Editing is the spade work it’s supposed to be – My Rewrite Reckoning

I remember a game we used to play in those staff bonding retreats, back when I was still a “staff”.

We would form into a few groups, each group standing in a circle. Every person would put out one hand in the centre of the circle to grab another person’s hand. Then, with the other hand, repeat the action making sure to grab a different person’s hand.

After that, with hands firmly clasped, we had to untangle the proverbial Gordian Knot of hands and form back into a circle again, hands still firmly clasped to the same two other people.

First group to successfully untangle wins.

It was a fun and crazy mess, but a mess nonetheless. And in most cases, it took forever to untangle.

There were only two outcomes for this game: either all groups succeeded (in time), or we ended up with two interlocking circles.

At the end of an embarrassingly long and fruitless week, I am left today to think that maybe there is a third outcome to this Gordian Knot game: a mess that keeps messing up!

Make no mistake – editing is spade work!

I never doubted that editing was going to be the tough spade work that it is, especially when it’s one’s life that’s being recounted on page after page of seemingly-endless text. Pages that look like they need to be burnt or buried!

Gosh, did I really live that long and have that much to say? Or maybe I’m just repeating the same gibberish over and over again, just to make the page count!

But this week, I couldn’t help recalling that game and also one of my most dreaded memories when I was serving in the army.

Photo: Stream.org

There was one memory I dreaded during those compulsory years serving our nation – trench digging.

It didn’t help that I was a 19-year old then, trapped in what must surely have been an 11-year old’s body, going by the way I lifted up the large and heavy shovel to attempt each dig. I felt like I was trying to lift Thor’s hammer (to smash Thanos’ army of Outriders in that now-famous Wakanda battle scene in Avengers: Infinity War).

You know. The hammer (with the unpronounceable name) that can only be lifted by those it deemed worthy.

Photo: Anirudh/unsplash

Yep, I definitely felt unworthy to wield the trench-digging spade I was given. At one point, it got so bad that my platoon sergeant himself had to jump in and help me finish the job! You can imagine the shelling I got that day!

Hating the spade work, yet knowing it needs to be done

So yah, it’s been one of those weeks.

The kind where you stare blankly at all the pages of your shitty first draft, and wonder how you’re going to sort out all that mess, or dig a way out of this trench you have fallen into.

It’s not that I don’t know what needs to be done with my second draft.

(Well kinda)

It’s just the whole sitting down, staring and wondering how the heck I’m going to move all that “furniture” (paragraphs) around without losing my mind, and killing these feeble 11-year old arms in the process!

I know what you’re thinking. I’m too chicken-shit to “murder my darlings” as Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch famously quipped. Actually, my problem is the opposite. I want to murder. Why, just looking this week at the chapters of the first Act of my book, and I can’t help thinking: I want to kill them all!

(Well kinda)

But if I did, that would mean I have to rewrite from scratch my book’s Act I set-up; like I’m back to square one again. Sighhh…And it makes me wonder if I’m even writing the right book to begin with.

Hmmm…maybe I’m falling prey to Resistance again. Oops, time to re-read my previous post and ‘self-medicate’!

Meantime, at least this episode has helped me birth this unplanned blog post (*grin*).

So perhaps my week’s not a complete loss after all.

One thought on “Editing is the spade work it’s supposed to be – My Rewrite Reckoning

  1. Haha, I feel your pain! But I tend to have the opposite problem of killing my darlings–not actually including enough information in the first draft! Thanks for the humorous post on an annoying problem.

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