Sunday, January 27, 2013

Edits Make The Good Better

As part of my 2013 New Year's resolutions, I've decided to put a serious push on finishing my BWCA memoir. Part of doing that required switching from my Wednesday Night writing workshop at AllWriters' Workplace and Workshop to a Thursday Night Book Writing class. Because I've grown to love my Wednesday Night colleagues, this will be a difficult transition. The upside to it all is that two or three former Wednesday-nighters will be in the Thursday night class, so I won't be among total strangers.

What's the difference between the two classes? The Wednesday class is a setting where students read and then get critiqued by their peers. Because the reading takes place in class, not everyone gets a chance to be read every week. The Thursday reading takes place on your own time and you just bring your critique to class. It's like Wednesday, just more concentrated, or compressed.

So, in preparation for the Thursday transition, I have been going through my manuscript from the beginning in an effort to make it better. I'm focusing on adding detail, richness, depth and dialogue. As I go through it, I am struck by how little attention I gave to some of this the first time through. I think this is attributable to a couple of things.

First of all, I was writing each of these stories as a story unto itself, in part to fulfill my page requirement for the week on Wednesday. When you write a story as a sub-story and don't really look at it in the context of the rest of the story, the continuity gets messed up.

Well, as I go through it now, slowly and start to finish, I have to say it looks like I wrote this when I was either: A. Drunk or, B. Stupid. I am probably being a bit harsh on myself, but that's what writers do, I guess. Part of it was that these particular sections were written as far back as two years ago. It's funny how much you learn in two years about point of view, dialogue and scene setting. I am convinced that I have enriched the manuscript a ton already, and I am only getting started.

The other thing that I am doing is giving a critical eye to the event details, time frames and places. A good example of something I found was that I called my mom's boyfriend (at the time) my "stepfather," when in fact they weren't married yet. It seemed perfectly fine at the time I wrote it, and thank goodness I went through it again, because details and specifics like this are important, and getting them wrong is almost unethical.

Editing is a big part of writing; a huge part. I would go so far as to say it is more important than the initial writing itself. When we write memoir from memory and from the heart, we sometimes get things wrong. It is all part of being human and being a flawed writer. That is why we have our peers to help us, and that is why we take the time to go over the story again, and again, and again. We owe it to our readers, or we shouldn't be doing it at all.

Back at it for me.

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