I edit constantly. That’s why this whole “60-day manuscript” thing is so difficult for me. It requires that you write and write and write . . . and not go back to edit until you are done. Crazy.
However, my constant editing doesn’t just affect my writing. Let’s start with a little exposition:
In addition to being a storywriter, I am also a songwriter. There’s a particular song that I have been obsessing over lately. I wrote it a few months ago when my wife was in the hospital with our newborn son. It is a song about desperate times, and crying for help even when you think no one is listening. The (early) delivery was not without its risks and troubles, and it was a very scary time for me. I had begun working with the music for the song before the hospital stay, but the lyrics didn’t fully flesh themselves out until we were going through that ordeal. It mostly deals with the situation through metaphor . . . until the last verse, when I actually plead for God to let M. live.
I strongly believe that it is the best song I have ever written. I was inspired by an old gospel hymn whose name I can’t find to save my life. I heard it once, and it haunted me. I picked it out on my guitar, changing notes here and there until I had the beginnings of the song. Then everything happened. Afterward, I had a newborn song and the rawest, purest lyrics I had ever written.
I know. It’s a lot of exposition.
When a friend opened up a recording studio near my house, I jumped on the opportunity. Two months before L. was born, I recorded a cover version of Sympathy For The Devil by the Rolling Stones. It was fun, and it’s been pretty well received by most everyone who has heard it (which hasn’t been many). I contacted him a couple months ago to let him know I had another song to record, and we scheduled some time.
I used a software program to arrange the music for the song. For several weeks, I plotted every note, making sure everything was perfect before heading to the studio. A problem with studio equipment forced us to push back the recording time another couple of weeks, and I used that time to tweak what I had.
Fast forward to last Friday. That night, I’m practicing the song on my acoustic guitar, playing through it a few times since I would be recording Saturday afternoon. On my last run-through of the song . . . I changed it.
It had been written for months. It was due to be recorded in less than 24 hours. And I changed a single note . . . thus changing the entire song.
Normally, changing one note would not affect a song too much. Except, of course, when you have pre-recorded six tracks of music to go along with it that all include that original note. There wasn’t enough time to change and re-record the music I already had. I sighed in frustration.
I still recorded the song. I just used the drum track I arranged for the previous version, opting to do a more stripped-down variation of the song—which, oddly enough, is what I envisioned from the very beginning. Over time, it just kept getting bigger and bigger. I would add an instrument here, a string section there. My tendency to continually edit helped me rein in the song I had wanted all along: a simple song with a simple message.
As soon as it is finished, I will post it here. It’s still in the mixing process, but I’m positive it will be something special once it’s completed.
As you will find out through reading this blog, I can never just focus on one project at once. Generally, that’s why I’ve had such a hard time getting anything—and I mean anything—finished. The fact that I have five short stories finished and ready for submission is nothing short of a miracle. It’s tempting to go over each of them for the twenty-fifth time, but I’ve decided to stop myself.
As much as I don’t agree with what the man has done to his films, I agree with George Lucas. He said that, when it came to telling a story, be it through film or any other medium, it is never truly finished—only abandoned. I can already tell that I will be this way with my work. If there were no deadlines, I would edit forever.
Good thing I have a deadline. 56 days left.