Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Editing Interrupted by Life

First draft written, I know that the next draft needs work and am ready to look at it critically. I've taken time off to let the manuscript settle in, and now it’s time to start editing. Uh, oh. Not so fast. Clouds on the horizon in the form of jury duty--a case that will last three of the precious six weeks I have set aside for editing. Three weeks of 9-5. Three weeks of unexpected duty.

It doesn’t have to be jury duty; it could be anything that suddenly makes your editing life a lot harder. A parent gets sick and you have to fly across country to take care of him. Your house floods. You get a horrible cold. It can be anything. Bottom line: Life intervenes.

When I set out to edit a first draft, I like to read the manuscript all the way through to get the overall picture of what needs to be done. I jot down ideas as I read, but basically I want to experience the story the same way a reader would. But reading beginning to end means I need a big chunk of time to get the continuity (or lack of).

Being on a jury, there’s no way I can get a chunk of time to do that read unless I’m willing to get up at 3AM and read until 9AM or start reading at 5PM and stay up until I’m done.  Or I could wait until the weekend, which means giving up days I had counted on for editing.

So it looks like I’ll have to approach it differently, or tell my editor that I need extra time. I’ve never failed to meet a deadline, and I don’t like the idea of doing so now. I suspect what I’ll do is forego the full-time read through and instead read in chunks. Not my ideal, but then nobody gets their way all the time.

The important thing in this post is to realize that not everything goes according to plan when you are writing. On the writing side, you can get bogged down in research, or your editor has concerns about some part of the book, or you aren’t satisfied with it and can’t figure out why. And then there is the “life” part. Lots of things can go wrong and throw you off, but the professional writer has to figure out a way to muddle through. Of course I’m not talking about a major setback—death, health issues, or disaster. I’m talking about those little bits of life that make you veer off your perfect plan.

I’m writing this in the jury room. Those of us on the jury have been here all afternoon waiting to be called to the courtroom. It’s interesting to see how many people don’t do much of anything when the time stretches out. I’ve been reading Jeffrey Deaver’s The Steel Kiss, and finally decided that at least I could write a quick blog.

And now for the good news. At 4:20 we were called in and told our services were no longer needed. Oddly, several of us expressed some disappointment. We had already bonded. I liked the people chosen for the jury! But now the little glitch in my editing has been cleared and tomorrow morning I’ll begin reading the whole shebang!

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