The Editing Block

We writers tend to complain about writing blocks. What if we get an editing block? I’ve got one that is going to delay my next novel’s release by… I don’t know how long. I haven’t been able to sit down and do the very basic level of post-composition revisions and polish that will enable me to send it off to an actual editor. She’s good, but she’s not a mind-reader, and it would be unfair to send the ms in this state.

So I’m left with this. Sitting at my desk when I have carved out time to work on the edits, staring at the words on the screen wondering what the heck is wrong with me. I’m tired (I’m always tired. That’s a constant state for me), I’m stressed (who isn’t, this year?), and although my creative brain has been spun up into overdrive since about July, the editing part of me? Gah. It’s busted. I can’t fix it.

Although that makes me think of something else. It’s impossible to repair a break you can’t see. And sometimes repair is not expedient, simple replacement is best. Like the modem this Friday. I got home from work, sat at the kitchen table working on second art (I’ll explain later) and talking to my husband while he cooked us dinner (he’s a master of an omelette: I told him I was craving salt and got one stuffed with olives and feta. It was so so good). The internet went down, so I walked into the office area and tried to restart the modem. ‘Have you turned it off and back on again…?’ went like this: unplug, plug back in, and suddenly, there are no lights at all on the modem. Two tech support calls later, and a flying trip to the store, and I had the ‘net back up, because they replaced the cheap little modem that had suddenly fried. It was toast. Toes up and not even the satisfaction of the magic smoke coming out to let me know it was thoroughly dead. Ah, well.

I can’t replace my brain. I’m not even certain I’d want to. Who knows what I’d wind up with instead of this one I at least understand sometimes? Abby N. Ormal more than likely, given my luck. What I might be able to do is figure out what’s busted and then wire up a workaround to that. I’ve done that with other things in life. Brain doesn’t like to be bored? Podcasts. Brain hates housecleaning? Make it a game. Lungs lock up at the smallest allergen and certain perfumes? For that, we have albuterol. Speaking of which. PSA: if you are asthmatic or even like me and ‘pre-asthmatic’ then craft stores and even freakin’ Aldi are off limits from now until post-Christmas. I complain every year that the cinnamon pine cones in the entry way are a health hazard. They make polite noises and ignore me, and I know I’m not the only person who reacts to the stinking things.

Anyway, stepping off that soap box. I was talking about rewiring my brain. And I mentioned above I’d come back to the art. Last week I’d had an idea. That’s nothing new, I have ideas all the time. This had to do with my sister Juniper, though. I decided I was going to create a picture book for her Christmas Present. Ulp. I have a little over a month! Can it be done? I talked to my other sister. Should it have a plot? I asked her. Yes, she said.

Crap. I just talked myself into writing that children’s book I said I couldn’t do. Some time later, a whole lot of words that rhyme with moose, a absolutely hilarious thread sequence on social media about moose poetry, and sitting at the computer writing truly bad doggerel ala Theodore Geisel, and I had it. I had written a picture book story. It’s rhyming, but there’s a plot. Not too much tension (drama upsets Juniper) and yes, there are words that no four year old could be expected to know, but it’s designed to be read aloud as Juniper is still trying to learn how to read, forty years later. I hope she never gives up. And I hereby publicly apologize to my mother if Juniper decides she wants this story read aloud over and over and…

I’m working on the art, a minimum of two illustrations a day. Three, yesterday. That’s the easy part, oddly enough. I had this mental block about being able to write a story on a level for a child. It’s not easy. To do it well, you must boil the thing down to it’s essences. You don’t have the room for the words you can be lazy with like you can in a novel for adults. To convey much with very little… I’d convinced myself I couldn’t do it. I’d fobbed it off on my mother, earlier this year, by sending her 400+ illustrations, and saying ‘write a story around some of these.’ Actually, Mom, I still want you to do that. I’d love to coauthor with you.

Anyway. I’m sure I can figure out how to break through the editing block. I hope. I have to! It’s either that or abandon a complete novel to just… sit there. I do have a second one finished, I suppose I could work on that and come back to this one later? But I have rambled on long enough here.

Oh! I switched days with Dorothy. In case you noticed this is Sunday. If you hadn’t, now you know. If you were convinced it was still Saturday and you had a day left of weekend, I’m sorry!

This is a portrait of my sister Juniper, with a cute moose hoodie on, as her favorite joke is to make hand antlers and declare she’s a cute moose. And the header image is from the storybook I am writing and illustrating, A Cute Moose.

6 comments

  1. I’ve come to enjoy editing, whether my own stuff or that of another writer. While I frequently suffer “writer’s block,” which usually just means a loss of motivation, I almost always find editing pleasant, even relaxing. So this is a subject of special interest for me.

    I can temporarily lose interest in a protagonist’s adventures, and thus be without the energy required to extend them. It happens a lot. But when the words are already “on the page,” poring over them to find errors and potential improvements is something I nearly find always enjoyable. (No, I don’t have an explanation.)

  2. For a long time, when I started writing, I could only write, or only edit. Both would last so long that I would wonder whether I could ever switch.

  3. I don’t know if it would help in your family’s situation regarding teaching Juniper to read, but I was able to use the book “Teach your child to read in 100 Easy Lessons” to teach one of my children who has Down Syndrome to read. It’s by Siegfried Engelmann and Phyllis Haddox, and sells for about $15 on the ‘Zon (higher elsewhere, most likely). It’s phonics based, and is very effective. I also used it with my other kids, as well. If I recall correctly, it has at least one story in it with a moose!

  4. I read my text aloud. Or I print it out, double-spaced, because it looks different and I get out Ole Red. It also helps when I walk away for a week or two.
    Old, old methods that you probably already do. Sometimes they help.

  5. Editors block . . . it may just be that it hasn’t rested long enough for you to see it anew, and spot the flaws. Which, since you’re on a deadline, is next to impossible to do. Perhaps taking a day off and reading something completely different would get your mind out of the story, so you could look at it from the outside, so to speak.

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