Having a domestic with the first draft – editing is a bitch

Editing that first draft is an act of mutilation – it’s messy, emotional and unforgiving.

But that’s because I write like a maniac – without forethought or planning. I just do a mind-puke over the page like I’ve been on some boozy ideas binge.

Now I have to sift through this literary vomit and pick out the chunks that might still contain some nutritional value. It’s horrid.

Case in point: I have a pair of characters whose growing relationship is the main drive. They are newly acquainted father and daughter, and how they form their bond is what drives the drama.

Only – this sweet, simple kinship tale is buried underneath convoluted murder cases, gang warfare, World-bending conspiracies and a battle against man’s greatest nemesis: the twisted demons of Hell.

I don’t know how many times I’ve manipulated their storyline to fit all the pieces together, but it’s just not working.

The reason it’s not working is because when I wrote the first draft, I got carried away with Yeaaaah, that’ll be cool! and Oooooh, out of left field yo! And now I’m trying to push those characters in a direction I arbitrarily created in my head, but my characters are saying, “No, sod off. I’m not doing that because that’s not me.”

Yes, it’s a good thing I’ve come to terms with their personalities, and they are speaking to me as real people (starting to sound insane), but it’s a bit frustrating that my creations are rebelling.

Characters rebel
Too big for their boots

It’s like if Jim Henson went into work one morning and Kermit and Miss Piggy were on strike: Kermit’s talking about reading the existential poems he wrote with his crack-head New Jersey girlfriend, and Piggy’s asking for more hard-hitting drama that speaks to the core of the oppressed pig-puppet community.

Damn it Jim, this is important!

But Jim’s got no power, because he invented them, gave them personalities and brought them to life. They’re sentient now.

Yes, there are sill choices and creative influence. You still have to imagine them doing what they’re doing and write it down; but there’s an honesty check that can veto any decision you make at any time.

And sometimes it feels easier to just say, “Stop everything! I’m starting again.”

That’s what I’m battling with now: that feeling that what I’ve created is shit and I no longer have any power over it.

At the same time, I have no compulsion to whip my characters back into line, like a malevolent dictator.

Editing is much harder than writing, because you have to trash hours and hours of work, and disregard the emotional connection you had with it. It’s like a short-lived fling that you remember fondly, that is nevertheless shallow and empty – and ultimately damaging to the relationship you’re in now.

I want my relationship with this book to grow like a healthy marriage.

We’re just going through a rocky patch.

Does everyone go through this with their beloved draft? Is it always such a struggle? How do you get on with yours?

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