My editing process combines advice I’ve read, what I learned from editing kid’s writing, and …... I really have no idea how to edit. I want to tell a fun, adventurous stories where reader sees the story unfold before them. Editing is working towards that end.
While editing, I try to match the story in my head to what’s been written. One of my favorite methods of 2D art is the reduction woodblock print. With each cut into the wood, you create an image which is mirrored when printed. You cut out what you want to remain the previous color. The first printed image is your lights and with each additional cutting and printing, what is printed is darker. You need to be careful with each cutting and printing because you can't correct; you can't add where you have cut away, you can't correct a color once it’s in place, you can't correct a misprint where you didn't line up the paper correctly. When I first learned this printing technique, my classmates marveled that I didn't plan. I cut and print, cut and print, until the image I imagined appeared.
Writing is a much different process because editing is pulling the story out of a rough sketch. It takes many adjustments in words, thoughts, and grammar.
Below is the first few paragraphs of the first chapter of Whether. Whether is a story of an university hidden within the row houses and Vinsula, a town near Boston. The protagonist falls into the university world where her ability to organize anything is in conflict with organic university.
“The witch hops on her bike and rides through….…”
Stop, stop, stop this annoying drivel. I can’t believe my sister sent me this fairy tale crap. A New York publicist thought this would ease my commute through the Boston traffic? It would relieve the daily headache that the dullest job in the world gives me?
Why is there and hag on a bike?
I wish my commute was within biking distance. I have 45 mile commute which takes me an hour and half at 7am. The same commute home takes me 1 hour and 2 minutes, if I get out of the office building and into my car by 5:15. When I sneak out quietly down the backstairs at 4:30 and get into my car at 4:45, I can be at my favorite brewpub at the edge of Vinsula by ...yep... there it is, The Storm and Tree, and a parking place... and only 5:45. The pub is just 2 blocks from my dinky apartment. Perfect, I’ll just leave it and walk to my apartment.
This paragraph doesn't tell the reader anything about the story they are about to read. And, neither does the edited version below.
Stop, stop, stop this annoying drivel. I can’t believe my sister sent me this crappy fairy tale cd book. Why would a New York publicist think this would ease my commute through the Boston traffic? How could it relieve the daily headache that the dullest job in the world gave me? And, why was there a hag on a bike?
Wishing my commute was within biking distance, I have calculated various scenarios. Calculating commute times distracts me from the tedium of my drive. My 45 mile commute to work takes me an hour and half when I leave my apartment at 7am. If I get out of the office building and into my car by 5:15, the same commute home takes me 1 hour and 2 minutes. Though, neither of these calculations take into account where my car is parked. Today, I have managed to sneak out down the backstairs at 4:30pm and got into my car by 4:45. I can be at my favorite brewpub at the edge of Vinsula by ...yep... there it is The Storm and Tree and a parking place... and only 5:45. The pub is just 2 blocks from my dinky apartment. Perfect, I’ll just leave it and walk to my apartment.
All I’ve managed to give the reader is - a woman, who doesn’t like her commute, lives in an oddly named town outside of Boston, and she has a sister. Dull! Why would you want to read further?
And, yes, the first paragraph is present tense, and the second is past which is another decision. Which tense to use?
Two courses of action:
A. Scrape this, because I’ve obviously started the story in the wrong place.
B. Write an exciting prologue showing the reader what an intriguing mind-blowing story they are reading.
Though the whole novel is written, the first few paragraphs of it are like the final reveal of a reduction woodblock print. If it has not precisely done, the image will be muddled. The beginning of Whether is muddled.