A Public Service Announcement Regarding Your Novel
So, you’re writing a novel.
Maybe you were doing that thing — what was it called? NaNoWuzza? HandoWringo? NeMoWizardpants? Remo Williams? I don’t know. Don’t ask me. I don’t know rabbit shit from raisin bran.
I’d like to say congratulations to you. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold up. Don’t come over here to shake my hand. Put your greasy palm back at your side. I didn’t say I was congratulating you. I said I’d like to.
As in, “Gosh, I sure wish I could congratulate this budding novelmonkey, but my good sense and unswerving ethical code prevents me from doing so as this juncture.”
I have, well…
I have bad news.
Where are you at in this novel of yours?
Did you reach 50k?
Maybe you only reached 30k.
Could be that you rocked out with your, ahem — *gesticulates with index finger around crotchal region and keens a low whistle* — out and managed to finish 70k, or 90k, or 120k.
Ennnh. Nnnnngh. Yeah. Bad news.
What’s that? You want to hear the bad news? I dunno. I’m not sure you’re ready for it. Your ears, they look virginal. If I speak this news, I’m afraid the words would form a searing hot stick-pin, and that pin would thrust into your tender ear and lance your eardrum as if it were a plague bubo pus balloon. (“Plague Bubo Pus Balloon” was my nickname in in the Shanghai Triads. But you didn’t hear it from me.)
All right, all right, settle down.
Here’s the bad news:
You’re not done.
No, really. You’re totally not done. That novel? Incomplete. “Buh, buh, buh!” you say, and as a response, I thwack you in the bridge of your nose with a broomstick. Stop stammering. You heard me. The novel you are or were working on is not complete. Even if you think, “Gosh, it’s complete,” nope. Not complete.
A quick sidenote –
If you’re a NaNoWriMo participant, let’s be clear about something: the month of November (which marches toward its end) is just your training wheels. Maybe you hit your mark, maybe you didn’t. If you did? Great. You nailed the deadline on a wholly artificial construct (and 50k does not a novel make). If you didn’t? Who cares? You did not nail the deadline on a wholly artificial construct. Either way, time to pedal faster and blow those goddamn training wheels off your bike so hard, they catch fire and strike that irritating neighbor child (the one who keeps peeing in your sandbox) right in his freckled little asshole face.
Because here’s the scoop:
November may be ending. Your work on that novel is not.
All you’ve managed to do so far is sculpt feces into a recognizable shape. Yes, yes, that’s very exciting and all — oh! It looks like a gazelle. But it still smells like shit.
What I’m saying to you is, it is time to begin…
CRASH OF THUNDER! DRAMATIC MUSICAL CHORD! A SAD WOLF HOWLING!
The editing process.
Writing is rewriting. Say it with me: “Writing is rewriting.” Now tattoo it on your forehead backward so you can read it every time you look into the mirror.
Sure, sure, I know, some writers don’t do second drafts. Those writers are either:
a) Totally gifted
b) Total assholes.
Let’s presume you (like me!) are not totally gifted, and that you (er, not always like me) are not a total asshole. That means it’s time to edit. And rewrite. And edit. And rewrite. The film script I’m working on with my writing partner, Lance, is just about up to its ninth draft. My novel is up to its sixth draft. In both cases, neither looks at all like they did when I first began them.
Your response to this might be despair. It might be panic. It might be pants-shitting fear.
Fuck all that. This is awesome news. Before, when I said it was bad news? I was lying. Testing you. And you failed the test because I can see the lost and hopeless look in your eye. No, really, this is great news. You know why? Because that mound of goblin snot in front of you — the one you’re currently referring to as “my novel” — doesn’t have to remain as a quivering pile of goblin snot. A novel, unlike life, affords us nigh-infinite chances to get it right. Imagine if you could marry a person, go through the marriage, get to the end, look back and say, “Gosh, I sort of fucked that all up,” and then go back and edit all the bad parts out. You could go back and extricate all the arguments, all the miscommunication, all the errors. That, however, isn’t allowed. Not in a marriage. Not in most parts of your life.
But your novel?
With the novel, you are afforded just such a luxury.
So, strap on your miner’s hat. Sharpen your scalpels. Draw a draught of blood for purposes of redlining. Starve your wombats. It’s time, my squirmy little fuckers, to get down to some editing.
In November I spent a good portion of the month blubbering on about writing a novel. I plan on spending December prattling on about editing — and rewriting — your novel.
Class begins on Wednesday. If you have specific questions about editing, hey, pitch them at my face the way you would a fastball. Otherwise, buckle up, suck it up, and let’s do some motherfucking editing.