It's hard to believe it's been almost three months since my last blog post here. Time truly flies. I'm nearly two-thirds of the way through the first stage of editing on Cydonia, this being the "developmental edit" stage.
Picking this story back up after two months of downtime has been a challenge. Reading my own work is like stepping into a portal or some strange sort of time machine that allows a firsthand look into my mind at the time of the writing. It's like hearing a song I loved as a child and being able to recall places and people I was around when I first heard it play. I'll read a passage and study my phrasing and wonder exactly why I worded something the way I did. What exactly was happening on that day that led me to use that particular word, or reference this particular event? It's an eerie experience.
There's a popular system for editing that I've employed for this project. It consists of three "parts" or "stages," the first being the Developmental Edit, the second being the Copy Edit, and the third being the Proofread.
The Developmental Edit, the current stage, is primarily a structural revision. Character development, plot points and conflicts, setting descriptions; this is where the cogs of the story get ironed out. By far the longest of the three stages, this could be looked at as the "rewrite." So far there's definitely been some required rewriting. Even a few characters have been removed from the storyline, but for necessary reasons. The central purpose of this stage is flow, establishing a strong rhythm to the story that engages the reader.
The next stage, the Copy Edit, focuses on the bones of writing: grammar, punctuation, vocabulary, phrasing, etc. These elements speak for themselves, and only add to the flow of the story.
The last stage, the Proofread, incorporates several people (my own focus group, so to speak) and provides a chance to get some open feedback from readers. Their feedback will help determine if any last-minute revisions need to be made before the book is considered "done" (at least for the time being).
I've collected a decent amount of writing-themed books over the past couple years, from Annie Dillard's The Writing Life to Stephen King's On Writing and Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. Each of these authors (and many others) all consider revision to be the most important part of the writing process. The first draft is loose and fun. It's the chance to let the imagination pour out onto the page. Revision, on the other hand, is where the real work begins. It's the attempt to organize the clutter; to piece together the odds and ends until something sensible begins to take shape. Another thing these authors agree on is that revision is hard. I'd say that's putting it lightly. I can't recall a single college assignment or research paper that was anywhere near as difficult. I do believe perspective plays a major role here, however. A sophomore-level composition exercise, a senior-level Civil War History essay; did I work hard on them? Sure. For the grade. That's the difference. That's what makes this process so arduous. There aren't any grades. I'm not following any sort of rubric, save for Strunk & White's Elements or the seasoned advice of King or Dillard. This is a challenge all on its own, an experience unique of itself. There's no promised degree waiting at the end. This is a test of sheer willpower. The key to this project, especially during this developmental stage, has been maintaining the motivation that spurred me on in the first place - remembering why I began. I try to think about that every day.
I've been trying to refrain from establishing a specific time frame for when all these stages will be complete, but nevertheless I'm keeping a steady pace. I've had an enormous amount of editing help so far from my close friend Abby Frye, and she's made the process so much easier than it'd be if I were working on this alone!
It shouldn't be too long before I post again. Thanks for reading.
Moving right along!