In the last week, I started to focus on finishing my own private editing of The Changelings so that I could get it in to my editor for a final blast of correction.
My editing process goes something like this: take a pristine white manuscript, slash it to bits with my pen, type the revisions in the computer, underline passages that need more work, print it out, write out 1-3 revisions of the underlined passage by hand, type up the best parts of the revision, and play around with word choice until its as strong as it can be.
Today, after my standard hack-and-slash of words, I happened upon a quote by Amina Gautier on Jane Friedman's blog that spoke about how re-writing rewards mistakes. To quote:
Revising encourages and liberates the writer to “make mistakes.” It rewards mistakes; each “mistake” teaches one something about the story one is writing and gets one that much closer to the story one is meant to write. Revision reconciles the competing versions of the story that the writer carries in his head. Until the writer has gotten the story down on paper or onto the screen, he often cannot tell the difference between what he actually wrote, what he thought he wrote, and what he hoped to write.
This passage spoke to my heart and reminded me of how far I've grown as a writer.
In my younger days, when I was first learning the craft, I hated to even look at my own writing. I thought it ugly, horrible, boring, and every mistake glared out at me with blood red eyes. My solution was to simply throw everything out and start again. I knew that by some alchemy, revision turned my writing into gold. But I didn't know why, and it frustrated me to no end.
As I got older, I began to understand what was happening. Unconsciously, I was learning from my mistakes. Everything I didn't like, I threw away, trying new ways of writing until something worked. Once I started realizing the value of my mistakes, I began to make a conscious effort to seek them out. Now I read through my drafts over and over again, analyzing why certain passages don't work and brainstorming ways to correct them.
A lot of the magic still happens when I'm not expecting it. It's like churning butter: you churn and churn and churn some more until suddenly this pale milky substance solidifies. A wavering idea turns into a real experience, for you, for the reader. As you get older, you grow to trust the process and learn how to make it more efficient for you.