Thursday, August 6, 2015

Recalculating

I use Google Maps and/or Waze a lot of the time I’m in the car. You’d think I’ve lived in my city for five years and never bothered to memorize the roads, but my city is old by Midwestern American standards and therefore weird, so it helps to be offered alternate routes. Also, I’m now obsessed with crowd sourced traffic programs. There’s an object on the side of the road ahead! Watch out!

Yes, my city has an island named Whiskey.
If only I could use this for editing. Currently I am neck deep in snipping, rewriting, and tilting my head at my newest novel. I haven’t talked a lot about Finding Daylight, but it’s coming. Ideally I want to release it this winter, right around the time my city’s roads are covered in eight inches of heavy snow. This can’t happen until I have taken a pair of pruning shears to it, if you will, about ten times.

For me, editing is the thing that feels like it never ends. It’s also something I dislike thinking about. It’s the elephant in the room, calmly tapping me on the shoulder and whispering, “You know this doesn’t make any sense. People are going to notice. You need to, you know, change it. Hello in there?”

I steadfastly ignore the editing impulse in my first draft. First drafts are banging away at the keyboard, throwing everything you’ve got at the wall and noticing what sticks. Granted, I’ve been told my first drafts are like third drafts because I am a scary perfectionist, but that’s not the point. There are things that thoroughly suck in those first drafts, and I train myself not to notice until the elephant lumbers in and yells at me to recalculate.

Here’s my secret: I really don’t want to recalculate.

Then there’s the horrible truth: you have to do it. There’s no other choice. For instance, Finding Daylight. My editor and I have found a character within the story that we both kind of hate. This character doesn’t deserve hate by any means, but regardless we’ve started adding “Poor Stupid” before said character’s name.

Poor. Stupid.

That’s bad.

So I decided to change that character’s entire arc throughout the story. Changing one character’s entire path may not seem like that much of a big deal, but when you get down to the nitty gritty there’s the realization that the character, poor and stupid though it may be, changes everything. Motivations shift, people think and act differently, whole scenes are replaced.

There’s some panicking in there, I’m not going to lie, because this is a big order. I’ve been thoroughly obsessed with it for days, typing and staring and thinking until my eyes and brain hurt. But I can already see that it’s going to be better in the long run. All those crisscrossing plots, the threads of the story, are starting to become major thoroughfares in the map of my novel instead of twisty, confusing roads. That’s what I want it to look like, so when I read it through the next time there will be less to edit, and then less, and less, until it’s done.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be over here recalculating.

(Look out for more Finding Daylight tidbits soon!)

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Mara Dabrishus is an author and librarian at a small college in Northeast Ohio. Horse racing is her first great love, but for the past several years she's ridden dressage, learning how to spiral in, half halt, and perform the perfect figure eight. Her first novel, Stay the Distance, was released in March 2015. For more information, please visit www.maradabrishus.com

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