Saturday, July 18, 2009

The hard climb

Slogging through the edits and I do mean slog.

The important thing is to trust whomever is editing your work to make the words flow better, to make the storyline blend without the lumps, for all the red ink and comments neatly inserted.

I'm tempted to stop transferring edits from one manuscript to the other and do them on the computer - take a short cut - but I have to wait until it's all done. On a computer screen, it's easy to miss stuff; on a page, not so much if you're paying attention.

This is the nitty gritty; the line-by-line, scene-by-scene, chapter-by-chapter look at the work. I've made copious notes, inserted markers for re-writes, tagged plot deletions or adjustments, corrected grammar and spelling, considered suggestions and comments.

It's like climbing a mountain. The first challenge is to plan you're trip (or, in case of an organic writer, stare at the peak and wonder if you can do it). The next challenge is to climb to the pre-planned point or the writing of the thing. For organics, it's looking for a place to rest. You can insert a 'yippee' here for having the courage to finish the book; not everyone with the ambition does.

Then, the slope gets steeper, slippery, cracks and crevasses appear as you navigate towards the next goal: the editing ledge. It's at this point a lot of writers slid back to the beginning and start a new climb, a new book, because that editing ledge just seems a little bit too far, too hard and you finished the damn book, isn't that enough?

Not if you want people to read and enjoy. So... onwards and upwards, following an interesting track or a planned route, with scrapes and bruises and frustration and the voice of temptation suggesting you give up getting louder; but finally you get to the ledge. By golly, look how far you've come! Why, I can see my house from here!

You can sit and rest a spell, let the work breathe and regain its composure from the intensive battering its taken, not just from you but someone else's pummelling as well. The next ledge is further up the steeper side of the mountain. Craggy peaks occasionally hidden by the cloud of the unknown. Dangers lurk up there: unscrupulous agents for one, editors demanding payment first, for another. But from here, you can actually see - if you squint and lean out a little... a little further... there - the golden ring held aloft by a publishing house.

Between you and that ring lie traps and pitfalls, people who don't want you to succeed. Time to close your ears and put on the oxygen mask, because this is going to be hard. With each laboured step, each rejection slip, the goal is closer. Some will fall, accept the criticism that it's just not good enough or it really is too hard. Others will turn willingly and return to the bottom for more equipment and a better understanding. Others will not come back to this mountain, it's too frightening, too competitive. And the few who persevered and refused to accept the rejections will ascend to clasp that golden ring, to be congratulated, cheered and applauded.

And then, the publisher will push you off the mountain, yelling it's time for another book and to stop slacking off.

Of course, you know the route now, the pitfalls, the nasty voices. You've got the equipment, the experience and friends to help. It should be easier now.

And once you've tumbled all the way to bottom to begin you're climb again, you happen to glance over at the chalet. You know the one. It's got a balcony overlooking the valley of readers. People sit around tables, drinking lattes or hot chocolates and nibbling on pretzels, laughing and chatting; not once do they look at the mountain.

The longing to join them surges. Hell, they look comfortable, relaxed and a little bit more affluent than those climbing the mountain. Not many bruises over there, barely a scratch and not a sombre, defeated expression amongst them.

The sign above the chalet says it all: The Scribd Inn. Free entry. The construction going on out the side, all new and shiney, has another sign in big, bold letters: Opening soon, the Scribd Restaurant: you charge, we pay.

And as you look further along the valley, more chalets are going up around those already established.

So, here's the question: do you keep climbing the mountain, doing it the hard way, the traditional way, or do you slip into something warmer, easier and perhaps friendlier?

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