25 June 2015

Fifty Books in Five Months: On Editing

I think the biggest takeaways from reading fifty books in five months were the lessons I learned on the craft of writing. There is something to be said for absorbing a whole ton of material and seeing what works and what doesn't work.

Probably the biggest lesson I learned was this:

Just because it's important to you, the author, doesn't mean it's important to the characters. And just because it's important to the characters doesn't mean it's important to the story.

In my own early drafts I have a terrible tendency to overwrite, to include all the boring bits of life that connect Point A to Point B. But good writing eliminates the lines. It lets the readers connect the dots.

I think this really crystalized for me while reading Robyn Schneider's THE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING. Ezra, the narrator, had been signed up (against his will) for the debate team. Chapters and chapters had been spent leading up to his first debate tournament.

We did not see a single one of his debates.

We saw the before (which became something of a plot point later), and we saw the afterparty, but we did not see the debates, even though Ezra had been working toward them. And we did not need to. They were not important to the story.

I won't say that I'm going to stop overwriting my first drafts, but I'm going to be a lot more aggressive in cutting out bits during revisions.

So, what else did I learn?

Honestly, the other things I haven't really been able to articulate yet. I think, as I continue to read (and write), I'll find a way to do so.

For now, at least, to paraphrase John Baldessari: