Looking back to the night I pronounced the first draft of Future Remains complete, I recall a sense of finality that was, in retrospect, uncalled for. Sure, it was a huge milestone, one that I'm proud to have reached at all. Still, I don't think I appreciated the enormity of the job yet ahead.
To prepare for the ill-advised task of self-editing, I stepped away from the project for a solid week and immersed myself in the rules of style and grammar, as presented by such masters as Strunk and White (The Elements of Style); Stephen King (On Writing); and back issues of Writers Digest. Now, armed with a fresh headful of rules - some of which I plan to apply - I have returned to the manuscript, green pen in hand. (Yes, I edit with a green pen. A page covered in green markings just kind of says, "Hey, it's not all bad. Green means go, not stop!" I'll take all the positivity I can get right now.)
What I've learned so far is that writing and editing are very different animals. Writing is nice and cuddly and lets you pet it sometimes. It almost always comes when called and can add joy to an otherwise dull life. Editing, on the other hand, is a feral beast, and while I wouldn't mind putting a dish of food outside to keep it around, I don't think I'm going to let it sleep in my bed. The biggest challenge is knowing when to stop. I've reworked entire chapters until they were unrecognizable and, in the end, unusable. I stare at words until I'm not sure what they mean anymore. I'm barely past the prologue, and I'm already feeling burned out.
Even so, I am fully determined to wrestle this thing to the ground. Progress has been slow, but I think the effort is paying off. The story is improving, the dialogue is shaping up, and the villain is fleshing out. Each character is gaining a distinctive voice (I hope), and the overall flow of the plot is tightening up. Once this phase is complete, I'll be ready to pass it on to my courageous beta readers. If there's any ink left in my green pen by then, I hope they'll be honest enough to tell me where to use it.