Okay, now you all know what my favorite color is - and my Gram's, too. One of these days I intend to tell you all about her and how much I owe to her for my creative spirit, but today is not that day. Today we are at the end of the Editing Rainbow, and the pot of gold is a marked-up manuscript ready for you to go through and clean up. I know, at first glance it doesn't sound that rewarding, but I get excited about these things. It means that the thing you spent SO LONG putting together and pulling your hair out over is one step closer to being presentable to the general public, and not just your long-suffering close friends & beta readers. (Hi, ladies, you know who you are, and I love you all.)
The best part is that purple, Voice, is the easiest color to edit. I don't even have any bullet points, this week. It's that simple.
This is the part where you go through your manuscript and look for the bits that make you say "YES. I have read this story so many times that my eyes are about to start bleeding, but I still absolutely love this." It can be as big as a whole scene, or as tiny as a description ... One which sticks out for me during my edit of From the Desk of Buster Heywood is the detail of a lost mitten "marinating in a pile of slush". I just love the way it sounds and flows on the page, and the picture is crystal clear to me. Go through your draft and find those parts. Underline them in purple. If you have any lines that are the exact opposite which you haven't already cleaned up with other colors, put a jagged purple line to set them apart.
The lines that you like the sound and look of best are the ones that fell into your lap while you were sitting under the word tree - they are yours by chance, ripe and ready and perfect. They are the cornerstones of your writing voice, and I would be willing to bet that you didn't even think about being "voice-y" or "really good" when you wrote them. Be proud of these. Hold them up in front of your mirror and say "Damn, you wrote this? You rock!" Take a nice ego boost and feel good about yourself. This may be the least rule-intensive part of the editing method, but it may also be the most important, because it's about building confidence in your own writing. You might have all those red adverbs, clunky blue beats, and redundant orange bits in there staring you down, and sure, fixing them all is going to be tricky and daunting, but hey! You have all that purple that you're still proud of in the middle of it all, holding it together. You're a badass. You wrote a whole entire book, and there are parts of it you don't immediately want to throw out the window, even in what Anne Lamott calls the "shitty first draft". Go, you.
Now that you've had your moment of triumph, it's time to take that purple prose and look at it under a magnifying glass. What is it that made those passages work for you? Why do they sing? Do they have a common thread, or were they just a perfect fit for that particular point in the story? You're figuring out your strengths, the place where your voice shines. Once you break that down, you can apply it to the places that aren't so strong. The biggest discovery I made during this phase was that I write best when I can relate closely to someone in the scene... so going forward, I tried to find something I could do the same with in as many situations as possible, even if the character wouldn't react the same way I would. I know a lot of writers say this, when they talk about writing, but they say it because it's true: bring yourself to the page. Your readers will notice the life there, every time.
So, that's it for purple. It's all about following your heart and your gut. But what happens when you finish that whole rainbow? That's up to you. I thought I'd be good just typing in my corrections, but then I decided to take a tally of how it all wound up and find what my biggest weaknesses were. I'll be sharing my breakdown in next week's post, so that when From the Desk... is finally available, you can compare and see just how much I hacked it apart before sharing it with you.
Oh, and here's Anne Lamott's essay on shitty first drafts, courtesy of Canvas online courses. There's a link to a PDF of it, there. If you like what you read, I suggest you pick up the book it became part of, "Bird by Bird". It's one of my favorite books on writing - I'm saving the others for a later post. Here's to the rainbow, and I'll see you next week!
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