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Something Worth Crying About

Complete courtesy of yesterday’s 4th of July-inspired awesome post on editing a first draft… you now know that it’s not the most difficult task ever.

The Founding Fathers, the soldiers who fought for the cause, and the families who supported them had it much worse. That should be a major "Duh."

You might sometimes feel like you’re taking bullets to the heart as you do what you have to editorially do. Or it might seem that you’re bleeding profusely while you bayonet the heck out of this black and white bit of yourself.

But you’re in fact physically fine. So stop being such a big baby and keep on editing.

I’m being partially silly when I say that, of course. After all, I do know how mentally and emotionally tough editing a first draft can be.

I’ve been mad for days at my editor over suggested cuts. And I sighed a lot – of very sincerely sad sighs, mind you – while I revised my latest novel, Proving America.

There was just so much I wanted to save and so much that had to go.

Even so, we writers tend to be a little more melodramatic about our stories than we should be.

When editing a first draft, remember that you’re writing a novel. You’re not defending freedom with your actual blood and sweat. (Though actual tears may or may not be involved.)

It’s not a matter of life or death. Things really could be worse. So breathe.

Just breathe.

In the same way, it’s not the end of the world if there’s a lot to fix. Finding tons of flaws with your first draft is frustrating, I know. But that doesn’t mean you’re the worst writer ever or that this kind of thing has never happened before.

It’s just part of the writing/editing/publishing process for that particular story of yours. That’s why:

It’s okay if your first draft is bad.

It’s actually okay if your first draft is really bad. And it’s even okay if your first draft is really, really bad. You’re human, and you just completed a 70,000-word or longer story. That’s a lot to keep track of, no matter whether you’re a plotter or a pantser.

As such, there’s bound to be issues that need to be worked out: plot holes to be filled up, characters to be rounded out, setting details to be described more clearly, etc. These are not signs of failures. They’re just signs of a first draft.

And, as I’ve been saying all week, first drafts can be bad.

To further assure you (if you need to be assured) about editing a first draft, here’s some insider info.

I’m probably going to have to scrap my entire National Novel Writing Month-fueled draft from last year. Which, incidentally, is not the first time I’ve started and then had to restart this particular novel.

I don’t know what it is about it, but it’s definitely keeping me on my creative toes.

It’s not even that it’s so bad. It better not be when:

  • I’d already read through multiple research books when I started it.

  • I’d already thought through the whole entire story multiple times.

  • I’ve written 15 full first drafts of other stories already.

Even so, I’m pretty sure this one's a failure. Worse yet, it’s my own silly fault if it is. I wanted to do NaNoWriMo, and so I did NaNoWriMo… before completing my research like I knew I should.

Now I have to live with the consequences. Which is writing it out all over again.

Fortunately, those consequences – which, remember, are not of the life-or-death variety – are all part of the learning process. You try things on for size, with some of them fitting just fine, some of them failing miserably…

And some of them reminding you that really you need to diet first since July 4th is over and everything.

Now that? That’s something worth crying about. Not editing a first draft.


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