Beware the Editing Raptor
I’d better do some blog posting, hadn’t I?
The last two weeks have largely been consumed by editing. As I’ve said, Splinters of Truth is on its way. One story in particular, ‘The Firebird’, has been giving me considerable grief. Progress had been delayed by that most dreaded of creatures, the Editing Raptor.
The Editing Raptor is intelligent, swift and deadly. He can open doors, doors into your self-doubt that allow his pack to enter your mind and attack anything that you thought was cool in the first draft.
The Editing Raptor attacked me while I was trying to revise the ending of The Firebird (he was testing my defences for weaknesses- he never attacks the same place twice). Using his powerful leg muscles and light, birdlike bone structure, he leapt several times his own height to climb into my ear. I was trying to find a way to alter the ending in a way that was a bit more poetic (it’s a fairy-tale story) and he attacked mercilessly. Suddenly, no possible ending would make me happy.
First, using the sickle-like claws on his hind feet, he tore me a new plot hole. Then he employed rows of needle-like teeth to shred my dialogue into pieces. By the time he was done, the desire to slightly tweak my ending had become the need to rearrange the entire scene, change big plot points, rewrite dialogue and alter secondary themes!
Long story short (no pun intended), I ended up going back through several scenes and altering them drastically, with each new change having a ripple effect across the rest of the story. I spent more time going backwards than forwards. I was letting myself get wound up, overthinking everything and suffering self-inflicted writer’s block. When the Editing Raptor has a hold of you and is eating your guts while you’re still alive, things can look pretty bleak.
However, help is at hand. I’ll share my survival tips, for all those other writers who have found a story unwinding before their eyes.
- Step Back. The Editing Raptor specialises in surrounding you with his pack of hungry dromaeosaurids. Just as you think you have him clocked, they attack from the sides *does the finger motion*. In other words, you need to step back from your work. The more you get wound up with it, the less clear your thoughts will be and the more tangled up you get. Do something else for a while; you might find it inspires you.
- Seek Help. Like the Editing Raptor, you must cooperate to survive. Discuss your work with someone (by the way, huge thanks here to my long-suffering girlfriend) like a friend or fellow writer. That idea you’ve been trying to resolve for the last 10 hours? They will either solve it with infuriating ease, or provide some insight, or just help by letting you explain it aloud.
- Think Twice. You must use your wits to evade this dangerous predator. By ‘think twice’ I mean as opposed to just thinking once for a really long time. In other words, instead of getting frustrated as you try to solve some plot or dialogue issue, think of it from a new point of view or examine what you’re trying to achieve within the story. The whole section may not actually be necessary, or could be moved to another place.
- Be Brave. You must not let the Editing Raptor scare you, for he can smell fear. You may have to make hard decisions. If one of your sentences is wounded, sometimes you have to put it down. Nobody wants to leave a word behind, but if it’s bleeding syntax, then the Editing Raptor will find it. Do what has to be done.
Finally, remember that the Editing Raptor isn’t real- he was inside your mind all along! Whoah! Even more incredible: he has feathers! I know!
It’s easy to end up in a rut while editing, undoing more than you actually fix. We all want our work to be perfect and if something reads wrong or doesn’t add up, it has to be addressed. On the other hand, don’t let it stress you, because you’ll be staring dumbly at the page like a man staring into the terrifying eyes of the Editing Raptor.
Follow my advice and keep at it. If all fails, try to lure it into the path of the Inspiration T-Rex.
Velociraptor art borrowed lovingly from http://www.dinosaursinart.com/index.htm