**Note: If you are a computer whiz kid, skip the first couple of paragraphs. But, if like me, you have a love/hate relationship with your computer, keep reading. Yes, I know it’s only a tool. The results are only as good as the fingers touching the keyboard. But, there are times when I swear it’s out to get me. I think I’ve written one thing and then it disappears into the wireless atmosphere. The reason I bring this up is to help those computer challenged individuals like myself, save time and frustration.
I used to write all my work in longhand. Even my first novel was done the old-fashioned way with a pencil and a legal pad. Of course, it was a sea of arrows, cross-outs, and tiny re-writes. A friend convinced me to compose on-line. My second novel, the one I just completed, was done on the computer. There were a couple problems, I had written each chapter in a separate file. Do you see where I’m going here? When I was finished, I had to cut and paste all the individual ones into one file. Wouldn’t you know it; I had used different font styles and sizes, too. So I had to make those changes. Learn from my mistakes and avoid the temptation to throw your “friend” against the nearest wall. Take the time and energy to learn how to use this tool and call a peace treaty with your computer.**
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First, a quick review of Part 1; your masterpiece is complete, your heart and soul is there for everyone to read, all you need to do is edit. Edit, the very word strikes fear. So, how do you use that fear to your advantage.
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As I looked deep inside my own fear, an image came to mind. I saw a surfer standing on a beach, board in hand, waiting for that perfect wave. His eyes search every swell as it comes toward him. No, not that one, it’s too small. Another one crashes too violently against the sand; it will certainly tow him under. He stands and waits.
Guess what? There is no perfect wave. He will stand there in the sun, watching for an opportunity that has already passed him by. To surf, you have to jump in the water, stand upright on your board, and let the waves take you. So it is the same with writing or in this case, editing.
Shortly after writing Part I, I did jump in the water. I picked up my book and began reading it with a critical eye. Within the first few pages, I saw many errors and things that didn’t sound right. It quickly became apparent that one of the main characters, a young girl with Asperger’s Syndrome (it’s on the high end of the autism spectrum) needed a major personality change. Not only would these changes mean tons of re-writes, but more research. The deeper I got into my book, the more I wanted to re-do. Was this the same novel I was so satisfied with a few weeks ago? How could I have been so sure of myself and my work and now view it totally different? The answer was fairly simple. I am not the same person or writer who began the book.
I would imagine most novels take months, if not years, to finish. So it was with “The F.N.B.”; my novel about a middle-school student with autism. I began my research last spring. Even though I have spent thirty plus years as a special education teacher, I knew little about the autism spectrum. Here’s where synchronicity came into play. That fall, I was asked to work one-on-one with a severely autistic young man. Thank goodness the school system had hired a brilliant consultant with years of experience. She would be my guide into the world of autism. I would learn a whole new skill set in helping this young man grow from having few communication skills and violent reactions into a student who lets us know his wants and needs. We are looking at expanding his hours at school and involvement with other students. I tell you this to illustrate my point, that I am not the same person who began or even finished my novel.
So of course there would have to be major changes. I understand more, I feel more, I see more. Where the character with Asperger’s was one dimensional, I can now bring her to life. I have experienced the fear and prejudice the autistic and their families’ deal with all the time. I have witnessed amazing moments of understanding gained by my student and set-backs of the frustrating inability to communicate. I know now what it means to be autistic. I repeat: I am not the same person who began my novel.
I have made quite a bit of progress with the editing. It’s not complete and will not be for some time. I believe it will be time well spent. It will not be exactly the same novel that I started last spring; hopefully it will be a more true depiction of those who live with autism. It will also be a clearer representation of the person, the writer, I am today.
Here’s food for thought: before you begin the “simple task” of editing your masterpiece, ask yourself something: are you the same person who wrote those first or last words?
Probably not, so be prepared to be a different writer. I’ll keep you up-to-date on my transformation.
ABOUT DJS HARRINGTON
POEMS BY DJS HARRINGTON
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