Editing in the Time of Covid

by Kitt McClain

Hello, My name is Kitt, and I am a new novelist.

I feel like we newbies should have a support group. I have referenced several websites hoping to find the definitive answer to the ultimate question. I have my first draft. Now what?

I had a plan. I would edit my zero draft for spelling and continuity, and then I would hand my pride and joy to my alpha readers. I wanted to get a sense of whether the whole story structure or the novel’s writing was trash and vomit-inducing or tolerable. It turns out it was readable and somewhat entertaining. No, the readers were not my mom and dad. Full discloser, one was my sister, an avid reader and frequent editor of our blog post on NightInkGals.com. Before you think I got a pass, picture this, you’ve just handed your bright and shiny first draft over into her care. She places it unceremoniously on the table, and then she pulls out a notepad, a red pen and goes to work. I exited stage left my anxiety in overdrive.

I followed the standard advice. Write your draft, then let it sit, marinate. All of the writers’ sites say you must get distance between you and your piece of literary genius. Let go for a month at least, maybe even as long as six months. I was a dutiful newbie and decided to split the difference and settled on three months.

Meanwhile, I outlined the next book in the series of my family saga. This sounds good, right? Well, it veered off the path. I quickly realized that waiting was the weak link in my plan. In the three months, I did get distance from my story to explore it as an objective reader rather than the author, but I didn’t realize there would be a bigger problem. Writing the first draft had been a perfect distraction from the elephant in the room.

Covid-19 changed the world. It has impacted us all in one way or another. As a nurse, my experience with the pandemic has been rewarding and overwhelming. The angst that gripped me at the thought that I could bring the virus home and infect my family tortured me daily. I was on constant watch for symptoms. Were the night sweats a fever or just menopause? What about that nausea and diarrhea, was that the start of symptoms or was it that four-day-old Chinese food? My paranoia reigned. Enter “Elizabeth”, the main character and protagonist of my novel. Writing my story created a buffer between me and my daily challenge of dealing with Covid-19. The fast drafting of my book was a welcome distraction from my reality of patients demanding that they somehow were exempt from wearing masks and that they needed three family members to attend each clinic visit. Long gone were the days of first-line hero euphoria. Now, in its place was resentment and anger. With her friends and family, Elizabeth allowed me to escape that reality and engulf myself in a new world of my own making. Creating Elizabeth’s rollercoaster ride was my outlet and protector from Covid 19 stress.

I have learned to appreciate my wins. I did finish the first draft of my novel. Is it 100% complete and publishable? No, but it has a good solid structure and storyline. So now I have to edit my revision plan. But that’s ok. The key for me is to keep writing and dedicating time to my writing. I am forcing myself not to get bogged down by external things in the world that are out of my control. I have reset my path — I have recalculated the number of chapters I will edit per week. My once lofty goals are now more reasonable. I allow for job stress and strain in my plan. I have outlined three additional chapters to add to my manuscript, adding a little more bite.

In the end, my precious little masterpiece should come in at 75000- 80000 words. It doesn’t sound like much, but I think it is just right. The crucial part of this is that I finish. I know many before me gave up, but it is more than just myself. I’m thinking of a promise I made to someone special, my mother. As she lay dying of lymphoma, she said to me — “Write your book.” A stupid book was the least important thing to me at that moment. The most important person in my life was leaving me, and this changed my world forever. But after grieving, which admittedly took years. I understood at the moment my mother, who was fully aware that she was dying, who was hovering between this world and the next, felt the need to tell me to write.

On her birthday in November 2020, as I finally typed “The End,” I had mixed emotions. She wasn’t here to see that I kept my promise, but I was joyful that I had listened to her and finished the book.

No matter what you are writing, write and finish. Ignore the voices in your head and the doubts that creep up. Respect your desire to write. Stick to it no matter the obstacles. Your need to be an author is organic; respect it. You wouldn’t dream of being a writer If you are not supposed to write and to create. I love creating stories and characters. Find what can keep you motivated to make it to “The End.” For me, it’s keeping a promise I made to my mother in her last hours of life. Do I worry that the finished manuscript will suck? Yep. Will it get traditionally publish? I have no idea. But I finished and have the outline for the next novel in the hopper. That’s the point.

Thanks, Mom, for reminding me of my path. Promise kept.

We are nurses that have a passion for writing.