Be still, my pounding, leaping, A-fib heart (November Editing Project)

As I go along, I’ve realized there are two components to my editing: the editing of the work and the editing of my mindset.

At first I was going to log the needed changes, but I quickly saw that that would be a novel unto itself.

To sum up what I’ve done so far—my first task was to read through the whole thing without giving into the urge to start line-editing and chopping and changing things right away. I was becoming distracted by all the highlights, headings, and red sarcastic asides, so I copied and pasted the story into a new document and removed all the formatting, leaving plain text only.

My keen editor’s eye has determined that the first chapter and all the subsequent ones need some work.  

The most extensive change to make will be changing the perspective. I realized that third-person perspective is not the right one, that the story would be better served by first-person. This would necessitate an entire rewrite but honestly I think that might be the right thing, and that once I accomplish that, the writing will go more smoothly because right now I’m constantly one step removed from what I’m actually trying to say when I write this in third-person.

Otherwise, too much tell, tell, tell. All boring situation with no specific thing at stake. Disjointed and random scenes. Needless crying and drama. Nevertheless, there is some stuff I like. I need to look at this in a productive way. I can’t just read every paragraph and think, this is bad, that’s bad, this is bad. I need to accept it’s all bad and look at more specific issues.

If nothing else, this is an instructive process, because in doing it, I get a better feel for structure and how parts need to be moved around and fitted together. It’s not random. Decisions need to be made. Creativity doesn’t just happen from scratch when the muse strikes but also when, for example, two parts beg to be joined.

If I don’t do the painful, grueling work now, I never will. I thought this work was the editing of my story, but I’ve realized, while reading through it, that the painful and grueling part is editing out the the self-criticism. My chest tightens and my heart literally pounds when I read the work and picture what other people think. For some bizarre reason, I don’t know if it’s OCD or something else, I always worry people know my thoughts. The logical part of my brain knows they can’t but I feel like they know every lame, corny thing I think and write and are not only contemptuous of me but embarrassed for me. Yes, I know that’s dumb, but I can’t help it.

So this great battle is in fighting these voices, doubts, cringing, paranoia. I personally think I can make something halfway—halfway—decent with this so I must fight the voices telling me not to bother. It’s an exercise in pushing past these voices and doing what I want to do, not what I think other people think I should do. Even if I achieve nothing else, winning the battle against imaginary naysayers is a victory. Literally imaginary people, or at the very least, imaginary versions of real people.

My pulse races with anxiety when I hear these naysayers, who are reading over my shoulders, sometimes whispering, sometimes shouting in my ears. This is harder than the editing itself, because every single line is read not through my own analytical eye and mind, but through someone else’s. What would they think of this, or that? Every word is questioned according to what a critic might say. Certain faces float across my screen. Covering my ears does no good because I can still hear them.

(The truth is, I know exactly why I’m this way. Someday I’ll share the story, which will explain everything from why I am this way to how I ended up where I am in life.)

But I resolve to drown these voices out, or chop through them as though I were charging through a jungle with a machete. Anyone who’s been around here a while knows there’s no one more down on themselves than I am. But I’ve decided that if this is important to me, for whatever reason, then I owe it to myself to do it. If nothing is to come of it, then I want nothing to come of it because I finished it and got it out of my system, not because imaginary people told me it wasn’t worth the trouble.


51 thoughts on “Be still, my pounding, leaping, A-fib heart (November Editing Project)

  1. Hey Hetty, I’m glad you’ve realised that there is a way ahead, and though it might seem trivial, we all take our work very personally. I’m editing two pieces at the moment and my very astute husband said to me today, you read what you think it written, the reader reads what is actually written. They don’t read to criticize, they read to enjoy. I think you have to take a step back and read what is written, there isn’t any underlying critism, footnotes or sarcastic quips. There’s just the story and how it is interpreted by your reader is completely out of your hands so STOP WORRYING ABOUT IT. 😁

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Deb. That’s the thing I always forget–they read what’s written, not what’s in my head. And you’re right. If we care about something, then it’s not trivial to us. That should be enough. What can I say? I’m a crazy worrywort. Emphasis on the crazy. Thanks for your encouragement.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. This is such courageous and honest processing of your awareness and emotions. Definitely oriented in the right direction. Once we identify what change we are going for, the desired change is inescapable. Keep going, I wish you the best of ease and joy, Much Love 💛✨

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Pragalbha. I am a big believer in awareness and processing. A lot of what people perceive as whining is really only me talking myself through this process so I’m glad you understand me. Your kind words mean a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Some of the comments above have given excellent perspective. Here’s mine:

    You can never please everyone.

    I know us, the creative people, we like if we could please everyone. But no matter the medium, it is in our best interest to realize this, that it is not possible.

    So don’t worry about the naysayers, because they’ll always complain no matter what you do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. I think it’s natural to want to please people, especially with creative work, because we consider it so much a part of ourselves that when someone rejects or insults it, we feel like it’s us they’re rejecting or insulting. But really, most of it’s in our heads. Thanks for your comment.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Wow! This gives me anxiety reading too! I could never edit this way with Holly’s books. Once they were written I couldn’t bear to tear them apart for any reason. All they would and well get is punctuation, spelling, and grammar edits.

    This is despite people hating every word of the first 3 chapters of one of them. At first, that crippled me, now I’d rather never see the books published (and they still probably won’t be) over changing them because others demand it.

    I hope you love what you ended up with, Hetty,

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Mason. I admire how you stick to your guns with your Holly stories. For some reason I like to tear things up because I discover new things in the process. I love that feeling when I get a sudden insight into someone’s motivation or history. I’m glad you won’t change for other people. Because really, are they even going to appreciate your work more if you change it for them? They’ll just say, Oh that sounds better, and then onto the next thing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Exactly I think most people will smile at the change they asked for and then tell you something else is wrong. The more attacked I feel over Holly’s stories, the more I remember that I wrote them with Holly and she was happy with them. The pain only came when trying to give them to a world they only wanted to screw me over and tear me to shreds. So, no why should I change what I used to be proud of for those hurtful people.

        I think so long as you enjoy the process and get to something you love it’s worth it for you.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Sometimes you have to change as the story evolves. In my current rewrite I discovered a major twist and had to go back to plant the seeds so they could sprout at the right moment

          Liked by 2 people

          1. I always wrote a full story skeleton before writing a mystery. Holly would almost always hit me with a plot twist and I’d have to stop and look at it. Those twists needed a little fettling in but were always better than what I had before.

            Liked by 2 people

              1. Brevity is the soul of discretion. I would have thought that with all my emphasis on beneficial works by Lanham, Dufresne, Leonard, Constance Hale, Strunk & White, Browne & King, etc. might have resonated with those who complain about their skill or consider their work as appendages or children and drawn them out into doing real work instead of falling into the social media cafeteria style rules and feel good support mechanisms. To have set out to discover valid, useful information from someone/someplace besides mom, BFFs and the hollow go get ’em tiger memes of internet “friends”. Obviously not. Writing, particularly editing, is not an exercise in soul searching or personal laundry. It’s fucking work. The more useful resources you encounter, the better equipped you are to do that job. I can’t be the only person out here who knows that’s the case and goes looking for expertise.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. I don’t know that the two things are mutually exclusive. I don’t really take myself or what I do seriously enough to worry about expertise. That doesn’t mean that privately I don’t study or read up on things. On the other hand, I do like to hear what other people have to say, from any side of the issue. If I were better able to express myself in such a way as to dissuade people from focusing on my feelings instead of their own experiences, I would. None of that is to say you’re not correct in pointing out that writing and editing are work in themselves and are quite apart from all this other stuff.

                  Liked by 1 person

          1. Cool and generally giggle worthy however Hemingway never said Write drunk and edit sober. This is everywhere, but here’s one https://www.writersdigest.com/be-inspired/did-hemingway-say-write-drunk-edit-sober-nope-he-preferred-to-write-sober And not everyone considered everything he wrote golden This is hilarious- Hawks, Hemingway and Faulkner – talk about being a fly on the wall
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_Have_and_Have_Not_(film)

            Liked by 2 people

  5. I am just so very proud of you, you have come so far, you can see what you want to and change and you gave a plan if attack.

    Our inner voices are just a pain. And we just gotta get over it.
    Artists way, bird by bird.

    Affirmation and gratitude.

    Like well done to myself for xyz.

    I am a great writer, I will and can do this.

    Repeat daily. Drown out that voices. And remind yourself, you aren’t any ordinary, you have achieved such high level of education and manage so much with your health.

    I think the more you work on your book the more you will love it. Says I who has utterly forgotten what I am writing..lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Bella. Your perspective is always so uplifting and reminds me that there should be enjoyment and life in what we do. And affirmations work. I always say it, but I used to think that stuff was nonsense but I have experienced the truth of it in my own life and I know it works. And don’t worry, I forget everything I am writing too. Or reading.

      Like

  6. Hi, well done. I relate to that pounding heart of reading one’s own work. I suppose, everyone has a unique insight into their own limitations but, perhaps, it’s about coming to terms with that and writing from the edge of one’s talents… Maybe, also, putting writing together into a whole helps to bring out something new in it…?

    Would it be ok to re-post this blog piece on my site, with a credit and link to you? I think it’s a really insightful piece about managing self-doubt and criticism.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hey. You highlight a point I often make as of late–coming to terms with limitations and what I can do with what I do have available to me. If you’d like to reblog, then by all means. That’s very kind. Thanks so much.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Hetty,

    I’d like to take a few of your sentences and try to give them to a character I’m working on. I’ll send you the page. See what you think. As always, you have what it takes, and the use of FUD, (fear, uncertainty and doubt) is your strong point. You just need to use it over several characters and an existential plot. That’s all, oh yeah, and the 300 pages of interesting story that you must write using your own hands. Duke

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I started my latest thing–my NaNoWriMo project–in 1st person. I did it because, at the time, I found it easier to start writing. To get it off the ground, so to speak. Now, I wish I hadn’t done that because I find difficult to move the story based on just what the narrator could reasonably know. I dread changing it all over now–and it would change a great deal.

    As an aside, I don’t think to “write like Hemingway” is such a bad idea. You’re not actually going to accomplish it, but in the effort, your own writing might improve. And it would be much easier to read than if you tried to “write like Dickens.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hemingway just ain’t my cup of tea. I really wonder if it’s a gender thing. I tend to prefer things that go heavy on introspection. Anyways, it’s interesting how you say your work isn’t being served well by first person and I’m having the opposite issue. Don’t wait too long to fix it if you have to. While it’s a lot of work, I find things are going better by changing it.

      Like

      1. Cool! I love it when a plan comes together! Meanwhile, I’m still floundering. But that’s OK. As far as Hemingway, his writing is kind of like those flash-fiction contests where you have to tell a story in 250 words, or whatever. I find those challenging and fun, but two hours to write 250 words that tell a whole story?

        Liked by 1 person

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