Monday, September 19, 2011

The Self Inflicted Fear of Editing

I’ve always been afraid of editing since I started to write many years ago. I first started to write small texts with the rule that I could not rewrite a single word. I would start to write, and keep every word in the same order and I would not allow myself to erase a single letter. Plus, the text had to fit perfectly on the page of my note book. No more. No less.

Today, I would be very frustrated and confused to write such text but the fear of editing is still there. As I started to allow myself to write longer texts, I would still not edit them. Then I would allow myself to erase a word and write a better one, but only while I was writing the text; never after it was finished. I am still proud of those short texts. Maybe they are not the best of all time, but for me they are the beginning of a long journey and the basics of my writings. It all started with them.
Unfortunately, since I never really edit a text, I am now facing a problem: I have stories I would like to publish and I know they need to be polished. I was able to write them with all the pieces I wanted to put in them but they need care now. They are raw stories, containing savage actions or moments people would not understand because they are not in my head to see all the connections and actions that led to these moments. 

The longer the stories are, the hardest they are to edit. I bet I would be able to edit my small texts quite fast. Faster than the editing I have to do now. When I look to my stories, all I see are high mountains. In a way it reminds me of the first text I wrote in my personal note book. It took me time and courage to do it. To finally put my pen on the page and fill it. One single page. Then I would dare to write a second page weeks, even only months later. Because I was fighting fear. I was actually putting on paper my own thoughts. Even if they were never published to the whole world, there was now a trace of them in a book and it would now be possible for someone to read them. 

Yes, of course these people would need to get their hands on that book and it is not likely to happen without my permission but still, it was now out of my mind. With time, these texts grew to short stories and before I knew it my imagination was throwing novel at me and I would be writing them as quick as I could. 

My first NaNoWriMo was, I believe, the true kick-off; even if I had started a few months before on my first novel. Unfortunately, that story is not finished, not even retyped on a computer and far from being edited. I preferred to continue writing and explore the ideas my imagination was so joyfully presenting to me. I learned to build a whole novel around a single scene. Ideas would just appear to fill the blank pages.

As time past, I see knew books on the market and I wonder if my own stories would go on these shelves or on any eReader. I imagine myself invited to speak about a story and I would be able to share about the thoughts behind a particular scene. If people would be interested to read more of my stories. 

It pushed me to speak about these stories and watch how people were reacting and I felt exhilarated. It gave me hope that they would be interesting at least to a few people. I then found the courage to edit parts of these stories. A chapter or two. Just enough to send to a restricted list of people and have their feedback. It felt good, but then I was facing again with the mountains. They were worth the effort but I haven't master that fear yet. I now feel my own pressure about editing and I know I can't wait forever and just write other mountains. I don't want to be lost under unfinished and rough stories. 

What is that fear that blocks me? I conquered the fear of writing words, why is it so hard to make them nice and representative of my imagination? 
  • Do I fear the power of my own imagination? Yes, I know the extent the imagination can have and the power it has over me and people. Is it enough to stop me? Not anymore, since I conquered that fear by writing words.
  • Do I fear the feedback from readers? A bit, but I know I can't bewitch everybody and make them love my words. I am sure there are people somewhere that would love them and share them or they will learn to like what I write like other authors did and are doing now.
  • Do I fear editing would destroy the essence I was trying to put in the text when I was writing it? Yes, that is a part of the equation. Editing could do just that, but not editing can prevent the essence to be properly shared. So that is not a reason not to edit.
  • Do I fear the amount of work? That is something seriously consider. Since I am involved in my job and I have other passions, it is preventing me to put enough time in a project like this. 
  • Do I fear to never have the time to finish this? No, I now know more than one working methods to organize my time and focus on the right task. Just apply them.
  • Do I fear I have no clue how to edit? Bingo. I have never really done it for a long story and I fear I don't know how to do that! What are the steps? Am I doing them in the right order? What will happen if I forget one; will I be able to fix my text? How can I tell editing would be done?
I read on the subject and I got a few good tips but like many things in life, I don't believe there is a recipe to edit a text. This reminds me a many Agile methods and people still looking for step by step walk-through to apply them and get their full benefits. 

I think there is only one way to edit my stories: just start and build on what I will discover.

It is a new and unknown journey. It could end in a total lost of confidence on my writing skills and abandon all hope of ever publish, at least, one novel. But waiting at the base of a mountain can only certify me that I will always live in the shadow of my stories. If I ever want to share the magnificent view at the top, I have to climb it and face all these magical creatures, plot twists, character's emotions, difficult scenes and problems to solve. There is no other way up to fully appreciate and feel the pride at the top. I have to climb like a human with the tools of my imagination and like anything else I have accomplished in life; I will get better at it by doing it.

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