Editing: A Scene
I love and hate editing. I love making things better. I hate that the words seem to turn into cement once they’re on the page. My inner critic, Steve, is always around while I’m editing. Our conversations usually sound something like this.
Me: Right, I know what I need to do with this chapter. Make it active instead of passive. Choose better verbs. Make it better. I've got a plan. Totally doable.
Steve: I don't see why you're doing this. The words are already there. It's not like you're going to come up with better ones.
Me: Have some faith Steve. I've totally got this.
Steve: If you say so.
Me: Ok here we go. That sentence needs to go. It's repetitive. I can combine the important information with another sentence. This one here. Ha! That's much better. I am awesome.
Steve: Want some tea?
Me: I already have some thanks. Hmm this paragraph doesn't sing. It's ok but it can be so much better. How about this? (Deletes a few words and types almost exactly the same thing.)
Steve: That's not different. It's exactly the same.
Me: It is not. See that word wasn't there before. It changes the whole meaning.
Steve: It's the same.
Me: Well ok. It's very similar. How about this? (Deletes the same words and … fingers hover over the keys.)
Steve: How about what?
Me: I’m thinking.
Steve: Don’t hurt yourself.
Me: Shut up. You’re not helping.
Steve: I offered you tea.
Me: I can do this. What am I trying to say? I just need to boil it down to that. Simple. Direct.
Steve: The words are already on the page. You already said it. It’s just not very good.
Me: Can you go, do something else? Somewhere else? You’re distracting me.
Steve: Fine. I’ll be quiet. I’ll sit here and I won’t say a thing.
Me: Thank you. OK. I don’t know how to change this for the better so I’ll move on and come back to it. (Restores original words.) Wow, four adverbs in three sentences. Those need to go. But I like them. Do I have to? Adverbs are bad. Weak. Yes, they have to go. Well maybe I can keep one in. Yes. I mean, adverbs are a part of English. If we weren’t supposed to use them at all they wouldn’t exist. Right Steve?
Me: Right, you’re being quiet. I’ll keep this one and get rid of the rest. Actually, that sounds better. Good. Moving on. Dialog section next. Why didn’t I use any dialog tags? There are three people in this conversation. I can’t tell who says what. Awesome. So, let’s put some in. He says. She says. Says. Says. Ugh, I hate dialog tags. How many different ways can I say “says”? Maybe if I think of what the character is trying to do with the dialog. Like in that drama class I took in college, with the verb exercise. God that was hard. But that might work. "Explains". Not exactly active, but at least different and accurate. "Asserts". That’s not bad. "Repeats". Why does he need to repeat what was just said? Cut that. OK how about "undermines"? That’s a bit dramatic. Also awkward. "Points out threateningly". No adverbs. Plus bad. Why is this so hard? I feel like this shouldn’t be this hard. Am I just stupid? Does everyone have this problem?
Steve: (Looks the ceiling.)
Steve: (Shakes his head.)
Me: I can hear you thinking.
Steve: More tea?