Now that NaNoWriMo is done, I return to my true love–editing. While it’s fun to see a story idea turn into reality, it’s only the beginning. Taking that first draft and ensuring that the threads of the plot weave together in the past way possible is fun. Cutting the excess words so the good ones can flow–I find real joy in doing that.
I’m currently working on Barry’s (my husband and coauthor) first draft of “Alternate Routes.” It’s a sequel to “The Shortest Route.” Barry picks up the story a few years after The Shortest Route ends. He has all sorts of things I wouldn’t have thought of. The way we write together is he writes the first draft. I do all the editing and rewriting. We often talk about characters and plot elements, but he doesn’t want to touch the book after finishing the first draft. He will add a rough draft of a new scene, but prefers not to write outside of November. (He claims he doesn’t like to write during November, but hey, I’m not the one who got up in the middle of the night to write four times in November.) So this isn’t a normal editing role–it’s a collaboration, and I write enough to justify my name on the cover of the book.
About halfway through his word count goal in November, he said, “This might be a 100K book.” He normally has his novels come in at 50,000 plus small change. He looked worried when he thought it might go longer, but plugged away at it, coming in at 52,135.
I read his first draft.
He was right, it’s a 100K book. The plan is he’ll add to it next November, but I’m to identify what and where for additional scenes. It’s a challenge for me not to just write the scenes myself, but I’m trying to limit my activities to tightening what he has, and identifying where the book needs more scenes, or an expansion of an existing scene.
What makes it easy to read a first draft is coming up with paragraphs like the following after just a little tightening:
Proofs and numbers were elegant, intertwining corollaries that fit together like a flower, or a suspension bridge, or a sweet scented autumn tree covered in reds and yellows and oranges. That was math.
Statistics was alleged to be a branch of mathematics. But statistics was ugly with data and endless rows and columns. Statistics ignored the uniqueness of each cell. It forgot that each item of data was the story of an individual, or the intersection of a myriad individual stories. Statistics didn’t care about the stories, and it didn’t care about the equations. It forced a middle ground, squeezing the life out of reality and compressing it into a number, and then hammering the curve into position to make it fit the data. The curve wanted to fly, powered by the force of its equation, going on forever. It didn’t want to be stuck in a rectangle, imprisoned by grid lines with its limbs chopped off.