I rarely feel like this while actually writing.
I feel like this whenever I have to revise a book.
|This is Quoth, the raven. All right, so I don't have a soft toy crow.|
I know a first draft is generally terrible. I don't mind that. I can go back and fix problems, rewrite the bad stuff, cut the really bad stuff, and generally make the book something I'm not ashamed to put my name to. But all of this is before anyone else has seen the book.
An editor's job is to make the book better. Put another way, her job is to find all the flaws in the book. Put another way, her job is to find all the many, many ways in which your book sucks, and point them out to you.
Put another way: her job is to make you wish you'd decided to clean toilets for a living, instead of writing.
This is the stage I'm at now. Actually this is the stage I was at in September, but my book is so bad we're on the fifth round of revisions, and my conclusions are thus:
- I'm not funny.
- My characters are inconsistent.
- My mystery plot could be solved in five minutes, if only the right person asked the right question on page forty.
- I'm really not funny.
- Any lines I believe to be lovely, concise, beautiful in their simplicity, aren't the poetry I believe them to be, but are in dire need of more exposition before they can make sense.
- I don't know anything about automatic cars, or house construction, or MI5.
- I'm going to offend people who like The X Factor.
- I'm really, really not funny.
The thing about edits is that I know the editor doesn't hate me, or my book, and wants to make it all better...so I ought to listen. But I also know whose name is going on the front of the book, and even though I'd really like it to be Alan Smithee at this point, I know it's going to be mine. There are lines in some of my books that the editor put in despite my protests, just to explain something. And they make me cringe, because they're not lines that I wrote and they're not lines I like. But anyone reading the book won't know that. They'll think I wrote those lines. And here's the problem: I don't know if the reader will read those lines and think, "Thank God she explained that, because I had no idea what it meant," or if they'll think, "Well, thank you Captain Obvious, for beating me over the head with that explanation."
Because here's the big thing I'm learning from edits:
- My readers aren't psychic.
- But neither am I.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some toilets to clean.