I used to hate self-editing. I did not know what I was doing. I was never taught the important questions to ask myself when writing. How to write an essay was pounded in my head. Tell your reader what you’re going to tell them in the introduction. Tell them in detail in the body of the essay. Then end with summing up what you told them. I even had an English teacher who would give us the outline of an essay. It was written on the board when we walked into class. It was foolproof as long as you followed his outline. The lesson on how to edit myself was lost somewhere.
I rambled a lot in my essays. It was a frequent comment from teachers and professors. Thoughts ramble in my head. I can ramble verbally until my best friend is rolling her eyes at me with a look that screams, “GET TO THE FUCKING POINT ALREADY!” All that ability to ramble tends to come out on paper and I did not know how to rein it in.
Perhaps essay writing is not my forte even though I loved English classes in high school and college. I fared better with creative writing and term papers (which are supposed to be long-winded, right?). However, when I sit here and work on editing my book I cannot help but think, how much better would my essays have been had I been taught to ask myself the questions I ask myself now?
I like to think that working on the J.D. and Ari story I posted here helped me hone my ability to identify what does not belong and cut it out. I went through each post several times a day for weeks before I published each part on the blog. I fell in love with J.D. and Ari while keeping an emotional detachment to everything I wrote. Every description and every line of dialogue was subject to deletion no matter how witty I thought it was. I wanted to make sure the essence of the characters were conveyed while keeping it short.
I discovered my strengths through J.D. and Ari, Kyle and Kyra, Connor and Siobhan, Eric and Shantelle, and other characters you have yet to meet. I also learned my weaknesses. While I play to my strengths, I challenge myself with my weaknesses. I experiment with different ways to tell a story and different ways to throw in twists.
Now I look at my book with new eyes. I ask myself if there is too much small talk when I read through dialogue. I ask myself how much detailed description is really needed. Does the reader really need to know about the small gestures I see in my head when I picture a scene? Does the scene further the plot or show growth in my characters?
I have all these questions in my head and it overwhelms me sometimes because I end up making decisions that mean dozens more hours of work to ensure continuity. I want to pull my hair out some days because my eyes start to blur while reading the words on the screen and my brain decides to zone out spontaneously. I hate the work but I love the characters I bring to life. I know that the work will result in a well-polished story that I hope people will love as much as I do.