Life imitates art—the editing part anyway . . .

I’ve commented before about how I see connections between almost everything in my life and writing. Caving? Well, that’s absolutely a metaphor for writing, of course. Scary movies in childhood? Obviously a lesson in recognizing and dealing with avoidance techniques that might be hurting your writing. Lazy and procrastinating? No, no, no—that’s feeding the muse.

And the latest case of life echoing writing work or vice-versa? Electrical upgrades done in your home (while you’re trying to live and work there) is just like editing a novel. It’s an electrifying truth. (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)

I was not happy to hear that my older home needed to have its panel upgraded from 70-amp service to 200-amp service. (Yes, I’m just showing off newly acquired technical lingo.) My house was comfortable and warm. It had (has!) character. I liked it just fine as it was and it never gave any trouble. Current “code” regulations seem a little on the bizarre side: I’m living here, not operating a nuclear plant . . . but I digress. However unhappy I was to hear it, the needed reno wasn’t a surprise. We knew our house needed more power.

I was not happy to hear from my beloved and much trusted, much appreciated first readers that my latest WIP needed more work. Yes, not happy, but again, not surprised. I already knew I wanted to amp up the tension, rewire a few scenes to dim the focus on the killer, spotlight some red herrings . . .

I thought it would be lovely if the very competent electrician could figure out a way to fix the problems without bashing huge holes in my walls and cutting through lovely painted walls and moulding to get at what he needed to address. He, of course, all artistry aside, could not. Fixing the problem required getting at the guts of the house.

I thought, Hey, I’ve edited a lot of novels now. I’ll just cut in neatly, splice in a line of intrigue, throw a couple of exciting switches . . .

I trust you see where this analogy is going. My eight-inch-thick walls were dismembered and unstuffed. My ceiling is, well, missing in chunks . . . My scenes were (are!) just as mangled. So much for artistry.

But there’s good news. All the hard work, the gruelling work, the omigoodness-please-not-really-don’t-make-me-fix-that-too work pays off.

My house was built to last and the new fixtures, forced air electric heaters, and lovely high-powered service, breakers, fuses, etc. just make what was already there that much better—shine that much brighter.

I trust that I won’t have to resort to mudding and taping and painting my novel to get the same power upgrade in my story.

9 thoughts on “Life imitates art—the editing part anyway . . .

  1. Your parallels are illuminating! 🙂

    I can really sympathise with what you’re saying. With my editing now, I can’t help but think the book is missing something important. With more of that honest editing light, I hope to not only see what’s up, but to fix it without totally gutting the story. Wish me luck and good luck to you too!


  2. I have a friend who does renovation and building upgrade work. I’ve helped him on a few occasions when he’s needed an extra hand or when I was happy for a needed few extra bucks.

    I always had a problem with the demolition part. You just need to get in there and rip out a wall or counter before you can even start any improvement.

    I would look at the nice molding someone had painstakingly put up many years earlier (they don’t make it like that anymore) and gingerly poke at it with the tools. “No, like this,” he would say, jam the crowbar in, and start wrenching. Crunch. Creak. Crash. Into the bin. When the space was empty, it would beg to have something nice, new, and functional put into it.

    I think editing is like that too. It’s tough to “lose” a big chunk of work that just doesn’t cut it. I’ll hide it in another folder somewhere – save it just in case it might be useful someplace else. After all, I’ve spent so much time creating it and big hard drives are cheap.

    But I still don’t like demolition work.


  3. Ev, I really thought I’d commented on this. I meant to!

    “My house was built to last and the new fixtures … just make what was already there that much better—shine that much brighter.”

    I love this idea. Our novels as home, sometimes needing work, but still home, can be better, and yet still home. Wonderful analogy!


  4. Good for you Ev! All done!

    Funny, I have been watching them tear apart our street to put in new water pipes since mid June and they are nearing the end. All summer and fall I was comparing them to me and my edits. Finally the trucks are slowing down.


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