Saturday, August 30, 2008

Editing Miami Style

I've been hunkered down in my childhood bedroom here in windy and rainy Miami Beach, rereading my third novel. It's done. Well, the writing part of it is. I was actually sad three weeks ago as I wrote the last chapter, knowing that my adventure with my two fictional narrators, Carlos and Tommy, was coming to a close. I had been procrastinating for weeks, writing the last few chapters in long stretches because I knew the time was nearing to finally end the story. When I wrote the last line, I felt a mix of joy and sadness. Joy because I accomplished what I had set out to do and I felt that both characters had a believable emotional metamorphosis. Sadness because the story is done.

My characters aren't real people but to me they feel real and I'm sure other writers can relate. Whether I'm driving to work, hiking in the Blue Hills or cycling in Boston, my characters tell me to write a specific scene or dialogue. I spent the past several months hanging out with them and sharing their thoughts, emotions, goals, and dreams. Once I wrote the last chapter, they stopped speaking to me and I knew the time had come for me to say goodbye.

But for the past two days and for the rest of the weekend, I'm revisiting their stories by editing and revising. This is the fun part for me. I get to sit back and reread their adventures as a whole - when my mom isn't knocking on my bedroom door to offer me another slice of flan and a Diet Coke, or my dad isn't asking me to give him a ride somewhere or my sister isn't asking me to join her at the gym or to run an errand. I'm not complaining. I love these distractions because they are reminders of my childhood and when I lived in Miami. They also remind me of what I am missing daily in Boston.

Wherever I go in Miami, I bring the print-outs of the chapters. They accompany me on Jet Blue. To my sister's gym in South Beach. Barnes and Noble in the Gables. South Pointe Park. Subways in mid-Beach. Even though I write my novels in Boston, I do all my editing in Miami where I always found it easier to rewrite than to write. This part of the process is akin to molding and reshaping a piece of clay. I roll up my Gap shirt sleeves, get my hands dirty and just have fun with taking what I started and smoothing out the edges. And for this brief time, I get to hang out with my narrators, Carlos and Tommy, all over again before their silence returns and I await listening (insert cricket chirping sounds) for a new cast of narrators for a future book.

I am Johnny Diaz and I approve this message.


  1. Oh my, I cried like a BABY when I wrote the last chapter. I took a week off from work to finish it. And when it was time, I made myself an apple-tini (prefered drink of Cindy Villarroel and Icess Fernandez, sometimes) at 11 am and wrote and cried and drank and cried. And when I was done, it was the best feeling in the world- accomplishment. It was awesome. But you know!
    BTW, como estas!

  2. Thanks Icess! Good to hear from you. Doing well. Recovering from the writing process and b-r-e-a-t-h-i-n-g but I'm already itching to start something else but I'm just letting my mind wander for now.

    I can't wait to see your book get published. I hope you rode out GUSTAV okay.

  3. What you guys wrote about "hanging out with your character", that is how it is for us the reader. We get a chance to experience the same adventures your characters do. When we come to the end of the book, we also have sadness and happiness because we went along for the ride and are sad to see their story come to an end. I am waiting anxiously for my copy of Miami Manhunt.

  4. Thanks Gonz for reading and commenting. :-D