That title will probably make some of you look at me with one of those, “Ej, you must be insane,” faces. But it’s true. I love editing.
Okay, wait, let me make a distinction. I like editing novels. Novels are wonderful and they tell stories. They’re works of art. On the other hand, academic papers. I hate editing them almost as much as I hate writing them. They’re usually boring, and so far I’ve never been able to tell a story with one. I suspect academic writing is an art style unto itself, but one in which I am not at all well versed. So. Moving on.
I didn’t start out as a writer. In fact I hated writing pretty much the entirety of elementary and middle school. I could stand reading, but my spelling had always been so horrendous I always got bad marks when I tried to do written responses. Bubbles were fine! I became a very good taker of bubble tests! No, I started out as a doodler. I’ve been drawing since I could pick up a crayon, and in Freshman year of high school I found out that I was a pretty good sculptor as well. The one project that I remember distinctly from that class was the one in which we were all taught how to sculpt a head. I, being a fantasy nerd, decided to sculpt an elf head rather than a human one, but the proportions were still roughly the same. It was a bit tedious at first, sketching profile and front views of some random head, but once we got to the actual slapping clay on an armature part, I was all kinds of happy. I was always a step or two ahead of the rest of the class too, which meant that I could spend more time with details, and I remember, as I took the careful steps to cut the elf’s face out of the raw lump of reddish clay, how it made my heart soar to see someone who had previously only existed in my mind come to life right in front of my eyes. Unfortunately, he ended up blowing up in the kiln, but, it happens. Thinking back on it, the face ended up resembling Legion a little bit, so, perhaps that was for the better.
My point here is that writing a novel is like sculpting a face. Planning it out is that awkward tedious bit where you sketch out what you want the rough features to look like. Some people – like my dad, for instance – are like Michelangelo, and just kinda skip that step because they can already see the story laid out in front of them. The first draft is like slapping the clay onto the armature and smoothing it out into roughly the shape of the face. Some details might pop out now, some basic structures, like the brow ridge or the base of the nose, but it’s nowhere near finished. Editing is like scraping off unneeded layers of clay to find the shape of the face, and sometimes adding in things like eyes and ears and hair. When you step back and read it through after a month, it’s like watching those figures in your head come to life. Firing the sculpture would be like the process of getting it ready for the public eye, be it submitting it to a publisher or formatting it for epub like I do. Some people paint their sculptures, and that of course would be the cover and title page art, and any other art in the actually book. Maybe even the blurb on the back cover if you’re so inclined.
But that’s why I love editing. Realizing that my characters have taken on a life inside the pages of my creation, that I hadn’t intended at the start of the story, that’s the most intense feeling ever… short of seeing a physical, 3-D representation of them, be that an actor or a sculpture.
And with that, I bid you all adieu. Have a good one!
-EJ the Hermit Sculptor