Tag Archives: revising

Editor’s Block

Other than the writing of the story, the editing process is my favorite. As time goes on and you spend more time with the novel or the short story, or whatever it is, you learn what exactly you want to do with it, and you have a better idea of what fixes to make.

I admit that it lets loose the perfectionist in me. I get a second and third and fourth glance at the content and have an ability to make any tweaks or even re-write as I see fit. As someone who is very picky about what she writes, I manage to have a very difficult time through NaNoWriMo, when the biggest principle is simply to “keep writing, don’t revise until the month is over.”

Though, in some cases, revising and editing can be a worse task. John Green said once that he had re-written 52,000 of Looking for Alaska’s original wordcount when he got to the first round of editing.

That, to me, however, is incredibly intimidating, but I can see where it comes from. You have a better idea for the story and its direction, and accordingly, you need to re-write and take things out where it’s appropriate to accommodate.

Others, however, hate the task of editing. Friend finds it rather a daunting process, to go through all of the 60-100,000 words. While I relish in the chance to be able to mark up  my work and get it in the form and pristine shape that I want it, he’d rather leave it as is. There’s so much to read through, to try and fix other than the obvious typos.

If you hate editing and revising, there’s still hope, you can do it! I have faith in you! You can do the thing! <pom poms>

First, take it a little bit at a time. Measure it chapter by chapter instead. If you’re having trouble remembering what exactly happened in the novel, there’s no shame in going back to re-read it and getting it fresh in your head, to return and do the best work on it that you can.

Second, focus on typing mistakes first.

As you go on, you’ll likely see things you do or don’t like, things you’ll want to improve or leave or expand upon. This is where the third step comes in, but it should come naturally. Your writing instincts should be able to tell you what you want to keep and what may need to be re-written.

The more time you spend on it, the more you’ll do. It’s a natural progression, start small and work your way up. It doesn’t deserve to intimidate you, it’s your work, you own it.

Another option is to send it to a friend you trust, who also writes (preferably), and get a second opinion. Take it into consideration, and try to see what you think is the best course of action.

If you’re going the professional route of being published, you’ll likely have an editor who thoroughly checks and rechecks your work for errors and gives you their opinion. A writer back in the 50s (forgot the name), who I was studying for a Fiction Writing class back in college, had an editor that would take out huge swaths of his story and re-write them, or simply take them out. Looking at a revised copy of his original work was like watching the short story go through the chop-shop.

Then again, that editor was credited for the man’s great success as an author.

Personally, that’s a little terrifying. To encounter someone who changes that much of your work and to have to put your trust in them for getting anywhere with the story. Whew.

I love editing, like I said. If you don’t, I know you can make it through; think of it as selective writing! You’ll get to the end quicker than you realize, if you stick with it.

-The Novice Wordsmith

NaNoWriMo 2014: Preparing, Week 3: Guest Post: It May be Ugly, but it’s Mine…

Lesson from Friend, all the way from October 5, 2004

Do you remember when you were in grade school, and you had to make finger paint art, or macaroni art, or put together something out of clay? Do you remember how proud you were to give it to your parents, and how much more proud you were when it was given a prominent hanging space on the refrigerator door?

You’re going to close your eyes, shut off the logical part of your brain that says, ‘This sucks!’ and just write your fool head off. You are going to create art — and you are going to like it. Moreover, someone else out there will like it. They will say, ‘Wow, you did that?’

Why? Because to people who haven’t done it themselves, fifty thousand words is a huge number for them. So it will be impressive even before they open the cover. You don’t even have to show them. You can just answer the question, “What’s it about?” and gloss over the fact that you misspelled ‘refrigerator’ in Chapter Seven.

If they do read it, and they do find the misspelling (and oh boy there will be a lot of them, unless you religiously run your spellchecker before shutting down your word processor), you can say, “Oh, thanks! I haven’t edited the thing yet, that’s helpful.”

Kathy Coleman, of the Tai-Pan Project, I believe, was the one that told me that if your story is good enough, the mistakes matter less and less. Proof positive was the 17,800 word story I’d written, where there were more edits in the front half than the back half.

Write for November. Save your editing for December. Or better yet, January. You have all the time in the world to edit, revise, and clean up… but only November to write.

Q: So… like, you don’t revise at all?
A: Okay, I lied. I do revise a little bit. I go back within a day’s work and …get ready for it… ADD bits in order to flesh out a weak bit of the story. If I think a section of story is a little light on the description or emotion, I’ll re-examine what’s going on there, who the speaker is, and where they are in the story and then embellish on them a little bit more. It adds detail — and it adds to my word count. That’s what you call a win-win situation. I also correct spelling mistakes if they jump out and hit me over the head.

However– I NEVER throw out a part once it’s been written. I never trash a scene completely; you can kill scenes after November 30th, but if you just spent a day writing, KEEP IT. It’s word count. It’s stuff that makes up part of your story, or you wouldn’t have written it. It made sense when you first typed it out. And it builds characters.

Greg Connor , who also finished the NaNo with me last year, wrote scenes in non-chronological order. He’d set up an outline of where he wanted to go, and on any given day, he’d hang a chapter number on the bit he wanted to write for the day, and go from there. Mind, he’d also write Chapter 7.5 — proof positive that you can revise into the middle, too. It’s your story. You can always go back and add scenes.

A part of the key of doing the NaNo is that you have to write to a deadline that’s so huge-looking that you don’t have time to second-guess yourself. Your mind starts filling in the blanks just ahead of the next line of text, because our minds are geared to solving puzzles and setting order to the universe.

Recycling Bin

One of my favorite things to do is to re-write old stories, things I felt like I didn’t do well enough, or there were new pieces to consider, or there was a change somewhere else. I love looking back and between and seeing the difference, to watch growth and change and see how I shape my own personal style.

Especially in the case of something I wrote when I was 12. The difference was astounding. One character went from the portrayal of everything I wanted when I was a kid, the epitome of my naivety, to a stunning young woman who had an astounding amount of depth and personality for how young she was.

The difference was alarming as it was hilarious. It was like looking between the kindergarten scribbling and the college level painting.

As you keep writing, progressing both through age and experience, you learn more about telling a story. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with the bare-bones of the beginnings, but the more you keep climbing up the mountain, you find things that you hadn’t seen before. You see what a three-dimensional character is, you see with the character’s eyes instead of your own.

It doesn’t have to be time only, either. You had a bad day, you couldn’t get something down right, you weren’t able to tap into your vocabulary like you usually can. You lost a pet or a friend. Someone turned their back on you. You broke up with your partner. We are all affected by everything in our lives, and so too is our writing.

It’s not uncommon for someone to write better when they’re suffering, either, from whatever it may be. Clarity comes in all forms. In other cases, it can cloud our typically clear thoughts and make things more difficult for us.

Revision and editing, as awful as some people think they are, are also a great tool for the reason of fixing things you didn’t like before. Don’t scrap it and re-write unless you know it can’t be saved, because simple revision, having someone say one thing instead of another, can change the whole view and feel of the chapter, or story, making it stronger.

Such in the case of my NaNo novel of last year. A chapter I thought was passable and “fine” had become a strong piece that would set the pace for the next few chapters. There was nothing terribly wrong with it before, but the revisions I made helped round it out with better detail especially, and a change of topic helped bring focus to the brewing conflict.

Then, of course, there’s writing something you end up downright hating. A friend of mine shared a quote with me today that sums it up: “Why should I write even if I don’t like what I wrote?”

Just because you hate it doesn’t mean everyone will. You are your own worst critic, and the glaring flaws you see, someone else won’t. Which has happened to me before, too, and was incredibly surprising. I passed the piece off as “meh” and shared it because they asked for it. I got told, “Whoa. That was incredible.”

Hearing that can really change your tune. Then again, there are the pieces that you think really can’t be saved, but why not give them a chance?

Though on that note, my advice is to look for opinions if you’re conflicted. If you really are not happy with it, change it. Writing is about putting down whatever comes to mind and shaping, molding it to what you want. After years, loss, gain, happiness, turmoil. You are always shaping, like a glass blower! Except with words. And not with something molten.

Let your life’s changes and experience affect your writing, for better or worse. See the merit, take advantage.

-The Novice Wordsmith