In February, when I signed up for National Novel Editing Month (NaNoEdMo for short, an internet movement that encourages participants to beautify their ugliest manuscripts for at least fifty hours during the month of March), my friends and family were concerned that I was manifesting latent masochistic tendencies, hitherto unknown. I played light of the situation, insisting I was doing it for fun. “It’s a spiritual exercise!” I said. “To prove to myself that I can! It’s good to have goals in life!” Pollyanna would have been proud.
The truth is that over the years my writing has gone in several directions, not all of which were paths the human psyche was meant to travel. I have a pile of ugly manuscripts chained in my basement, there to mock me and act as my secret shame forever, hidden from public eyes lest they bring disgrace upon my house and name. They need only a firm and loving hand, I thought, to beat the insolence out of them so that they are fit to see the light of day. I would be that hand.
On March 1st, I started my endeavor by asking some published writers I know online if they had any editing advice. “Fire is a powerful, cleansing force,” one said. At the time, I wondered what he meant.
The first week, I edited with Justice in my heart. No paragraph was safe from my scrutiny. The fixes were easy and obvious. I had plans! I had a vision! My pure faith in NaNoEdMo would sustain me like the white light of Heaven in these End Times!
But my fervor was short lived. Error sprang up after error, like the heads of the mythical hydra. Even the bits I had already edited still needed more editing. It was an unending battle. I remembered the writer’s advice: Why hadn’t I started with fire?
There’s a scene in World of Warcraft when Prince Arthas Menethil chooses to burn the city of Stratholm, killing all within, rather than risk the spread of the undead plague that he believes has already taken hold of the populace. It’s an act of genocide, the first step in the moral decline of a once-great man who later descends to unspeakable evil.
By March 21st, I decided Old Arthas was onto something.
But I lack the strength to set alight my blighted manuscripts. Defeated, I relegate my grotesque creations to their quiet corner of the basement yet again, too ashamed to look at them. I hear their pitiful cries as I lie awake in bed at night, with plans and visions of next March, when NaNoEdMo comes again.