Editing Update: Home From Camp

Note: this post is part of an on-going (and possibly never-ending…) series. To read the earlier installments, click on the following links: Part One, Part Two, Part Three.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may remember that last month, I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo and set myself a goal of editing 50,000 words. I had never set an editing goal before, so I wasn’t sure how it would all work out.

If you follow me on various forms of social media, you may have already seen this:

and this:

So, I mean, yes, there was some success to be had. However, I feel like the 70,030 words edited there looks and sounds waaaaaaaay more impressive than it actually is. Some of that feeling can probably be attributed to the fact that I am a gigantic hot mess—so much so that I’m pretty sure I can be seen from space. Like, there are astronauts at the ISS right now, looking down and going, “OMG! What the hell is that—Oh. It’s just MJ. Never mind.”—who would feel that way regardless of the actual results.

But here’s the thing…it doesn’t feel like I’m making much meaningful progress. I’m going through the pages, correcting errors, and culling dialogue (just…so much dialogue) and adjusting the narrative to tighten and strengthen it or whatever, but I think the book still has the same fundamental issues it had when I began.

I just have no idea what those issues are.

I cannot shake the feeling that I am writing (now editing) this book wrong. That I’m rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic or something. And I can’t even explain it to anyone without saying something like, “I think there’s something wrong with this book, but I don’t know what, and I’m worried I’m not smart enough to fix it.”

Because how can I be smart enough to fix a problem I can’t even diagnose?

So, I’m starting off May not quite sure what to do or where to go from here. I’m trying not to force things, to give my brain the space it apparently needs to get its shit together or whatever, and to trust that I will eventually figure things out because even though I don’t remember it, I most likely felt the same damn way while editing the three books that came before this one.

But I’ve never done well with inactivity.

And…during my family and friends visits last month, I was reminded (more than once) that there are three people waiting to read this book, who have already been waiting years to read this book, and who will have to keep waiting probably more years to read the book because I am taking so damn long to finish it. Which makes me feel bad because I am extremely blessed to have any people interested in reading anything I write, and who continue to be interested in reading anything I write even though it takes me so damn long to actually write anything, and it sucks that I can’t do a better job for them.

Which adds to the pressure and compounds with the inactivity and my already terrible levels of anxiety or something science-y sounding, which all means that this gigantic hot mess is just getting bigger and messier.

Which is why, despite the fact that I left Camp with a winner’s badge (and a really cute mug. I ordered a mug that, if my significant other asks, I desperately needed…) and an impressive-looking word count, I’m not feeling particularly impressed.

But at least I have a mug.

Stay safe and well, all.

12 Commentsto Editing Update: Home From Camp

  1. Jemi Fraser says:

    Those gut feelings are always trying to tell us something – I just wish they would be more specific. Arrows pointing to the problem would be very helpful!
    Good luck – I bet your intuition will figure it out!

  2. You can definitely still be proud of yourself for winning Camp and for exceeding your goal.

    I hate that feeling of knowing something is off or wrong but not being able to figure out what. And if you can’t figure out what, how are you supposed to fix it?! Would reading a book on writing or editing help trigger something for you?

  3. Congrats on that badge – well-earned and deserved!
    I have been in the same boat with Rayatana 3, which does have a name now, which I have kind of revealed, but wish I hadn’t. I think I have the problem figured out in the book – I think. I created a list of questions about the book from things that bugged me and then I shared that list with my writing group and asked them if there were any questions that stood out or if they had any questions to add.
    They did have questions to add.
    And, for some reason that helped.
    I think. If I can finish the book now, then it definitely helped. If not… well, I don’t know.
    Hope your gut feeling gives you a clear message soon!

  4. Kate says:

    I hate that feeling! I have a book like that too. I keep working on it, but that doesn’t seem to fix whatever is actually wrong. So frustrating! Maybe you need to step away for a few weeks. It might it you in the face when you get back to it.

  5. J E Oneil says:

    It sounds like you’re a winner to me! Maybe you need to do that thing where you sit down and explain your book to someone? Like if you just start talking about the problems you’re having with someone to bounce ideas off of, maybe you’ll figure out what’s nagging at you about it. That might work. Theoretically.

  6. What JE said. Or let a trusted critique partner read it. That person might see what you can’t.

  7. Liz A. says:

    You will figure it out. Eventually. Perhaps it’s time to get other eyes on the thing. Is there someone else (or other someones) who could beta read for you? They might be able to see something you missed.

    There’s a saying that goes something like the person who created the problem doesn’t have the tools to fix the problem. But, given time, that person can grow into the person who has those tools. (Totally paraphrasing. Badly.) So, you might not have the skills now to diagnose the problem, but in time you will.

    Perhaps you need some time away from the book? *shrugs*

    And don’t even worry about how long it’s taking you. I have still to complete even a first novel, and we’ve known each other in the blogging world how long? I’m way behind you.

  8. That’s such a frustrating feeling! I hope you have an epiphany soon.

  9. Beth Camp says:

    Hello, MJ. Thank you for writing so openly about a problem I’ve been facing down for the last two months! I knew my current book wasn’t quite ready, but I couldn’t see what changes to make. So, taking the advice of various gurus, I sent it off to two beta readers, set it aside (oh, that was hard), and then waited. And waited. And waited!!!! Comments that came back were mostly copy editing and a few helpful questions. Not enough. So I took my courage in hand and gave a copy to my dearest beta reader, the one I live with who has an intellect honed on debate. In two sessions, he gave me more insight into my story and what I can do next. I feel energized and ready to go back to work, trusting my intuition now that I can more clearly ‘see’ my characters and their dilemmas. Hope this helps. So, maybe one of those readers who is waiting for your story might be a good beta reader for you? Or, write me! bluebethley at yahoo.com But mostly, persevere.

  10. Congrats. It sounds like it’s time to get some input from other writers.

  11. Congratulations! That’s awesome! I never feel like I’m getting anywhere when editing either. It makes my stomach churn. Eventually I just have to hold my breath and let go. Then remind myself to let go of the breath too or pass out!

  12. I sympathize in so, so, so many ways. The length of time, the feeling you can’t shake, the view on editing. All of it–I sympathize. I spent almost 2 years ignoring my book because of those feelings and not wanting to face them.

    I hope you figure things out, or find someone who helps you pinpoint the source of the feeling. Good luck, and looking forward to the next update!

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