Wow, editing sucks.
A few weeks, I finished my second draft of The Thrilling Adventures of Clara Delaney and sent it out to a bunch of friends and family. The whole editing process was a roller coaster between getting really excited about the best thing I’ve ever written and getting really depressed at how every word that falls out of my fingers is sheer crap. I was excited when I sent out the draft (a revised first draft, really), and then about twelve hours later the horror set in.
What if they hate it? What if they read it and go, “Ugh, what happened to the English language? Why did someone barf all over these pages? I don’t want to read this. God, this is weird.” What if all the leftover typos, the bits I haven’t quite polished up yet, the accidental references to a nine-year-old as a sorority girl– what if that’s a total turn-off? Or– gasp– my book has gay people in it. What are some of my relatives going to think of that relationship?
This book is my baby. It’s not my most precious baby, but it’s my baby and I’ve put a lot of hard work into it. What if they tear it to pieces?
Well, that’s kind of why I sent it out there, right?
Today’s world is all about tech.
Think about it: I’m writing this blog post from a pair of rectangles that can access all the knowledge in the known universe. I met my best friend when I was eleven years old– and we grew up a thousand miles apart, not meeting in person until seven years later. I live a thousand miles away from my family, but I can see their faces whenever I please, and can even go home for the weekend whenever I want (for a fee). Fifty years ago, most of this would have been unheard of. A century and two years ago, it would have all been completely impossible– the first commercial flight was in 1914.
And in light of all that technology, art can seem a little… useless. Whether or not we should have sent a poet, art didn’t get anyone to the moon. A degree in any of the arts, including English, is often considered less valuable than a STEM degree: sure, you can paint pretty pictures, but what has that done for the world?
How do we fit in, beyond the world of leisure?
A warning: this post was written at 3:00 AM. Anyone who tells you that reading before bed helps you sleep is a liar, because all it tends to do is inspire me to write half-coherent blog posts in a bout of book-drunkenness instead of getting a sensible night’s sleep before work.
I recently (not half an hour ago) finished reading To Kill a Mockingbird for the second time. This was not exactly my second full read of the book– I read it incessantly in middle school and into high school for a while. As eventually happened with all my favorites, though, it was eventually put on a shelf for a while. TKAM was added to my ever-growing collection of “books I list as a favorite”, and was left unread for exactly a decade.
I was 13 the last time I read this book. At 23, it is an entirely different experience.
I’ve been having a problem with one of my characters: she doesn’t exist.
Yes, I’m well aware that I’m writing fiction. Yes, I’m well aware that no bookshop in history has ever been abducted by hunky space miners. Yes, I’m well aware that the people who populate the rest of the novel are not in fact real people.
Your characters shouldn’t know that.
Remember what it was like to be a kid?
It wasn’t as idyllic as everyone seems to think. You had worries: school and grades, social pressure, figuring out a definition of “normal”. You didn’t know what it was like to be a person yet– sure, you had no bills, no job, no major financial issues, but Susie who took the same bus as you kept giggling at your shoes and you can’t figure out why. Plus your teachers kept telling you how you’re learning important life skills that you’ll use forever, and you couldn’t see it no matter how hard you tried. And you didn’t get why you have to keep your room clean– it’ll just get dirty again, and it’s not like YOU cared.
And people kept trying to sell you goddamn fax machines. What’s up with that?