When I finished writing my first draft, I felt this sense of achievement, like my dream was finally within reach. After that last full-stop had been put, I sat back, admiring my courage, my idea and my writing. I was so happy and so full of that happiness that I decided to treat myself and announce to everyone that I had at least put the story down.
Thankfully, I had learnt a few things along the way so I did not immediately mail the first draft to my friends for their opinions. I sat on it for a week and when I opened it and read the first sentence, I was ready to kill myself. After I had finished reading the first chapter, I was convinced it was so pathetic that I almost deleted the whole thing.
Common sense prevailed and I worked on it and finally sent the fifth draft to my friends. Until then, I didn’t know what feedback meant. Until then, I didn’t know that my friends could dislike something I had written. I came to know that when they kindly but brutally ripped apart my entire plot.
Surprisingly, I was enthusiastic and ready to receive the constructive criticism. My brain was already buzzing with how I could plug the plot holes, rework story-lines, add and delete characters etc. etc. Another three-four drafts later, I had a 150,000+ word manuscript. A feat I was justly proud of.
It wasn’t until I printed the manuscript a month ago to go through a ‘final final final’ round of editing that I realized even after painstakingly going through it for months and eight drafts later, it STILL wasn’t ready.
Nobody had told me that editing would be as brutal as writing. During writing it is your characters who act up and find themselves staring at walls when they should be in the open field. During editing though, you’re up against a harsh voice that happens to be YOUR voice telling you what can stay and what needs to go.
And you cannot bullshit that inner voice. There is no negotiating with this voice. There are no grey areas – only yes you stay and no you go. And you have to strip all the ‘you can do this; you are a writer’ padding that you had put around you while writing when you start the editing.
It is a humbling exercise – going through your work with a red pen and crossing paragraphs off because they don’t fit or they’re just fluff. It makes you appreciate that what makes you amazing is not that you put down words…but that you listened to that voice and removed the words that you are so in love with.