As the title suggests, I'm slogging through the first-pass revision of my 2010 NaNoWriMo novel. Sometimes the process is fun and exhilarating; sometimes I put my head down and have to stop for the day. Fortunately I've never reached the point where I think everything is terrible and should be shot shot shot and set on fire (thank you, Saw: The Musical), but I have definitely reached my limit for the day. Sort of how sometimes all I want is cheese, but other days I can't even stomach the stuff.
Sometimes the editing goes well. I'm 128 pages in to the novel at this point, and not one of them is free of red ink. I'm perversely proud of this. It means not one page hasn't been improved. Some pages only have a few changes; others look like I drank too much cranberry juice and tossed it up all over my manuscript. Either way, in these moments I'm enjoying the prose I've written and changing things to make it stronger. The worst that happens in these moments is I get exhausted looking at how many times I use variants of the verb "to be".
Sometimes, not so much.
I rounded the 40% complete mark the other day, after wrangling a particularly difficult chapter into submission. I'd discovered a huge plot hole, filled with so many inconsistencies that if it hadn't been NaNoWriMo I would've wondered what I was thinking when I wrote it. Those three a.m. "must make word count before sleep" sprints take their toll. For those who might wonder, I managed to confuse whether my pirate ring or my planetary agency had sent the warning message to my protagonists, and by the end everything was a horrible mashup of "they" and "we" and "you" without any clue to whom the pronouns belonged. But after some despair — heightened at the time by a long workday and the fact that I was in an otherwise packed Starbucks with two empty seats on either side of me, because some small-city Japanese people will rather stand than sit next to a foreigner, which usually I barely notice but that day resonated in every part of my conscious mind — I got some Indian takeout, burned my mouth on the curry, and dove back in.
Once I clear Chapter Seven I'll have passed 50%, and it's around this time that I start thinking about other projects — stalled WIPs, ground-up rewrites, shiny new ideas — and wondering if I might be better off just playing with them for a few days, just in case. Especially because I know of a huge plot mess I left for myself back in November that's just waiting for me when I hit Chapter Ten. I don't know how to fix it at the moment, and I know it will involve a lot of tears, and perhaps the kind of scene-deleting pen-slashing that scores the pages underneath. I really don't want to think about it. Those other ideas are looking pretty good right now, especially since I have other people invested in them, whereas this one is pretty much just me at the moment.
But I'm not letting myself do it. The sense of accomplishment I got from finishing the first draft was incredible; I can't wait for the encore, when I finish revising and can stop only seeing the errors. I just need to listen to the theme from "Rocky" nonstop for the next few weeks, I guess. If you're in the same position, I urge you to wait. Those shiny ideas will still be there when you're done. Jot down a sentence summary to jog your mind in your ideas notebook (assuming you have one) and move on.
Wish me luck! And for those of you doing editing of your own, good luck as well.