Of Dragons and Men

At night, my blanket is tucked under my legs, the air on full blast. My weapon is in my hands and I find myself fighting dragons.

All of my imaginary friends are dragons. I suppose they represent different things. This sounds so silly if you don’t appreciate the metaphor. As a writer, I live in a fictional world. I see the little things around me as inexplicably magical. It’s like my imaginary world is imposed on the reality around me. My problems appear as fearsome dragons. And currently, my dragon is writer’s block.

Every time I face the beast, I end up getting burned. I’m exceedingly disappointed in myself for failing every attempt. I can make no progress in my quest — writing a novel — until the serpent is slain and I can proudly stride over it’s hollow carcass.

Okay, I think my metaphor may be getting a bit frightening.

In the process of editing my novel, I keep encountering these obstacles that protect the rest of the story, but don’t allow me to reach it. I have a readership group that is waiting on me to finish another few chapters so they can read and give me feedback. And here I stand, just staring up at a scaled dragon. And I’m so prepared: I’ve got my wooden sword in one hand and my tin-foil shield in the other. Wow, writer’s block can make you feel helpless.

So I finally got past the particular instance of writer’s block that was really getting to me. I aimed high. I wanted to be able to complete the novel by Halloween. Now it’s looking more like it will be Christmas. (But that’s with NaNo sandwiched in there too.)

Really quickly though, I’m not addressing ways to get around writer’s block. There are tons of suggestions out there and everyone differs on which tactic is best for them. No, my encouragement of the day is more along the lines of: just because you feel helpless, doesn’t mean you are. I felt so useless up against this block. It wasn’t coming to me. Even the characters, who have lives of their own, weren’t helping. But I’m the freaking author! I control this world. I can make it happen. I can put them through hell or I can get them out of it. I have the power to say yes or no. The writer manipulates the story and the world.

My wooden sword became a sharpened blade, my tin foil a refined shield (maybe with a little inkwell crest on the front). And I can slay the dragon.

Pruning a Plant (Or Weed-Whacking It)

I always dreaded the editing process. Not that I’d ever actually gone through it with a full-length project. In ways, I was right to fear it. The editing process is scary because I know I’m going to have to take crap and make it coherent. Not to mention, it involves much more critical thinking than just the creative flow that the first draft involves. I dread the massive amounts of time consuming editing involves, in order to be thorough. That is hard as a college student! (Tests, papers, short stories, reading, studying, presentations, blah, blah, blah… How do you sit down to edit a novel in the midst of that?!)

But, now that I’m sitting down to focus on it, I don’t get why so many people complain about it! Or why I ever was so afraid!

Editing has been so thrilling. I’m effectively hacking it to bits: cutting the crap, keeping the gems, and making it work.

I can see my novel getting smoother before my eyes. I can sense the flow of the story improving. The characters are establishing themselves more. The scenes aren’t needlessly wordy. The puzzle pieces of plot are fitting perfectly into place one at a time. It’s such a relief to know that, once I’ve finished, I won’t be ashamed to let other people read my work.

It’s like pruning a plant. I’m slowly and carefully picking off the crumpled dead leaves so that the flowers can live, thrive, and grow. The more dead leaves I pull away, the lovelier the plant becomes. It’s a delicate process. I’m picking off the inconsistencies, the extra words, the typos, the wrong words.

Not like I’m taking a blade to it or anything. But I am hacking a lot of stuff. Some doesn’t fit, some is unnecessary, and some just isn’t right. Like right now there is a weed entwined with my flower and I’m completely destroying it. It’s choking out my flower right now. And what good does pruning the dead leaves do if the weed is still there killing the plant?

And it feels good. Seeing the progress I’ve made so far, looking at how much better it is (and I’m only 1/20 of the way done). Pruning (and hacking) is such a rewarding experience. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll find myself dreading editing again. I’ll just be really excited to prune and hack away to the final product.