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Editing as you go: really that bad?

Posted: March 20th, 2010, 2:20 pm
by lac582
I'm 30,000 words into the first draft of my work-in-progress. I know conventional wisdom says to bang out the complete first draft, even if it's terrible, rather than let yourself get caught up on going back to edit/revise as you go. It's getting really hard for me to resist this impulse! I feel like I'd be wasting my time writing scenes that I already know will have to change.

Anyone buck the conventional wisdom successfully? Or at least have some words of motivation to keep me plugging forward rather than going back to revise?

Re: Editing as you go: really that bad?

Posted: March 20th, 2010, 2:25 pm
by Chimera
Lots of writers don't follow that convention. I think for most of us it's a good idea, if only to keep us from doubting our writing. But Don DeLillo, for example, revises paragraph by paragraph until he thinks it's perfect (or so I've heard).
Do what feels right, I guess.

Re: Editing as you go: really that bad?

Posted: March 20th, 2010, 2:56 pm
by r louis scott
I'm not so sure that is "conventional wisdom" so much as it is "what a lot of people do".

Since you are the one that has to be comfortable with your process, I would advise to do as you please. I am terrible for fashioning one paragraph at a time and not moving on until I am satisfied with it. If I really, terribly, awfully need to just spit something out, I do it in my "Sandbox", a document to work out ideas and maybes.

Re: Editing as you go: really that bad?

Posted: March 20th, 2010, 3:08 pm
by Quill
I don't see how anyone can polish as they go, but that's just me. People do it.

For one, I didn't know where my story was going, despite my attempts to outline ahead, so many of those perfect paragraphs later went out the window, a waste of time. For two, it slowed my momentum for getting the story onto paper, which caused my first draft to spread vastly over time. And it still required revision. Thirdly, I found that the creative and editorial processes didn't mix. It was better for me to have one hat on, to write free as the wind, finish, and then put on the other to shape and hone with a critical eye. I don't switch back and forth well.

Re: Editing as you go: really that bad?

Posted: March 20th, 2010, 3:13 pm
by bcomet
I've worked both ways. Going back to a completely ROUGH first draft can be wicked torture -all those typos alone are impossibly hard to face.
But it DOES get the initial story out.

And then I've worked more slowly, methodically, where I write a bit and then go back and back until it shines and then move on. In this manner, it is very helpful for me to have an outline. I know where I am going or where I want to go. I enjoy this terribly: it is a slow, wonderful way to work.

Lately, I've been working in a bit of both styles: I have an outline. I have character profiles. I might even have chapter titles (or subject or needed plot moves listed, if not finished titles anyway).
I write. Then I go back over what I've just written before, but not THAT much, I polish a little, and then I leave it and I write further.

Later, no matter what style I work in, I will need to review the WHOLE manuscript and edit again (and probably again and again), but that is more tightening work, i.e. getting rid of redundant words, completing character motivation goals, filling in the missing pieces and chunks–all the developmental things as well as craft points. Then, of course, there is the copy editing. At this point, I need readers. They will tell me what I've missed, where I've gone astray, what they wish for that I might not have given them. They will see what I see (hopefully) and they will see what I might not have.

Overall, one of the biggest helping factors for me with my writing has been to learn to make friends and allies with the OUTLINE.

Re: Editing as you go: really that bad?

Posted: March 20th, 2010, 3:53 pm
by Crystal
So far, on my first novel, I write, write, write, get stuck, print it out, go back and reread what I have done. Here I'll mark any obvious typos, add things scratch things out, move stuff around and generally look for what kind of plot problem I am having that is stopping me from progressing. By the time I am through editing what I already have the "writer's block" is gone and I progress in the same fashion.

Good luck and remember every writer is different. Do what works for you.

Re: Editing as you go: really that bad?

Posted: March 20th, 2010, 4:15 pm
by mmcdonald64
I begin most writing sessions by editing the previous scenes. I need to refresh my memory of what just happened in the story anyway, and it's not like I can let a typo or awkward sentence just slide. I might forget about it. After about ten minutes of editing, I start a new scene. Of course, this doesn't mean I don't go back and edit again when I'm done.

Re: Editing as you go: really that bad?

Posted: March 20th, 2010, 4:16 pm
by shadow
I guess I sort of do both. I try to keep the sentences flowing and I try to avoid certain adverbs etc. but I don't over edit otherwise that really stops the flow of imagination. I think it depends on the writer very much and how picky they tend to be with their writing. :)

Re: Editing as you go: really that bad?

Posted: March 20th, 2010, 5:34 pm
by Bryan Russell/Ink
Editing as you go is only bad if it ends up being a problem. And you won't really know that unless you try it. The problem with it is that a lot of writers simply end up endlessly revising something. So two years down the road they have a kickass first chapter. And that's it. Long way from completing the story... not so good.

But the process suits some people. One of my old writing professors was an edit as you go type. Took him ten years to write his single novel. And then it won the Dublin IMPAC award (which is the richest in the world). So, whatever works for you. Personally, I'm more of a get-it-down type. I want that pace and flow and momentum to help keep me going. I want to stay inside the story, not be pulled out and then have to find my way back in again. Getting back in can be hard, sometimes. But it also helps that while I write a little long in first draft, I also write quite clean. So I'm not staring at a lot of mangled sentences or typos or whathaveyou. If I were...? Who knows, maybe I'd be a revise-as-you-go writer.

Best of luck,

Re: Editing as you go: really that bad?

Posted: March 20th, 2010, 7:19 pm
by Susan Quinn
I've done both ways - taking a week to write a chapter, and then another week and another...6 months later I have a 2nd draft novel. Then I wrote a novel in a month, and spent a week revising each chapter...6 most later I have a 2nd draft novel again. Either way, I still had to do major revisions on the 3rd draft. For me, writing the full draft first (and I'm not clean like Ink, it's so nasty I won't even let the cat see it) was much better because I got into the flow of the story, finding my themes and voice and subplots without having to worry about the pretty prose. That came later. Plus I'm much better at shaping the raw material into something lovely once I have the basic material to work with - editing is a completely different mode for me, and I almost feel more freedom to edit when it's messy than when it's half-way decent to begin with.

I think whatever process works for you, go for it. But don't be afraid to try a different process. It might work better.

Re: Editing as you go: really that bad?

Posted: March 20th, 2010, 8:49 pm
by JustineDell
Ink wrote: If I were...? *Ahem* Justine Who knows, maybe I'd be a revise-as-you-go writer.

Best of luck,
Seriously, I actually said my name while I was reading this post. Didn't even stop, just threw it right in there.

I wrote my first novel all the way through without looking back. It's been through 5 rewrites, and still counting. I'm going nuts. I'm not like Ink - I don't write clean the first time around. Heck, I can hardly write clean the 5th time around. I have some issues, but nothing my beta can't fix ;-) Grammar and I have a love-hate relationship. Well, no - it's hate-hate. Second book? Same thing, but I didn't have near as many issues as the first. One rewrite and it was done.

Current wip? Well, I'm halfway through and dying to let my beta read it before I continue. I'm terrified the same thing will happen with this one that happened to the first. And since I pretty much loathe the editing process, I'm trying to keep the damage down to a minimum. My beta is a little tied up right now with my other problems...LoL ;-)

So for me, now? I prefer as you go. Not paragraph by paragraph. Two chapters at a time works for me. Then I can work out the kinks before they becomes huge a$$ knots that take forever to work out.


Re: Editing as you go: really that bad?

Posted: March 21st, 2010, 4:32 am
by writeitsideways
I'm like Ink in that I write pretty clean on the first go. I don't find a lot of grammar or spelling mistakes in the revision. Instead, I tend to fiddle with structure, cut irrelevant things, add necessary details, and improve my prose.

So, for me, editing as I go is a big no-no. If I were to focus on that during the first draft, I'd never finish. I do lapse occasionally, but I keep reminding myself I'll have plenty of revision time later.

If something really needs to be done, I leave a note for myself at the appropriate spot, so I can rest assured I won't forget it in the second pass.

Re: Editing as you go: really that bad?

Posted: March 21st, 2010, 7:05 am
by Rik
I revise the previous day's writing before moving on to creating the new stuff. It's the only way I can get into my characters' heads without having to live with the little blighters 24/7.

Re: Editing as you go: really that bad?

Posted: March 21st, 2010, 10:54 am
by Bryan Russell/Ink
Susan, you really nailed the danger of writing a clean first draft - it can lull you to sleep. I'll say this: it took me a whole lot longer to learn how to write a good revision than it did to write a good first draft. Because a pretty good first draft can be a little hypnotic. Hey, it's good, not too bad, I like that bit, and that one, it all makes pretty good sense... but pretty good isn't always what you want. If you want great you have to move beyond that first draft, all that goodness. You have to push it, and sometimes that's hard when it looks okay instead of bad. It looks more set, like it can't be changed. It tricks you into thinking it's done. But it rarely is, not if you really want to find your best writing.

When I was young I sold a short story that was basically a first draft. Lickety split. But I think, now, that was a little dangerous. It gives you that feeling that "Oh, it's fine..." And that feeling can hold you back as a writer. It can blind you a little. It's like a bright shiny gloss, so glittery that when the light strikes it certain ways all you see is the glow... and all the flaws are hidden. Not fixed... but hidden from sight. Your sight. Others are looking from a different angle, though, and flaws might be all too apparent from that viewpoint.

Re: Editing as you go: really that bad?

Posted: March 21st, 2010, 10:59 am
by mmcdonald64
I'm not too bad with grammar and spelling, my problem is leaving out little words. It, a, the, etc. I'm not the worlds fastest typist, maybe 40wpm when I'm on a roll, and so I guess my fingers just decide to skip the little words to catch up to what I'm thinking. Also, I find that editing one part messes up another, and I might not catch it.