1. starseed
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    starseed Contributing Member

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    AGGG! Over editing!

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by starseed, Jun 9, 2009.

    I feel like some sort of disease has taken over my brain and I call it overedititus.. lately I've been working REALLY hard on my re-writes and revisions but I think I need to develop some sort of system, because what's been happening is that I will read over a chapter so many times trying to re-write and make everything sound perfect just like I want it to, but after awhile I get so tired and sick of reading the same paragraph over and over that EVERYTHING begins to sound wrong and I end up editing stuff I actually don't want to. In a fit of lunacy the other night, I ended up completely deleting half of a chapter that I actually REALLY liked because at the time it seemed stupid to me, but now I wish I hadn't. It was just that I had read the chapter 3423847234 times in one night and was so sick of it.

    Do you guys have any set systems for doing your editing and re-writes? I'm thinking of starting a new way, maybe only allowing myself to go back and re-read once I've edited the ENTIRE chapter, because usually what I tend to do is edit the first paragraph, then move on to the next, then start over at the first and read the whole thing again, then move on to the third, then once again, go back to the start. Basically, every time I change something I go back to the beginning of the piece, and edit more and more, and after awhile I feel this madness creeping over me.

    Any tips for a better way to go about this?
     
  2. Castlesofsand
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    Castlesofsand Banned

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    i have started a habit of saving the original so i have a base to start from should i get lost while editing...i do get lost often, so i understand what you are saying. it is very frustrating and sometimes the edits take over the story and twist it into garbage.

    i find the original idea, prior to the editing, when it came out of my mind, looking at that helps, sometimes i even go back to it and delete the others.

    everyone has their own way i suppose, but i find this helps

    best writing to you, Starseed,

    I hope it works out for you

    CoS
     
  3. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    I usually save my rough draft as XXX version 1.0. And no, that wasn't a porn reference. If I make some minor tweaks I'll save it again as version 1.1 - a major overhaul bumps it up to 2.0. I sometimes wind up with a whole lot of files, but at least that way I'm not losing anything. As CoS mentioned, sometimes when I get lost I'll find stuff in earlier versions that just worked better.

    Aside from that, I do try to get through the whole thing before I read paragraphs over and over. . . I try, and fail. I do understand where you're coming from, because I have the same problem, though perhaps to a lesser extent. What I do is just take a break after a while. After 3 or 4 edits I find it is best to distance myself from the piece for a time - usually 1-4 days, which really depends on what else I'm working on and whether or not the writing is going well. Otherwise I'm apt to ruin it (or my interest in it) as overedititus cripples my brain.
     
  4. starseed
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    starseed Contributing Member

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    Wow, I've never saved ANY of my first drafts. I now wish I had.
     
  5. Mercurial
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    Mercurial Contributing Member Contributor

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    Firstly, no such thing as overeditting. EVER! Your work can only improve.

    1) I print out a copy of my work and make grammatical revisions by hand. (It will help if your manuscript is double spaced. I know, it's a lot of pages, but there are some things you can do with your hands that most computers havent caught up with yet.) Keep every version you create (as Kas and Cos mentioned), for later reference. You might want something from your original manuscript when you're on draft seven.

    2) As I'm catching these errors, I'll highlight or circle passages that I think could use a rewrite, but I dont work on the rewrites immediately. Stay focused and utilize the Grammar Police.

    3) Then do all rewrites.

    4) Lather, rinse, repeat this system until you have no more rewrites and no more grammatical errors.

    Bonus Step:
    5) Depending on how serious you are with the piece, you should work on it with a fresh set of eyes. (S)he could be an editor if you're looking for publication or just a friend with a knack for writing. Have her review it, and then go over her notes together. Talking it through together can make you see the other person's point of view and / or inspire new ideas.

    6) Tah-dah! Be proud of yourself.
     
  6. Castlesofsand
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    Castlesofsand Banned

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    i almost have to disagree about never too much editing for sometimes the story gets lost especially if you are editing the piece yourself. When others help, its good also to at one point send it off, no two people will completely agree with what needs and doesn't need to change. you could edit forever if you want. There has to be a limit set.

    I understand what you are saying, but just disagree. But that's okay :) opinions are like that.
     
  7. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    I agree with CoS, to be honest. There can be too much editting, because you can reach the point of just fiddling minor points. Sooner or later, you have to decide that you're done, and send it off, otherwise as CoS said, you could simply edit forever.
     
  8. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    That, and editing to the point where you begin to hate the piece and lose interest in continuing - or writing anything at all - is clearly too much. . .

    Knowing your limits is a major part of the process, imo.
     
  9. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    I like to wait a week between edits. If it is a short story, I edit the piece in it's entirety and then put it away for a week. Then the next week I re-read and edit again if need be.

    If it is a longer piece, I prefer to go by 1000's of words, even if it isn't a full chapter. I will only edit 4000 words at a time in one day. Then I just move on to the next 4000 words. Once I go through the entire piece I start over from the beginning again.

    I like to use post-its to keep notes about each section so that I can keep track for consistency. Like if I said this character has brown hair in chapter one, but later forgot and said they have blond hair in chapter 10, I will have a note of character descriptions, and events in their life on post-its, or index cards depends on what I have on hand.

    I only edit each paragraph once, then move on to the next. I don't keep re-reading from the beginning with each change in each paragraph. I go through and change each paragraph as needed, then once I am at the end of a short piece, or 4000 words, I re-read the whole piece. I stick an * where I want to make any more changes, and then start the process from the beginning again, paragraph by paragraph. Sometimes I will put a note between * blah* as I am re-reading so I know what I am thinking. Sometimes I change it, sometimes I don't.

    I always save original drafts, and then the edits as -- original title, original title edit 1, edit 2...ect.

    I also save them on a usb drive, so that if my computer crashes I have the entire thing saved somewhere! Can't tell you how many stories I have lost over the years to computer crashes, reformats, and viruses. It is well worth the $40 to get a 16 GB flash drive. It will save every single piece of writing you have every written in place and you will never lose it.
     
  10. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    When you say "over editing", I hear "not writing new material". Chronic editing, before the end of a manuscript, can stop writing productivity as the writer becomes immersed in countless hours of frustrating and premature "editing". Granted, it is not uncommon while writing new material to create a need for revision of an earlier chapter. Instead of stopping "new" writing to edit an old chapter, I simply open the old chapter and add a brief footnote at the end. My footnotes are numbered and simply say what needs to be changed. Then, I return to writing the new material. When the manuscript reaches its conclusion, only then will I begin the first rewrite, including inserting changes called for by the footnotes.

    Ultimately, writing & editing are matters of personal taste. That which works for one writer may be unproductive for others. I would encourage you to read all the comments in this thread (and others on "editing" through the site's Search function) and then experiment with different writing/editing patterns until you find one that works best for you.
     
  11. Maroon
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    Maroon Active Member

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    Heyho.

    I sympathise - I've had a similar problem, along the way. Sometimes you just need to put it away for a week, as others have said above. Let it breathe. Give yourself a chance to reflect.

    If after that you're still unhappy with what's in front of you, take advantage of all the great advice on this board for honing your editing technique. But it's entirely likely that, after a short break, you'll see all the good stuff to which over-reading can blind you.

    In the mean time, don't beat yourself up too much. Editing is tough - we feel your pain.

    x
     
  12. Castlesofsand
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    Castlesofsand Banned

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    lol bluebell, funny you should mention post-its. I did that for a while but my cat tends to tear them down and eat them. i'm unsure why.

    Good idea NaCl about looking at others comments in here. I found a few great ideas to try in that regards
     
  13. jlauren
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    jlauren Senior Member

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    I have a tendency to be overly anal about editing my work also. It's a writer's curse to NEVER be happy with what you've done. My method, which someone else has touched on, is to print off each chapter (one at a time) and sit down with a red pen. Make sure you double space you writing....not only is it easier to edit on paper, it's easier to read on the screen!

    I'm not sure why, but without a doubt, every time I print off chapters I ALWAYS edit better. There must be something about taking it from the screen and putting it my hands that clicks my brain into gear. It's almost as though I'm not reading my own work, and that's what makes it easier to edit. I can't explain this, I just do it!

    And it helps to know that no matter how much you tweak your work, even if you get so far as to hold a copy of the printed book in your hands, you will ALWAYS find ways to improve it. I guess the key is to know when to stop and leave it be. Take comfort in knowing that as writers, we will continue to be more critical of our work than our readers ever could be.

    Best of luck!
     
  14. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I think you can over edit. When editing, sometimes a writer destroys the nice voice the original version had in it.

    Here's what I do. After I finish the first draft of a chapter, I paste it into a document I name "all chapters." Each time I finish a chapter I paste it into that file. I do all editing on the individual chapter files that way I always have the originals in the "all chapters" file.

    If you have the newer version of Word, go to the review tab. Turn on track changes. Go to track changes options if you don't like the defaults. Then you can toggle between original, final, and final marking, etc. This way you can quickly see your changes and different drafts. Once you are happy with it, you can accept all changes, or accept and reject changes on the fly.

    It's a helpful tool if you learn how to use it.
     
  15. starseed
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    starseed Contributing Member

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    You are absolutely right about this. But unfortunately I'm not in a situation right now where I can accomplish that. I don't have a printer of my own and I basically am going to have to wait until it's all on one file and take it to an office center to get it all printed out in one big gigantic session. That way I can get do one final on paper edit which I do think will help a lot. There is definitely something different about reading it on paper, although I'm not sure why.

    This is true, the reason I am in this position is basically because I wrote out an entire first draft of the whole book, did one complete edit/rewrite, but then I decided some major things were not working and I had to go back all the way to the start and make these big character/storyline changes and that's how I ended up basically starting all over at the beginning again.

    SO true.. :( Unfortunately I am not in a very good situation right now, it's a long story but I kind of had to set a deadline for this novel to be done and that is how a fun and enjoyable creative process has turned into a stressful nightmare for me. I've even been staying up for days at a time trying to get it done and it's just been really hard. Like I said, it's a long story..

    Yep, I definitely need to do this. I guess I will just continue writing and then get it all printed like I said in one big set. Then at least I can spend some time away from the computer! :)

    Thanks for all the replies!
     
  16. Bongo Mongo
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    Bongo Mongo Member

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    I agree, this is a very big problem for some of us. I have been writing chapter one for about three months, and I finished two months ago. Although I don't write that often, I've spent twice the time editing.
     
  17. starseed
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    starseed Contributing Member

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    The problem is, I always think I can make it better. And my definition of "better" changes every day. So when I read the same chapter over and over I change it millions of times, and sometimes after a week or so I end up changing it back to how I had it in the first place! It's sooo frustrating. So I think having set rules is what I definitely need. I'm rewriting it one paragraph at a time and NOT going back and reading over the entire chapter again and again once I've edited it once. When I get through the entire book THEN I will have it professionally printed out and go through it with a red pen.
     
  18. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Same here. It's like when you get conflicting reviews. . . I have that going in my head. Sometimes it's impossible to know which phrasing is better. In that case I just go with my insticts and hope that as I improve I'll have less trouble with it.

    This is a great thread, starseed. Hope you get the answers you need.:)
     

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