My Mind Made Public -

I held off as long as I could ...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Reflection of Writing a Book - Part 4

The editing process sucks. It was the worst thing I’ve had to do in a long, long time! Not only are all of your words, thoughts, experiences, insights and conclusions shredded by your editor, but then you have to somehow refocus on the broader task at hand and try to write it all again more succinctly to what makes clearer sense to the audience. My thought about that:

“I did write it clear to the audience the first time, you’re just not trying to understand what I’m saying.”

Wrong attitude. This just elongated my editing process, and it sure made it more painful.

I had no idea how to edit such a large piece of work. My editor’s suggestions were clear and I agreed with them for the most part, but I had the most difficult time trying to implement any of them because I knew in my head what he took out of the text. And for me in that moment, the only thing that made sense was the original full explanation of whatever I was talking about – not the diced up edited version. In my mind I couldn’t separate my original manuscript from the new edited version. It was too watered down; missing too much meat and substance. As I was going through the edits I kept thinking:

“But this would have made sense if you just kept it how I originally had it!”

Wrong attitude. This just elongated my editing process, and it sure made it more painful.

To seek help I called my editor, friends, family and other people I knew who have written books before. None of them seemed to be able to give me a piece of mind (not their fault, I just wasn’t able to receive any of their advice.) Then my ever intelligent uncle, Michael Dalton, spoke up in conjunction with a few others (mom, dad, wife), and they laid it down for me. They said that it’s my name that ultimately going to be on the book, and I better darn well be happy with every word no matter who says what about the content. “Start from scratch [from my original manuscript] and refine it how you see fit.”

It’s almost as if the huge gorilla sitting on my back jumped off and released me from the paralyzing burden of having to conform to “The Man’s Edits.” (sorry Dave ((he is my editor and he reads this)): it wasn’t you, it was me.) And from that point of realization I was free to take what Dave suggested and carve that into a new, sculpted, and way better version of my original manuscript.

Although I might have felt free, the book writing/editing process didn’t change from my original experience: it was still the most constricting project I’ve ever done. In two, 60-hour periods of time (that is 3 days a piece, or 6 days total, for those who don’t like math), I only slept 3 hours per 60 hours. The crazy part was that I wasn’t even tired! I was so engulfed and immersed, reliving each word and story as I did when I originally wrote them down, that time flew by. An hour seemed like a minute and a day seemed like an hour. But I busted my hump and worked hard; harder than I ever worked before. I thought writing a whole book in 7 weeks was rough … how about editing a whole book in 3? Ouch! And I have to deeply thank the folks who gave me their comments and feedback on the edits:

Peter Marin
Eric Leocadio
Dr. Becky Kuhn
Kristen Sifers
Tim Otto
Dr. Jim Coakley

Brian McLaren
and especially my main man Dave Zimmerman – it’s all good in the hood brotha!

It’s done. It’s totally and utterly done and I can’t wait for you all to read it. So here is my next lesson learned:

Editing sucks. It takes HUGE amounts of time and it needs to be treated with the same respect that was given to the writing process. I totally underestimated the severe levels of difficultly that editing brings.

Please don’t make the same mistake because your life will be terrible for significant periods of time. I hated my life because I hated the editing process. It was too daunting and too overwhelming to squeeze into short periods of time. But I learned and grew a ton; and totally and utterly confident and excited for every word that has become Love Is an Orientation. I do know this much though, I’ll never read another, or look at another book in the same fashion!

One more thought – none of what I said was to ever rip on InterVarsity Press. I love them. I love my editor. I can’t wait to do more with them. They are my family, for real! They made this whole process go as smooth as possible. My reflections are just the internal dialogue and battle I faced within myself throughout this journey. And I can’t wait to share that journey with you through the book.

Much love.

1 comment:

Eric said...

Thanks for scaring me about the process of writing and editing a book. Great. Thanks, brutha Forfar.

Just kidding.

It is amazing to hear, though, your process and experience in undertaking this project. I am honored to have been a part of your process.

I know that the Lord will use "Love is an Orientation" to elevate the conversation for many of God's peeps. Thank you for your willingness and service to Him and to us.

Bless ya!