits arrive. Fun just became funnier. Reviewing edits and rewriting scenes requires stamina. And I don’t just mean the energy required to sit at my desk and review hundreds of pages of words in minute detail in a very short timeline. Rewriting is a painful process! That conversation that played out so perfectly in my mind? Yep. Didn’t make sense to the editor – CHANGED! That clever sentence? Not Pulitzer prize worthy after all. Cut that sucker! Stephen King calls it ‘killing your darlings’. Some days that’s exactly how it feels.
And, I’m just going to put this right out there – for a romance writer, there’s the super awkward task of reviewing the edits on sex scenes. There it is. As if it wasn’t bad enough writing it the first time – now I get to see what he/she thought of it, and review it again in the tiniest, most granular detail. What is he wearing? Where is she standing? Are they close enough to do that? When did he put that there? It’s excruciating!
Aside from the hours of work involved in polishing the manuscript into what my editor and I agree is the best possible version, there’s the inevitable emotional toll it takes on me. My day job requires a lot of diplomacy and mental agility. I like to think I have tough skin. I’ve learned to take disagreement and even criticism with a smile. And I can do that with my writing, too. Unless you don’t like my characters. They’re my kryptonite. These characters are my imaginary friends, practically my children. A piece of me.
It’s really, really difficult not to internalize an editors comments. It’s only fun until someone gets hurt. And then it’s funnier. Well, maybe I’ll think so later. Until then, please hug the book you’re reading. A lot of sweat and tears went into the making of each and every one (dare I say even the bad ones?). And, read on, dear friends!