1. ste20man
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    ste20man New Member

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    Belief to leave things alone?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by ste20man, Oct 20, 2012.

    Hi; this is my first post and I am working on my first autobiographical novel.

    I've done 60,000 words and it is pouring out of me like nothing else. The advice I am after is there value in going back over what you have written. Should i go and do one or several re-writes? What I've written is from the gut which i think is most important thing in any form of art. I don't want to polish it until it has no teeth. If the source material is good what do you guys do with your work?

    Do you allow someone to read it and have their say?

    I'd appreciate any advice from people who have done this before.

    Cheers, Ste. :)
     
  2. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    You could go over it but I wouldn't until your done. I've halted many projects trying to polish opening
    chapters.

    No matter how great your first draft seems you'll have to edit, polish, organise. I don't know of one
    single writer that has published from their first draft ( not including self published writers. ) No matter
    how pleased I am with a first draft, I can edit and polish and rewrite ( anywhere from sentences to full
    scenes ) up to eight or nine times. Editing sounds scary but all your doing is making your vision as
    clear as possible. Cutting out redundant words, keeping action focused and everything organized.
    The idea behind an edit is not to lose the good stuff but to bring it out - much like a jeweller cutting
    a diamond. Every cut brings more sparkle.

    I'd be wary of showing friends or relatives your work, ever see that scene in Funny Farm with Chevy Chase - he asks his
    wife how she likes his novel she just cries! Then proceeds to explain why it's so awful - it's funny but I've been there.

    Could post a section of your piece here to get some feedback. The best part about it, is that it's not personal. There's no
    agenda by the critique ( no one is out to spare your feelings - though they will be tactful, no one is out to crush your
    dream ) you're going in with a clean slate. You'll get a fair critique.

    Ever since I've posted my pieces here, and done critiques as well I've noticed a big improvement in my writing.
     
  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I'm not sure if you're asking if you should go back over it before you finish the first draft (as Peachalulu assumes) or if you mean whether you should go over it at all. If the former, I agree with Peachalulu. If the latter, no work is ever completely done after the first draft. When I finish a first draft, I leave it for a while and kind of get it out of my mind for a while. I do a lot of reading, or I tend to another project. When I come back to it, I read through once just to address SPaG issues. Then I go back and start looking critically at what I've written. I look for factual errors, plot inconsistencies (like a character showing up two chapters after he was killed) and problems such as too much/not enough dialogue, too many "he saids", too much exposition or overexplaining things to the reader. I also look for things that just could have been done better. This will require several passes, because every change I make has to be seen as part of the new overall whole. Once I've done that, I'll set it aside again for a couple of weeks before coming back and reading through it one more time. If I then see nothing to change, I know it's done.

    If my goal is to publish it, I will then give it to someone I trust to read. If it deals with a specific area of interest, I will try to find an expert in that area to make sure I haven't made any errors. Once it passes that test, the next step is querying agents. That's as far as I've gotten.
     
  4. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    If you're not rewriting, you're not going to be writing your best. At least one rewrite, and usually more, are vital to ironing out problems, tuning moods and scenes correctly, correcting dumb grammar, easing your wordflow -- the list is long, because you're gonna have a boatload of things that'll make you cringe, if you're any kind of normal.

    What I do is I do my first rewrite at least a week after first draft, no sooner. I want a little distance from the piece so that I'm not breezing through something that is still fresh in my mind. I want new eyes. So I'll stick it on the shelf for a while, until it isn't so present in my mind, and then I'll rewrite. That way errors don't get elided, and I'm reading words, not my expectations.

    And I'm brutal on myself. I don't set aside favorite passages. Well, I've had one or two. :) But I put about everything up on the block and it might get chopped, because it's about the story, and nothing more.

    I don't generally pass stuff around to family. If they're too honest, I risk a case of acute butthurt, and if they're not, then what good was served? They're welcome to read what they wish, but unless the reader has special insight into the art and craft of writing, I don't pay much mind to their opinions beyond thanking them for taking the time to read and respond.
     
  5. ste20man
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    ste20man New Member

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    Hello again.

    Thanks very much to the three replies, they have given me the idea to finish the complete writing first and then come back and re-write many times until it is really tight. Thanks for your thoughts and ideas; all were excellent and much appreciated.

    Cheers, Ste.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes, that's the normal writing process, as it seems to work best for most writers...

    i'm curious about what you're writing being an 'autobiographical' novel... how is it autobiographical?
     
  7. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure I'd say writing the whole thing before re-writing/editing is the 'normal' process, or that it seems to work best for 'most' writers - unless you have numbers, at any rate ;) After all, a lot of successful writers only have one 'draft', because they revise/edit as they go. But if the writing is going well for the OP doing the first draft w/o, then that's how s/he should continue. But definitely it will need to be looked at, edited, and revised before going out the door :)
     
  8. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Unless you're a seasoned writer or an exceptionally good one, whatever you've written is likely to be not the absolute BEST you could do. Passion can sometimes cloud what good writing is - just as random ramblings of a break up can have all the emotion and passion and energy behind it when you write about it whilst crying your eyes out, but does it make it good writing? Would anyone actually wanna read it?

    Passion is great, but once all the gems have poured out, you need to go back and polish it up with an objective eye - and to be objective, you need to give yourself some breathing room once you're finished before you go back to look it over (or that's also why you may give it to someone whose opinion and skill you trust to look it over) Think of a diamond - it's of great value, but you still need to polish it, and set it in a beautiful silver/gold band to make it into a ring, a piece of jewellery that people would want. Or think of gold - you must refine it and burn out the dross. You cannot simply say, "Well it's gold, so that's enough and I need do nothing more!"

    And the problem with writing is - it's not obvious that it is gold. You need to prove that. Real gold would not be worth as much without the refining process - now think of writing, which unfortunately, in the market, is worth much less. Now think of writing without the refining process..... you get the idea.
     
  9. Knarfia
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    Knarfia Member

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    I never thought of putting off revisions until the whole first draft is finished. Maybe that's why I'm still working on the opening sentence to my novel, after, gosh, 3 years now? I do believe that most authors worth their salt do edit their work, though, and heavily, at that.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i'd find it hard to believe that any published author would not have to do any editing...
     
  11. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    I agree with that, up to a point. There are few people you can trust to be honest enough to give a valid opinion. If you're lucky enough to have someone you can trust to be honest, then use them.
    Also, I don't think that all readers have to have an insight into writing to give a good critique. If you're only looking for grammar, spelling mistakes etc. maybe so. But readers are also interested in the characters, the plot, etc. and even those who may not spot errors can be useful in giving an overall opinion of the story.
     
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  12. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    Writings a process. You have to do it the way that feels right to you. My thought would be that while the words are flowing, don't rewrite. Don't even look at what you've written. Just go for it. But when the muse has gone to sleep, that's the time to start rewriting / editing. And yes, I don't know of any author who can write a book perfectly first time. Editing is often the biggest part of the job.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
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  13. FirstTimeNovelist91
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    FirstTimeNovelist91 Senior Member

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    I'm with the other fabulous posters.

    It is a waste to try to get things "perfect" and "polished" on the first draft. Even Ernest Hemingway felt that all first drafts were "crap." Granted, I have made the mistake of going back and re-reading my work, and it only discouraged me. My motto? Rough draft first. Edit second.
     
  14. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    All too many new authors do that -- the "author avatar".

    Or maybe it just means a first person narrative?
     
  15. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    This isn't a maybe. This is a must. Not just how the lines work, or the paragraphs, or fixing errors, but the whole structure. No first draft has ever seen the light of a printing machine (with some exceptions that only a smart-ass would bring up, like the original scroll of On the Road, but only for novelty's sake.)

    On the Road was written in a 2 week writing frenzy 'from the gut', and then spent several years being revised and edited. Many of the great quotes that come from that text were not on the original scroll.

    Ideas do not stop at the end of the last page.

    Many writers think their source material, or first draft, is good.... until it gets edited, and then they realise just how 'un-good' it really was.

    My favourite golden rule is: writing is re-writing.
     
  16. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Perhaps he's referring to the literary technique blending autobiographical elements with fiction, like Joyce's Portrait of the Artist.
     
  17. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    Absolutely, I want honest feedback. But there's a difference getting it from someone with whom one is emotionally involved, and getting that same feedback from a stranger.


    I'd disagree here. Writerly feedback is much more than mechanical, because the act of constructing a story gives insight into the efforts of others that the lay reader may or may not have. It's true that the lay reader may have the occasional nugget of value, but it's been my experience that the critical reviews of non-writers are usually too vague to be useful. And some family, my sister for instance, take it personally when their advice isn't heeded. I'd just as soon not deal with that. Strangers with no axe to grind, who know writing from the creator's perspective, is much more valuable to me.
     
  18. ste20man
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    ste20man New Member

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    Hi

    Hello :)

    I just checked back and have read all the posts and there is a lot of advice to take in.

    I have gone back and looked at the first 20 chapters; editing as i go. It has given me the thought that I at least will have to edit more than once. I am writing about my life essentially. I have been in a mental hospital several times as a patient and am writing about my life before during and after these events. I am diagnosed with bi-polar disorder which has only one benefit; that is a rush of creative energy from some place I don't know about.

    My only aim of writing this book is to try and convey to a regular person what it mentally feels like to go mad; you just slide into it. When you're high it's better than any drug; when you go low there is nothing but black. I can think of a hundred reason it will need re-writing again; from the flow to the punctuation errors and so on.

    It's a really exciting time. Thanks for all your ideas and support!
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    where/how does it become fiction, a novel?
     
  20. ste20man
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    ste20man New Member

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    To be honest I've not really looked up what the different words mean, I've just been writing and took a stab in the dark at what it might be. You get me thinking that i will have to figure out at some point what it is i'm doing and label it. Its just not that important at this moment. Gotta keep moving forward.
     
  21. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Well, you can only "move forward" effectively if you know where you are going. In plain English, what are you trying to accomplish? Are you looking to give an accurate rendering of the story of your life? That's an autobiography, a nonfictional work. Or are you looking to take the events of your life and make them the basis of a story with elements that have been made up? That's a novel, a work of fiction. Even if it contains some, or even a lot, of nonfiction, the presence of fictional elements makes it fiction. There have been a lot of examples of this kind of writing, such as Shaara's "The Killer Angels".
     
  22. ste20man
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    ste20man New Member

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    Thanks Ed I will get that book. I am bringing in experiences from all through my life along with fictional elements. I had everything finished before i started as i only had to fill in the story of becoming bipolar. There are a thousand ideas a day that stem from being in a place like that. I was there 6 times. Then you have the stories of recovery; how people deal with something they have never even come across before. My dad said to me that he would have joked with his friends (as i would) if we would have heard about mental illness before it happened to me. He said after it happened to me he would have gave nothing but condolences to someone with the same. It affects family and friends in a huge way. I changed a lot from the person i was; that's a long story. The story of me walking for the first time into that building is one on its own.

    Thinking about it I am not writing about me per say; or other bipolar people; I am writing about the condition and how your mentality and perception of the world can shift when these things happen.

    I'm not even sure it can be done on paper. It may be that it is too far away from the norm. I would love for someone to come along for the ride.

    I guess the writing will be in many styles to cover the wide range of events as time passes.
     
  23. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Correction please - it's always a waste to try to make things "perfect", no matter when you revise/edit. However, it is perfectly possible to have a completed first 'draft' that only needs polishing.
     
  24. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ste20... then it's a novel, period...

    sw... yes, it is!
     

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