Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Control Alt Delete

My second book, Prayse (title provisional), is firmly into the editing process.  I am nearly halfway through as I edit the chapters in order and lay them out into book format, just to get a general idea of things.  There is another edit coming after that and probably a final after that.  But for now, I'm in the thick of the "big" edit.

This is where I take all of the individual chapters I've written and try to conglomerate them together to make a book.

What surprises me most about each chapter, as is true of just about everything of my own that I edit, is how fantastically terrible a writer I can be.  I mean, terrible.  Some of these "chapters" are points thrown together without a story to bind them.  Or they are three or four points jumbled together until none of them are coming through clearly.  Or they are just ramblings.  I'm left trying to sort out what I meant when I wrote it and boil things down to what I was really trying to say.

Which, as I mentioned on social media a few weeks ago, is its own joke because if I eliminated every unnecessary word in the new book, I'd be left with just one: Pray.  And that's not really a book; that's a poster.

The trouble I run into with editing is that for the most part, I have great control over my words.  So when I"m trying to edit and find that I've been out of control, I'm stunned.  I'm stunned and disappointed in myself and I try to rein in whatever those words were meant to be and re-exert my control over them to make them work in my story.

When that doesn't work, and inevitably it doesn't always work, I will find myself tearing a chapter to shreds in an attempt to alter its contents and make it workable around one sentence I really don't want to give up, regardless of the fact that the sentence makes not sense in the context of the chapter and may not make any sense in any context, but I'm committed to it and so I'm going to give it a go.

That works even less of the time.

Usually after a few hours of staring at a page, all marked up in grey with the things I don't like, the places I want to clarify, the paragraphs I want to change, I realize I'm just making a bigger mess than I started with and I take a short break.  Or a long break, depending on how intimidating my shades of grey are in any given moment.  Because I know if I push it, it's going to get worse.

A note about the greys.  Most people edit in red.  Teachers always graded my papers in red.  Editors for journalistic endeavors preferred their red pens.  It's a haunting reality, this red, but I won't do that to myself.  I edit in grey because these things I'm marking to go back to, these are not things I've done wrong.  These are not words I've written in error.  These are not atrocities.  They're just grey areas.  They are places where things get a little muddy or a little shady, somewhere short of the strong, defined image I'm trying to create with my words.  So I mark them in grey to know that that's a place I want to clear up.  And I recommend it. If you're a writer, don't red yourself to death.  If you're an editor, consider the grace of grey.

Anyway, when I come back to a chapter I've set aside for a breath of fresh air, I often find the answer to my dilemma and everything I didn't like about the chapter is staring me right in the face: it is so often not that the chapter doesn't fit the sentence as the sentence doesn't fit the chapter.

I can't tell you how many times I've come back to a chapter only to find that my little backspace key is my best friend.  To discover that by taking out even a sentence I've fallen in love with, the rest of the chapter falls together and I find that cohesion I was trying to force with control and alteration.

We can't be afraid - in writing or in life - to get rid of something that's just not working.  We put so much effort and take on all this strife trying to get things to work, but not everything works.  Not everything works together or even on its own, and if we want to come out of it with our best possible product, we have to be willing to cut some things out.

I am shooting for Prayse to come out later this year, although life has already redefined my timetable more than once.  But I won't release this book until it's been gruelingly edited and ripped apart and made as good as I can get it.  Because these words are worth at least that much, as much as I can give them, and because I want you to be blessed by this book.  The subject matter- prayer - is too important.  The stories in these pages are too important.

If you want a sneak peek, check out the Prayse Project's dedicated blog.  I'm throwing chapters around there in various stages of the editing process and am always open to feedback.  (Also open to alternative possible titles.)  

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