Thursday, April 28, 2011

Craft Note: Editing

So, I'm back in the swing of editing "Surrender." Lots of work to do still. I tend to follow the "write with your heart, edit with your head" motto. My first drafts are wordy, clunky, and and a bit rushed, from time to time. I love, love, love writing, but I'm also a huge fan of revision. For some people it's the most tedious (and time consuming part), and it is for me too. However, I still love it. I love being able to step back and look at things with a fresh eye. About 1.5 months passed between my first edit (for storyline gaps and plot as a whole) to this edit (tearing apart and rebuilding sentences/scenes). I'm sure having more time in between would be good, but I feel like I'm at a place where I can look at things objectively: some of the glory and excitement for having finished a first draft is gone. Now, it's about getting down to business.

At this point I'm still hand editing and then taking those edits to the computer. In later drafts, I'll stick with digital editing (because the idea is that the story won't need huge edits anymore and it's easy to scan through and make tiny changes). I feel a bit bad about hand-editing sometimes because I'm using tons of paper (about 580 pages, which I'll recycle in the end). But I feel like I see the words differently when they're on a piece of paper versus the computer monitor. I also like that you can still see what you cross out and then maybe change your mind later. When you edit on a computer the words vanish (unless you're using track changes, but I never do with my own work). Hand editing gives me a chance to reconsider changes once I bring them to the computer.

Sometimes editing is really hard. As a writer, it can be difficult to identify places where the story lags or if characters are completely uninteresting. I think you can get into the mode of "I love all of this!" (at least in the beginning) and that can be detrimental. I think readers come in at this point and give you a new set of eyes. It's then up to you to decide whether to take their advice or leave it on the curb. This can be a difficult thing to do to. When I get feedback, I try my hardest not to jump on immediate changes that are suggested to me. Oftentimes, especially if they are negative comments or things that someone really didn't like, it takes me a few days to process everything. I have this moment where I feel like I've been shot in the heart (initially), then I die a slow death on the sofa, and then my brain is like "get over it, heart, we've got work to do."

The following link is from The Adams Zone and are basically in-line with what I look for when I edit: Editing Tips for Fiction. I definitely have favorite phrases (and sometimes I'm not sure what they are until people point out that I've used "little" ten thousand times), and my first drafts are full of "she walked, she saw, she looked," which I try to remove whenever I can. One thing that I'd like to do, but it's not really working at this point, is trimming 20% of the story out (to make things tighter). At this point, I'm still adding to my novel (grrrr). This is probably because I'm still in love with it all and am not ready to part with scenes or characters.

So, what's your process? Do you write it all out first and then tear it apart or do you write-edit-write-edit-write-edit (a slower process, in my opinion, but a cleaner draft at the end)?


  1. I'm a write it all out then tear it apart type of person.

    Sometimes I have to force myself to finish a story without going back to edit while I'm still writing it. I know if I do I'll have one of those moments when I have a 'this scene would be so much better if I had done this in chapter blahblah' and the minute I go to change that I want to tear the whole thing to shreds and then I just stop writing that story and move on to something else, lol.

    After I've gotten everything onto the page, I usually add notes in a notebook dedicated to it with things I might want to add/take out from the story, subplots that I should make stronger or ways to strengthen themes that I put in without realizing.

    Then I let it sit and work on something else before taking it out and doing a rewrite. I have the original open while I'm doing the second version but I don't edit it directly. During the rewrite I'm tightening it up and since I'm writing everything fresh if my writing style has changed [hopefully improved] from the first draft it won't be glaringly obvious and I won't fall back into my old writing style to try and make it fit.

    And then from here I do a grammar/spell check and send it on to my beta who'll check grammar/spelling as well but also themes and point out things that make sense/doesn't make sense and just give general feedback.

    I have multiple copies of the same document because sometimes I might have gotten rid of a plot thread and then later decide I want it back so I just read whichever version had it and then make up my mind that way. This means I have a lot of TITLE HERE VER.2.0 or TITLE VER 2.5, lol but it saves on some of the paper printing although I do do that too for some chapters since I can catch mistakes easier that way.

    When it comes to trimming down I usually end up cutting things from the beginning. I find that when I start a story I throw out all of this information to set the tone up and sometimes it's good but a lot of the time the information can be placed throughout the rest
    of the story in a better manner.

    Admittedly this leads to a bit of rewriting but since I info-dump like crazy when I start a story it works out a lot better. So I'd look at my earliest chapters and then read them each as if they're the first chapter of the story, if it works, I then see what from chapter one has to be included and if I can put it in somewhere further along.

    Or I'll even start halfway through chapter one and see if I can start partway through and then from there keep it going without it being confusing/abrupt.

    And since you're still in love with it, just make point notes then and ask yourself what does this scene add to the plot and is it possible for you to get the same information across with less words further along in the story. You don't have to actually cut it out yet but you'll start thinking of ways to incorporate it better and hopefully it'll help you tighten it up.

  2. Jammi,

    I like your process of looking at the beginning for things to cut. For me I think the problem lies in a lot of additional words that aren't needed. At least I'm seeing this as I go through and hand-edit again. I think I know what scenes could come out or be shortened, but I'm only 70 pages into the edit and have over 500 to go. It's all a bit overwhelming. I need to figure out a good system--I've fallen way behind in editing and writing lately.