16 January 2013
The year is off to a magnificent start and I can’t believe how much I’m doing. I feel like it should already be February but at the same time I’m surprised when each day closes. I look at the computer screen at 5 am when I awake and then suddenly it’s 11 pm or 12 am or 1 am. My wife says, come to bed, shut off the computer, get some sleep – but I can’t. I”m in the mode. The madman editor mode.
In this life I do a couple of things every day. I write, I do some yoga in the morning, I cook, I eat, I play with my daughter,and I celebrate at least one #microvictory every day. I also edit. I edit for Vagobond.com but my biggest and most challenging job is editing myself. It’s both the most challenging and the most rewarding aspect of being a writer. It’s like pulling teeth. Or doing exercise. Or, like pulling weeds. Here’s the thing. It’s not the editing that’s challenging, it’s the getting started that’s difficult. The editing itself is awesome, rewarding, and fun. Like seeing your garden blossoming and eating a beautiful salad from it or seeing your flabby belly disappear. Editing your own writing is like that. It’s hard work and it’s a process and when you see the results it feels good.
This week, I’ve been blowing it out of the water. Actually, I’ve been doing a pretty incredible job of it since the end of November when I finished writing the first draft of my most recent novel, The Keys to the Riad. Finishing writing a novel is a huge high, something like finishing building a house or a world. It’s easy to celebrate and do nothing but it’s better to channel that energy into something.
I channeled that energy into rewriting my first novel, Slackville Road – if you want to see the results (which I’m told and believe are fantastic) I’ve serialized it as an email newsletter which you can sign up for here. I’ve set it up as a weekly auto-responder but am still making edits and tweaks to it based on feedback and helpful suggestions from readers. (an auto-responder is an automatic email so if you sign up today, you get the first one, then the second a week later, etc). Finishing the first real re-edit of this novel in nine years pumped me up.
So I rewrote my first fairy tale and added it to the email list as I did my edits. When Slackville Road finishes – readers who are still signed up will get The Princess and the Vagabond. Again, I felt like the editing process energized me. That was when I saw a notice for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.
Each year, Amazon launches a writer’s career through this process. I decided to enter my second most recent novel (and best edited) Douchebags, Fags, and Hags. As I read it, I realized it too was in desperate need of editing. Line editing, copy editing, and proof reading. I saw far too many errors and to use the gardening metaphor again – I saw a million weeds I hadn’t known about before that were strangling my beautiful vegetables. What were the weeds? Overused words, badly used phrases, and a number of words that were unnecessary. Here is a partial list: very, obviously, pretty, nice, yet, a little bit of, a bit of, some, things, every,only, stuff, that, got, big, little, massive, so, ….
These are all useful words but the danger lies in using them when you don’t need them and hiding the poetry and beauty of your prose. There are better ways to get your message across than with those words. The challenge is to recognize that, pull them out, and replace them with beautiful tomatoes. There was no way my novel would make it past the preliminary rounds unless I did some breakneck editing.
That’s what I did for the first two weeks of 2013. Every other project went on the back burner as I spent twelve to fifteen hours a day editing and reworking Douchebags, Fags, and Hags. When the time came to enter it into the contest. I felt ready and victorious. That was two days ago. Since then, I’ve been working sixteen hours a day (32 hours in the past two days) to give a second edit to my most important project: Smooth Living: Beyond the Life of a Vagabond.
Smooth Living picks up where Rough Living: Tips and Tales of a Vagabond left off. This is the book where I share everything I’ve learned in the past decade about travel, life, and family. This is the book I am sharing all of my travels and adventures in (except for my life in Morocco which is shared in Not My Morocco – which is the next book I will be re-editing). Yesterday I line edited sixty pages, the day before that I line edited 100 pages! My wife thinks I’ve lost my mind as I sit in front of the computer from the early morning to the earlier morning. She’s write…err right. I’m an editing madman.
But man, my fucking garden sure looks amazing! Come check it out. Eat my peppers.