Here is what goes through my head when I edit:
Who wrote this drivel?
Shit, it was me. It was me.
This thing reads like a fucking VCR repair manual. Is this even English? It’s got all the grace and elegance of a drunk girl puking in a potted plant at a frat party. It’s got all the speed and potency of an old man with a colostomy bag rolling clumsily down a shallow hill. It’s ugly like the winking sphincter of a sick giraffe. IT’S TURDS THE WHOLE THING IS TURDS AAAAAAGH FIRST DRAFT? MORE LIKE WORST DRAFT AM I RIGHT OR AM I RIGHT
I DUNNO IF I’M RIGHT
I DUNNO ANYTHING
WHO AM I WHAT IS MY VOICE WHAT IS THIS PIECE OF MONKEY DICK I WROTE
AGH AGH AGH AGH
*ten minutes of sobbing*
Okay. No. It’s cool. This is where the magic happens. The first draft is just me dumping all the puzzle pieces out. But it’s still a jumbled image. This part is where the art lives. This is when the story is smashed together, piece after piece. I can make it all make sense! I can polish this turd to a burnished, blinding sheen so bright it will blind the very heavens!
Thank all the gods and all the devils for good editors.
These notes are great.
Though they remind me how terribly inadequate I am.
But that’s fine. I’ve got a shaky flashlight. I can see the way forward.
Okay, see, yeah, all right, this part’s pretty good. And I thought it was terrible when I wrote it. Sweet. Nice. Yes. Gold star. Trophy. Triumph. Except, this other part I thought was awesome — that I need to be awesome — is clunky. Kludgey. I’m reading it and it feels like I’m chewing a piece of dry bread and cheese — it’s a hard slog and I can’t swallow it oh my god the reviews when this book comes out are going to murder my soul.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
It’s all just pieces. Start big. Go little.
Every component just needs some attention. That’s easy. Take a wrench to this one. A hammer to that one. We fix things by breaking them. This is surgery.
Sometimes you stitch. Sometimes you chop off a limb.
Nice. Yes. Things are looking better.
I’m feeling good.
Moving along at a nice clip, now
OH HOLY FUCKMITTENS A GIANT PLOT HOLE
*falls into it*
*breaks narrative ankle*
crap crap crap crap
This thing’s like a Sarlacc pit — a suppurating desert canker. You could lose a whole Rancor Monster in this thing. It doesn’t make sense. Where’s the logic? What was I thinking? Was I high when I wrote this? Did someone else write this? IS THIS A PRANK BY A TIME-TRAVELER? This doesn’t feel right. The character wouldn’t act this way. This doesn’t feel authentic to the time or the place or the scene or my writing or to ANY AND ALL OF REALITY shit shit shit poop crap fuck balls cocktaco jizzwich shimmering blumpy nuggets AAAAAAAAA
*takes 15 minutes to commune with the sparkly collective intelligence called ‘Twitter’*
*trades witty banter with other procrastinating writers*
*improves mood by four micrometers*
Oh! Oh my gosh. Look. If I just rewrite this one tiny paragraph, add a couple hundred words, it ties everything together! Ha ha ha! It’s like a little knot! Like I’m tying a shoe! That’s all, a quick loop and lace and here we are, all fixed, all tidy, we can start to run again and —
GODDAMNIT this thing is so delicate, so sensitive — I moved once piece and now ten other parts don’t make sense. I removed one little widget, one tiny flywheel and now the watch doesn’t tell the right time in fact it’s not telling time at all but instead broadcasting HONEY BOO-BOO in Portuguese by the love of sweet saint fuck aaaaaagh
*starts kicking holes in manuscript*
*takes an axe and starts chopping out whole paragraphs, chapters, characters*
*guzzles vodka and Red Bull*
*plays Xbox for a while*
*takes an angry nap*
*hastily rewrites destroyed sections*
These characters are stupid —
This plot is transparently bad —
I HATE THIS BOOK WITH THE BURNING STENCH OF A GARBAGE FIRE
I am inadequate as an author
Possibly as a human being
Nobody should let me near words again
BECAUSE I’M MESSING THEM ALL UP
theme what’s theme mood THERE IS NO MOOD this isn’t a story arc so much as it’s just a dead clown in the desert whose innards have been eaten by coyotes and whose gassy carcass is now the home of slumbering lizards everything is soggy and deflated and the tension is blown out like a nail-popped wheelbarrow tire and everything is falling out into the mud and the slurry
gazza booza fuzza wuzza
oh god help
what’s this now
this section is pretty good
that section’s not bad either
man I kinda love this character
editing is rewriting is rewriting is rewriting
it’s better now than it was
that’s a good sign right?
DEAR UNHOLY DEMONS, IT’S IMPROVING
maybe it doesn’t suck as bad
maybe it doesn’t suck at all
I’m doing it!
I’m editing it!
I’m turning a piece of lead into — well, not gold, exactly, but at least a reasonable facsimile of something that isn’t terrible! It’s amateur hour alchemy, motherfucker! it sucks less! I suck less! everything sucks less! I HAVE SUCKED THE SUCKITY SUCK FROM THIS SUCKY SUCKFEST
THAT’S ONE CHAPTER DOWN
SIXTY MORE TO GO
*cackles and weeps*