Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Maintaining Focus while Editing

Yes, that title is an oxymoron.

One of the things I've learned during my writing journey is that, like a sport or a talent or anything else, the more you practice, the better you get. It is NOT like riding a bike. You can get back on and ride, but you have to relearn the skills you've let go. When I was young, I learned to play the oboe. We're talking grade school. A few years ago, DH decided I should have a chance to play again and bought me one for Christmas. We're talking MANY years between then and now. On the plus side, I was able to play a scale. With the assistance of my primers (yes, I still have my "learning to play" books), it was easy to relearn all that I'd forgotten over the years, but while I once played well, even relearning the right notes, I wouldn't subject anyone to the caterwauling that came out of that instrument now.

As many of you know I have a day job. The one that pays the bills. During the first quarter of the year, the day job demands almost all (and often ALL) of my attention. That leaves precious little time to focus on the writing, although I make an added effort to dip my fingers into it so that I don't completely lose everything I've worked so hard to learn. With the work demand ebbing, I've been diving head-first back into my writing.

As the queen of analogies, I'm going to pull out another one. Teachers talk about how much kids lose over the summer months, and that the first month after summer break, teachers work to bring students back to a teachable point. I feel that way! Knowing how this works, I'd struggled to make sure Rekindling was finished so that the hardest part was over.

Who am I kidding? Creating the story is the easy part. The fun part. It's the editing that's the hard part. And that's right where I am now.

Maybe it isn't my lack of focus or the required time away to pay the bills. Maybe I'm just avoiding the hard stuff. Editing is ALWAYS a chore, but an essential chore.

Digressing once more. I stopped before I jumped full into editing to revisit Living Canvas. Since Rekindling sort of follows on from that one, I wanted to make sure I got the copyediting issues straight. (Found at least one inconsistency that I had to correct!) During this process, I realized something, not for the first time. While in the throes of writing, I cannot read it objectively. It's just not possible. That's where I am in Rekindling. Going back to Living Canvas, I was able to find errors I missed the first go round (yes, they've been corrected and a fresh version is available for new readers). I'm no longer INSIDE the story. The point here is that I KNOW there are things in Rekindling that I have to fix, but it is a struggle to find them because the story is playing in my head like a movie, the same way you replay a movie after you walk out of the theater. The initial reaction is to enjoy the experience. It isn't until a day or two later that the odd things jump out at you and you get more critical.

I'm procrastinating, and yet, while editing, it is better to take it slow. To read a couple of chapters at a time rather than buzz through the whole thing so you don't get caught up in the story all over again.

Like a kid back after summer break, I'm struggling to focus on the task at hand. Like a professional, I push forward anyway. I'm proud of this story, the way it plays in my head. I'm working hard to make sure that story comes across on the page. No one else can see into my imagination to do it for me, so I need to press on. And I am. Even if every time I look out the window I stop to watch the dogs next door, or a squirrel hopping from tree to tree, or a cat crawl through the fence.

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