1. Rapscallion
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    Rapscallion Active Member

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    Can over-editing render your story bland?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Rapscallion, Feb 17, 2012.

    So, there you are, it's the moment you've been driven toward by sheer inspiration and compelling motivation. You're writing at the peak of the plot and every bone in your body tells you 'this is good'. And you complete your first draft.

    Subsequent reads are rarely as exciting or exhilarating as the first, of a good story. Is it so with writing?
    As the writer, you are actually the first to 'hear' the story. You draw it from an inner source, or 'voice', (if you will).

    Then you edit, and revise, and edit, and revise and ... for you the story has lost (at least a bit) of its luster. You're hearing the same old, same old.

    Is there a danger, that in losing some of the initial excitement within yourself, that, that loss, carries over to the reader via your editing? And you end up losing some of the contagious vibe that the story had at the initial draft?
    Now edit we must, lest we be found literally wanton, but, is there a danger of too much? Is it possible to sacrifice a good story at the expense of the quest for perfect prose?

    My answer? I think you can render a story bland with over-editing and revision.

    Any comments in agreement or not will be appreciated. :)

    Furthermore, any ideas regarding how to edit without losing the luster of the initial story (hints on when enough is enough) will be greatly appreciated as this is something that I have not given much thought to. :)
     
  2. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Over-doing anything can destroy it. Solutions? I edit as I go, so the need to keep moving forward keeps me from that.
     
  3. topeka sal
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    topeka sal Senior Member

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    I suppose it depends on whether you're the kind of writer whose writing flows easily from the outset. Me, I'm very slow. Words don't come easily to me and I therefore rely on revision as an integral part of my writing process. Like shadowwalker, I do a lot of editing as I go, but I always need to do more. Mine is a painstaking process. Do I lose the initial thrill through revision? Probably, in some ways. But for me the thrill lies in the microcosm... finding the right word or phrase, carefully mining my material and making new discoveries along the way. But I think each writer is different and takes pleasure/inspiration from different aspects of the process.
     
  4. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think over-editing can kill a story. I guess that means you really gotta make sure that doesn't happen. I think my first novel's big edit actually made it better. Maybe that's cause I went to outside sources as well. Having somebody else reading it for the first time and offer suggestions for improvement made it exciting and exhilirating to edit. Also, setting it aside for awhile and then coming back to it helps it feel fresher when you edit.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    of course it can make it bland, or destroy your work in any number of ways... but so can under-editing... so can any amount of editing, if you're not a good editor...
     
  6. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    Like shadowwalker said, too much of a good thing is bad (well that thought). However the most important part of editing especially when someone is offering suggestions is to know your story and your style and remember that you don't have to take every suggestion nor is your story going to suit everyones taste.

    I think it's funny that you lose interest in you story the more times you read it. The more I work with a scene (or story) and fine tune it the more I love it. My greatest joy in writng is taking a scene, tearing it up and coming up with something that is better; then to read that scene and feel the flow of the words (on my tongue or in my mind) and the pictures those words bring - ahh that's lovely. So the more often I read or work with my story the more I love it.
     
  7. jo spumoni
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    jo spumoni Active Member

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    Well, the question is really this: Has the actual editing ruined the story, or are you so tired of looking at it that you've lost the joy that went into the creation? Because it sounds to me like the hypothetical writer you talk about might just be sick of the process. Finishing something is a real high, but the moment someone reads it, frowns, and says, "I don't really like the way you portray x," it levels off a bit. You spend hours picking it apart and fixing everything (even things you aren't sure were problems in the first place), and by the time you're done, everything has lost its mystique. You know EVERY part of the story too well. It's like when you read the same book too many times. And the worst part is the uncertainty: how can you ever really know if something is good? The more you look at it, the less sure you become. The more other people read it, the more you become aware that they all are looking for something radically different in your book, sometimes things you yourself didn't want your story to become.

    Anything can be overdone, of course. But I'd be reluctant to blame editing as much as to blame my own impatience and tiredness. And I would put my piece away for a little while if it started to feel bland and then pull it out a few months later to see it with fresh eyes.
     
  8. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Good point(s) about getting tired of the story versus the editing doing it in. By the time I finish, I know that thing upside down, backwards and sideways and I am sick to death of it! Now, a few months down the road, I can re-read it and enjoy what I did - but right after? No way...
     
  9. Gonissa
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    Gonissa Contributing Member

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    A good method is to write three or so chapters at a time, that way when you edit, you can edit a little, and then switch gears when you get to the next. It's easier, for me at least, to edit other chapters and write later ones at the same time. That helps me keep passion for what I'm writing.
     
  10. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    Yes, you can do that.

    The first MS I wrote, I edited and added to when I was finished with the first draft. The person I had read it said he liked the first one better. I started to maybe agree.

    When you know your story practically word by word it might seem like the story is stale and old. But you don't have a fresh or objective perspective on it at all. If you don't recognize this it's possible to edit it into mediocrity. Like, you want something new and different to happen in the story -- so that it's new and different to you, never mind your readers, because you can't see from their perspective at all anymore.

    Things you can do to avoid this: edit as you go, rather than all at once when I'm done. Put it away for a while, come back to it later. Tell someone a scene from the story and gauge their reaction to it. Read your story aloud to yourself. Sometimes this helps: change the format/font of your story so it looks different. An idea I had last night: read your story to a voice recorder, and listen to your story instead of reading it.
     
  11. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think that the good story can be ruined by good editing. It is natural to be feverish with the inspiration first time we get the idea, but the first draft or the outline usually have many inconsistencies, cliches, plot holes, unfinished business... It is only the first wave of creativity, very far away from the finished product.

    Editing, like writing, is an art form and I believe the better someone is at writing, the better they'll be at editing.

    For me, editing has one intention only - to make the story better. Not necessarily to make the sentences more awe-inspiring, and often, if reworking the sentence to read more beautifully will sacrifice the pace or suspense or whatever, i'll leave the sentence in it's simpler or more awkward form.
    The aim of editing is not to show off your writing, it's to show off your story, imo.
     
  12. Rapscallion
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    Rapscallion Active Member

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    It seems then (as jo spumoni) points out, that one should be careful not to edit and revise to an extent that it changes the story into something else. Losing the euphoria of the initial write is only natural. Thanks jo.
    Great of you to further extract the point shadowwalker, the lackluster is story related, and probably due to repetitively "hearing" the story and not continual editing.
    Well brought forward topeka sal, that a thrill for some lies in the microcosm.
    Amy it's not that I lose interest, it's more that it doesn't shine as brightly, akin to ones eyes adapting to the brightness of the sun. I think it's great that you can actually enjoy your story more, the more you work on it. I'm sure that you subscribe to the microcosm that topeka speaks of.
    Show went a route that I had not borne in mind though. He brought outside sources in and had a big edit that actually injected it with renewed excitement and exhilaration. Thanks for making us aware that that can happen Show. I'm sure that that kind of big edit touches on story structure.

    Good responses guys! You're helping me rap this up. Thanks.
     
  13. Rapscallion
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    Rapscallion Active Member

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    I'm definitely incorporating that idea (listen to instead of reading) into my story telling process, as I am making audio books of my stories too. Thanks.
     
  14. Rapscallion
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    Rapscallion Active Member

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    After having read through the above posts in this thread I tend to agree with you. You just have to know what you're doing and what constitutes good editing. Good editing doesn't ruin a good story. Thanks.
     
  15. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Editing and revising only make a story blander, or worse in any way, if you're doing them wrong.

    Rapscallion, if your first draft has great luster, and editing ruins it, then you're either a genius at writing first drafts and a lousy editor, or your perception of the quality of your own work may be a little inaccurate. If I try to write a whole first draft to the end, and then go back and edit, I have the same problem. That's why I'm in the edit-as-you-go camp. I edit, revise, and polish as I go to put the luster on the prose before the work is done so that when I do get to the end, I'm pretty sure I have a good first draft. It will still need a lot of work, because doing all the revision forces me to think deeply about my story, about the themes, and about the little connections I notice in my own material that I wasn't aware of when I was in the heat of composition that can be brought out to strengthen the story.

    So I do a good first draft by editing as I go. Then I do a lot of revision to deepen it and strengthen it, and I wind up with a second draft I really like, and would be proud to show a stranger.

    But if I ever thought the work I was doing on the story was making it bland, I'd try to find out what I was doing wrong, because I would definitely be doing something wrong.
     
  16. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just make sure you trust the person you let read it, and try to pick up on how to edit yourself. (It helps is said person has a good grasp on writing themselves. lol) I think it's definitely possible. Perhaps not the route everyone should take, but IMO, it can be a valid one. IMO, as great as we can become at editing our own work, sometimes you just need somebody else to take a look. And if you're really eager to share that story, it can create quite a rush. (Just don't be like me and bug the person! :p ) I think the Pros do this quite a bit too. At the very least, even if your reader can't offer much in the way of constructive advice, letting them see your work could at least shield you from becoming bored with reading it over and over.
     

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