I have come to understand how it is that editing a book takes longer than writing the actual book and I think the reason is this: To edit a book is to rewrite it. It is writing the book all over again, only much more carefully this time around.
If getting the first draft down is creating the foundation, editing it is inspecting the foundation, and giving it walls, a roof, and doors to be unlocked by the reader; it is making sure there is something valuable to enter, a place to settle in to and not just a pile of material, no matter how gleaming the pile may be.
It’s got to work. The reader has to want to enter, and then to stay, to dwell in the place that is the story, with all its startling turns, secret crannies and brilliant color. That is no small task for the writer, at least not for this writer.
It is a sweet, scary feeling to be nearing the end of a project that feels like a lifetime of words, laid bare. But when the end is near and it is time to lay the carpet? Well, there’s no place like home.
Today I am reflecting on all of the tricks and plans and resources and time that I used to get myself to get it all down, to do the work, have the courage, to dig deep, and to build build build. Dig, build. Dig, build. Add. Subtract. Move. Change. Fix.
It has taken me far longer than I think it should have taken me. No doubt that I could have worked faster, smarter, harder. I could have started the book so much sooner and wrapped it up more quickly. I could have spent more time on it, copious amounts of time these past few years, and gotten it done already.
But here I am, with the end in sight anyhow, so close in view now that it feels right to change my strategy for wrapping things up. Up until now, I have thought in terms of time: spend time on it today, spend this minimal amount of time on it tomorrow. this week, this month. Move the book for forward by putting in the time. Now I am thinking in terms of simple math and math has never felt so fun, so exhilarating. Never have I loved organizing and exacting and dividing so much as I do now.
It’s quite simple. To be finished editing by the end of this year, finally, I divided the number of days available to me by the number of pages that need editing.
I am well aware at this point in the editing process, that a single page may be turned into two or three or five pages while editing. Or it can be deleted altogether. During the editing process, paragraphs are added; sometimes full scenes are too. Words eliminated, changed around, discarded. But my simple math says this: If I edit five more pages per day, every day (with a few exceptions for holidays) from now until December 31st, I will be done.
Here is my take on it: When you see the light at the end of the tunnel, it is time to do the math. Heck. maybe it is time to do this before you see the end in sight. Maybe some people work this way from the beginning, mapping out a big project in order to calculate the precise steps, the daily requirement needed. to hold themselves to each day. But for me, it was starts and stops, ebbs and flows, feasts and famines for so much of this project.
But now that I am nearing the end, it is Divide and Conquer.
Sweet, sweet division without a remainder, lead me home.