“I’m finished,” I murmured to my keyboard as I concluded my long-awaited ending.
“Now what?” my keyboard blankly suggested back.
“Shit, keyboard, quit pressuring me…”
Okay, so my laptop is a pushy little bastard, but that question certainly ran through my mind. I had been working in little stints for years up to that point and after setting a deadline, I came to the end of the trail. Once I was there, I expected something, but there was no direction and no more worn paths to follow. I was stranded.
Like most early writers, I assume, we all have an itch that needs scratched in terms of writing. We satisfy our cravings by getting our thoughts out onto paper and when our story is complete story, well, who takes it from there? Well, at this stage, we still do. No one is looking for our work; no one cares if we’ve created something completely by the efforts of concentration and imagination; and no one knows our names. (This is aside from you, mom and dad, love you guys)
We are waiting in the dark and preparing to emerge. For some of us, it will be a persistent movement from crawling to walking into the spotlight. For others, the trail will be muddy and uphill and if we want to make, we’ll have to claw and believe in ourselves like never before.
I am currently learning that editing is the world’s largest chore. The demons on the page are corrupting the literary soul of my work and I am needing to play exorcist to cast them out (“I cast you out!” – Max von Sydow, The Exorcist). Funky placed prepositions or an over-abundance of the same word again and again and again has me questioning if I ever passed an English class throughout grade school. Luckily I have a small team of holy divers that are diligently plunging there way through my work in order to show me what exists beyond my blinders.
Family is the #1 resource to any new writer, followed closely by any long-standing friends. Now, my mother and father will love anything I create. My father will tell me what’s wrong and where my strengths are shown. My wife will be my best critic because she has no need to pull punches or sugarcoat the obvious in her mind. She lovingly points out all of the faults that I have painstakingly transcribed over months of work. My best suggestion to anyone seeking this free editing help is to listen.
As writers and authors, we know what our story is in our minds; but it will take many sets of eyes to show you how other people will see it. I have read my first story so many times that I am like a child on the third round of leftovers for the week, I crave something/anything different.
After I get through my initial edit of catching grammatical mistakes, the second edit that helps me with structure, the third edit that restructures it to make sense, and the fourth edit that polishes and ties one chapter to another; I am finally working towards the fifth (hopefully last) edit where I make sure that I am completely happy from where it starts to where it ends. My best way of editing this portion is to read it aloud. If it sounds good in my ears as well as my head, I think I’m doing the right thing. It tells me how hokey some scenes might be, how overused some words are, and some areas that might get extra jolts of life that have been laying dormant in my imaginarium.
So, I talk out loud. I talk thru dialog to make it run together naturally. I talk to my computer screen, to the radio in my car, to the walls in my house. I look like I’m guano crazy. But I make it work. Each lunatic step helps me edge further.
As I see it, I have climbed the ladder of a literary high dive (and that was the easy part). Now, I am exposed. I’m becoming visible to a small crowd below, getting ready to plunge into the water that will be publishing. Each step of progress I complete gets me one step closer to looking over the edge, toes curled around the lip and holding my breath until I decide to leap. I will get to the pool below where book-lovers, critics and fans will all judge my performance. I hope that when that time comes, I have made it entertaining enough to watch me dive again, faster and with better poise.
For now, I have made it a few timid steps as I work up the confidence to get to the diving point. One thing I will not do is stop moving; I will dive. If I belly flop, cannonball or make it through like a spear, you will see me go up again. I have too many dives in me not to.