Sunday, April 18, 2010

Robyn's rule #3: if you find a problem, fix it

When I'm editing a story, I have this horrible tendency to move things around rather than fix them. Maybe I write a paragraph on scrap paper during a meeting at work, or I decide some piece of text belongs at the beginning of the story to explain the world (I often move all the boring exposition to the start of the story, for example, in a second or third draft, making the intro nigh unto unreadable). I drop this text into a spot as I move through the document to the end, and then I make another draft, rinse and repeat.

And as I progress, each draft doesn't get better. Well, maybe the ending does, but the beginning gets heavier and heavier and that's what people read first so I'm kind of screwing myself. I'm not sure; I have this thing in my head that generally each story starts out not that bad after the first draft, and then through subsequent edits got worse and worse. But that's wishful thinking and the first draft was probably crap and all subsequent drafts are crap also, but for a different reason. Like the first draft the POV was all wrong, and now the POV is functioning correctly but I've lost any sort of narrative flow because I've dropped a whole bunch of paragraphs next to each other, just sticking it somewhere so it's out of my way and I can move on.

This nasty habit probably came from my TechWriting day-job, where you can just stick in a heading, and make the text go any way you want, because it's not a narrative and doesn't have to flow. And people won't use it in a linear fashion, anyway.

So I resolve, Robyn's Rule #3: when I move a block of text to a new spot, I have to make it so it fits. I know it's broken and doesn't flow smoothly from one paragraph to the next, so I have to do the massaging now. That text isn't going to massage itself into the hole while I'm sleeping, or somehow during the printing process, or when I save the file.

In the story I'm working on now, I made an actual dumping ground for blocks of text that I love, but just can't find a spot for. I guess it's the darlings graveyard.

And the next thing I start editing is going to be the zombie novel, and I don't want to screw that up like I've screwed up everything else. This fear is probably holding me back from starting, actually.

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