On Editing: Curiosity and Impatience

I admit it. I’m impatient. Impatient to progress, impatient to be finished, impatient to be not just competent but excellent at any given thing.

I’m also curious, which is exceedingly helpful when writing first drafts. I’ll hit that dreaded 40% slow zone and then the plot will turn a corner and we’ll be off again while I fire questions like arrows: where are we going, who are we going with, why now, why them, why why why.

Side note: I think both of those qualities are perhaps why I didn’t last as long in some jobs as I otherwise might have. When you’re just starting out, it’s hard be content with the angle of whatever learning curve you happen to be on. Too fast, too slow, it’ll always be not quite right. And, too: when you’re a little cog, you get funny looks if you question the machine.

Anyway. I’ve started in on developmental edits for Voiceless and… yes. There’s some curiosity there. Mostly impatience.

What’d the editor say?

She said it needs some work.

But it’s already a good story! 

It is, but it can be better.

I want it to be better now!

You have to put the work in, kid.

It’s too much work, it’ll take too long! 

Better get your head down and get cracking, then.

But I want it NOW! 

*sigh*

Have a thirst for excellence, sure. Ambition? Why not. Strive to be the best at whatever you do. But understand (and I’m talking to myself here as much as to you, dear reader) that it means putting the hours in. I refuse to be a cheapskate. On the spectrum of fast/good, this book will be very good. It will be mindbogglingly fantastic. It has to be. I won’t accept anything less, not from my debut novel. Not from any of my books, God willing.

Which isn’t to say that I’m about to spend twelve months on this round of edits. The thing about the fast/good line? Is that you can bend it into a circle. Or a Möbius strip, maybe. You can be both fast and good. I always think I know how hard I can push myself on a project; and each project, I’m surprised to find that I can push myself that little bit more. More speed. More quality. Go to my day job. Come back. More speed. More quality. More speed. More quality.

Curiosity makes a good springboard. What did the editor say needs to happen to make this good? Impatience can give you some drive. I want this to be good, and I want it yesterday. But you’ve got to know what you’re reaching for. You’ve got to have an end goal. This book will be good. It will be great. It will be such a shining example of a brilliant book that other books will be blinded by it.

At the same time, I know that good books have tanked before. And bad books have, inexplicably, soared. So I try not to get my hopes up too high. You know what? All that stuff – whatever happens after it’s released to the wild public – that’s out of my control. But I can control what happens to it before then.

I can control the speed of my edits. I can control the quality of the writing.

And they’re both going to sing.

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