Editing as writing (and the danger of rushing forward)

That’s what one of my cherished mentors told be recently. It’s so true. And though that might be obvious to every writer, it took me a while to accept it. It’s not that I didn’t get the concept but rather because I wanted to be done with my project. A few line edits seemed a smaller job than an overall manuscript revision.

After hearing back from the one agent that read my entire manuscript and having a few mentors provide me with their line edits, I decided to take each scene a bit slower and make it better. I keep hearing the agent’s words, “a lot to appreciate but…” and I want to eliminate that “but” from every page. So I went back to page one and I saw some sophomoric awkwardness that could be eliminated.

I know that I overwrite. Apparently, a lot. But taking out some of that content (dialogue, narrative and an entire scene) is paying off. Reworking the prose and dialogue is really working. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, but as I complete each scene, it’s clearly stronger, so much closer to where I want it. Smarter, smoother and with a bit more rhythm within the writing. And that feels good. It’s like I’ve found that level of insight into the game that was needed to win.

In the back of my mind, I’ve harboured a quiet fear, a subtle insecurity, that somehow I just squeaked through the MFA program. And in the end, it was my perseverance that got me through. That may be some kind of collective uncertainty that writers tap into, but I did start out in the program at a more basic level than several of my peers. My learning curve was substantial. That’s just being honest and I’m O.K. with that. But I studied my little heart out and learned that we keep using those tools to keep the experience going, and it does pay off.

The journey to get to this point has been demanding but the encouraging, bright and inspiring writers I’ve been lucky enough to call friends and mentors keep prodding me forward. I’d even run if I could, but I’m grateful and I see the benefit. My two hours of daily writing (I wish I could do more and thank god for weekends) is paying off. And our new writing group in Long Beach is helping create a needed, energizing and encouraging writing community. All good stuff.

[If you’re in Long Beach or close by, we’d love to have you join us. We’re meeting once a month on Saturdays. Just contact me.]

So I get it. More so than ever, I see where I need to go with each paragraph and sentence. And there’s no fear about how to proceed. It’s exhilarating. I almost want to do the whole MFA program all over again.


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