Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Editing, Lunacy, and the Baby Walrus

If you've known me for any reasonable amount of time, you know I'm a weensy bit crazy. (Or, if you're one of my students, then I'm certifiably insane with an extended day pass. Take your pick.) But sometimes with my creative projects I get an idea so crazy I just can't rest till I try it out. Sometimes the ideas flop.

This past weekend, however, was (I hope) one of the exceptions.

My Insane Idea: I created a 240,100 word monster.

OK. So I didn't write a book in one weekend, let alone a tome the size of a baby walrus. But I did something almost as crazy: I took two overlapping manuscripts which dealt with the same overarching story and merged them into one massive manuscript. 

This would be migraine-inducing to consider at the best of times, but is complicated by the fact that I haven't done a cold read, let alone any sort of edit, on EITHER manuscript in sixteen months. That amounts to a lot of editing.

Let me repeat that: A LOT of editing. Serious #stabbylove editing of the highest order.

My brains after a full Saturday of editing.
(Actually, this is a curried coconut trail mix thingy I made tonight. 
But I'm pretty sure my brain looks like this after editing, all the same.)

The Result:  During the month of April, I plan to pare down the 240K walrus into one, nicely watertight, 80,000 word novel. All my crazy sprawling ideas for these characters, plots and themes need to be shaved, pinched, winnowed, threshed, and otherwise boiled down to one solid book with a coherent beginning, middle and end. With maybe a plot twist (or two or ten) in the between chapters.

"Good luck!" I hear you say. Yes, I hear the sarcasm. Loud and clear.

But you know what? I think I can make this work. Here's my...

Plan of Attack*: 

     1. April starts now. Yes, I know it's still March. Doesn't matter. If I put this off till April 1st, I'll drag my feet even more. I would like to see this thing published before I'm eighty, after all. Won't happen if I continue to procrastinate. So for me, April has 38 days this year (I started editing last Saturday). 

     2. Editing happens every day. Notice I said editing, not writing - though I know I will need to rewrite several scenes, even whole chapters. The opening chapter, I know, needs to be entirely scrapped. Already I am deleting entire sections, while moving other sections around, in small chunks and large. The only way my poor ADHD brain can keep track of all this elaborate "shell game" is to work on it every day.

     3. Tell on myself. Hence this blog post. If I don't tell people about this stupendously idiotic idea of mine, then it will never happen. Heck, it will never even be half-attempted. Because at rock bottom we're all whiners when the going gets tough, right? So don't let me whine. I expect comments, emails and tweets heckling me toward April 38th, 2012. Yep.

     4. View editing as a reward, not a chore. One of the reasons I'm so distractible, and can be such a whiner when it comes to writing, is that I have three jobs whose variables and schedules change constantly. It suits my ADHD just fine, but it means that it's easy for me to drop things, especially when work obligations get really tough, as they always do this time of year. 
     When that happens, I'll reward myself with a 30 minute spurt of editing after I've reached some milestone with the work obligations. That way necessary things get done, and so does the editing. I might even manage to get more done of both than I originally anticipated.

This is how I beta-read other people's work.
I owe my own manuscript the same courtesy.

 So there you have it. I've put my nutzo writing ambition out there for all to see, and I'm asking you to hold me accountable. Any encouragement is always appreciated, though I should point out that heckling is often more effective when time constraints are an issue. 

Either way - what do you think? Any other crazies out there who have tried this before? Especially under a self-imposed deadline? Or should I have my day pass revoked?

Oh look - a donkey with a mustache!
Wait...that belongs with a different post altogether...

* Not quite a 22 Things list, a'la Write Me Happy, but it's a start. Ain'tcha proud of me? (You know, I really should join that challenge as well...)


  1. Angela, you are certifiable. Not only should you have your day pass removed, you should check yourself into the closest rubber room you can find, and don't forget your white vest! lol Large project indeed. I hate editing and there is no way that I would have the discipline to take on such a huge task. The next time I whine about having to spend my time editing a few chapters, I will try to think of you. :-)

    1. Hahaha thanks! And you can point me out as a cautionary tale to all your friends. o__O

  2. Woweee! Good luck! And yes, you should join the 22 Things Challenge. ;) I have faith in you, and will heckle and annoy you if needed. :)

    1. I think I will! And thanks for the promised heckling....I'll need it. :)