1. John Carlo
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    John Carlo Active Member

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    Editing as you go or completing a first draft, then editing

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by John Carlo, Oct 13, 2009.

    Hey all,
    Just wondering what some opinions will be on this topic. I'm working on a novel (first one), my idea is to edit each chapter as their completed rather than write out the entire first draft of the novel and then start revising. I'm aware that even if I do it my way, I still will need to revise once everything is done. I just figure, it won't make the process so grueling.

    So that being said, how do some of you handle the revision process? And are there some obvious pitfalls doing it my way that maybe aren't so obvious to me at the moment?
     
  2. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I edit as I go and as a result have never gone over 20k words on a single project. Endlessly rewriting what you already have is crippling...wish I could bring myself to stop doing it. But its hard, when you read a sentence and think "wow that's bad, needs to be rewritten" to go on writing the rest...
     
  3. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Personally, I always edit as a whole. I find that if you edit in sections, then you might be able to clear out any glaring inconsistancies, or basic spelling and grammar errors, but you won't be able to edit the story as a whole- and it hardly seems worth doing one without the other.

    And also, I like to leave my stories to rest for a while between finishing writing and starting editing, and to do that for each chapter would be somewhat intolerable.


    In the long term, I don't think you're really saving any time or effort, but it's your novel, you can write and edit it how you like.
     
  4. tonten
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    tonten Senior Member

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    Let's just say, for an entire year, I was stuck on the first 4 chapters of my book, because I kept editing, editing, reediting, etc.

    When I actually started writing and concentrated less on the editing, I got a lot more done.

    I think editing is just another sign of procrastination or putting off writing your story. But then again, this is the first actual novel I’ve been actually trying to write. The editing did help in a sense to establish my style, grammar, and to catch mistakes – and in homing my craft of writing (of course, you can do this too by finishing the damn book and edit later, but eh)

    On the odd days I still go back over past chapters to give it a quick edit; however these days, since I am nearing completion, I have taken upon myself to write a list of what I need to change, so I can concentrate on finishing the book instead of editing it.
     
  5. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I'm working on my fifth novel, and I've finished every novel I've started, even the ones I wasn't happy with. It was good practice.

    I get through the first draft as quickly as possible. After I finish a chapter, I proof read it and that's it. Make any small corrections I see. Might add some introspection or description that was lacking. After I finish the rough draft, then I go back and do extensive editing.

    Dean Koontz on the other hand, writes a page, and edits it 20 times or so until it is read for print. Then he moves onto the next page. Keep in mind, he didn't start using this process until after he had completed some novels, after he knew the whole process and had experience with it, after he was published.

    I recommend writing the first draft as quickly as you can before the fire goes out. Trust me, it is so easy for the fire to go out. Then you start procrastinating. Next thing you know it's a year later and you still haven't completed the damn thing.

    A first draft usually takes me a month or two, but for my forth novel, I decided to try to edit each chapter as I went along. I almost lost interest in it. It took me five months to complete the first draft. I ended up rushing the ending because I wanted to get it over with. I'll end up adding to it when I edit, though.
     
  6. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    my first draft i never edited until after. second one, i edited chapter by chapter, third one, I am editing every four chapters. probably will have to edit it another one or two times when I am completely done writing/rewriting
     
  7. John Carlo
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    John Carlo Active Member

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    I like this approach. It makes sense, it keeps the editing process manageable without making it such a daunting task. I might try it out. Thanks to all.
     
  8. seije
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    seije Member

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    i used to edit all the time instead of writing new content. I don't think editing while writing is necessarily bad, but editing instead of writing is. Don't aim for perfection when you're editing in the beginning, because you're very likely to change it down the road, which means that your editing was a waste of time.

    Fix inconsistencies and play around with the plot, but don't try for the perfect choice of words or sentence structure. that can come when you're finished and know you're not going to add anything.
     
  9. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Often, the first thing I do when I sit down to write is read through my most recent work. I usually complete a chapter each session, time permitting.

    Reading my own material kicks my brain into write mode and enables me to pick up where I left off without missing a beat. Incidentally, I end up editing out the obvious goofs, restructuring sentences, tweaking dialogue, all that good stuff. The whole process doesn't take me very long, probably because I do it so often. I suppose it's my equivalent of an athlete's warm-up.

    So I don't ever worry about editing. I just do it automatically as a part of the writing process.
     
  10. Twisted Inversely
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    Twisted Inversely Senior Member

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    Same here.

    It's like an itch that you know you shouldn't scratch but you do it anyway. Personally I find that it kicks in real bad when wrapping up partially completed scenes because my brain has been stewing over what I have written/what to write next since however long it was since I last wrote. If the scene is completed, I don't have to worry about it as much. It's done, Horrah! and so can get on with the next bit.
     
  11. AmandaC
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    AmandaC Member

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    I've found that if I start editing before I complete something I. WILL. NOT. FINISH.

    Ever.

    If you have ideas about changing or adding something make a list and keep it separate until you're ready to re-write and edit because it's a slippery slope.
     
  12. John Carlo
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    John Carlo Active Member

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    Good call. I'm glad I asked the question before I got in too deep. I'm definitely someone who can see a change that needs to be made every time I look at something I wrote (literally).
     
  13. Little Miss Edi
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    Little Miss Edi Contributing Member

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    I've got to second that. :)

    The other thing is that editing as a whole allows you to focus on not just the grammar/spelling/dialogue/description so on so forth, but the consistency in style. The narrative aesthetic. My style is easily influenced (not hugely but with little phrases and what not) so it's really important for me to always edit as a whole.
     
  14. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Kas, I also read before I write. I will read the last scene to get into my story, but I don't edit. If I see a word is wrong, or something small, I will correct it, but I don't do heavy editing. But yeah, reading the previous scene or chapter is a good way to get into the story and start writing.

    Sometimes I will read an author I really admire for their prose to warm me up. I'm not sure why it works, but if I read a few scenes just to admire their prose, it puts me in the writing mode or mood.

    Another thing that will pump me up sometimes is listening to Another One Bites the Dust. Don't ask. I have no clue. :)
     
  15. boo
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    boo Member

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    You know I would strongly advise against editing as you go. I suffer with this myself I am a terrible self-editor, so I will work three weeks on a 1k beginning lol and still not be satisfied I would also never be finished lol.
    Look at first drafts this way. They are first drafts. They are meant to be messy and ugly. Editing should come later. Revisions is 3/4 of writing anyway. But for me if I start editing along the way, I get so caught up in revision I never have a finished product at the end. To use a metaphor, it's much better to have a fixer upper house than it is to have a house that's still in perfect blueprints imo.

    Also, I mean editing and writing are so separate, it's hard to put them together, I find. I can't always be as creative either, when I'm editing, because editing is essentially about cutting and making something finer, whereas writing, is about being free and letting your ideas run wild. For me anyway.
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I am going to buck the prevailing current here. After I have written a section, my mind keepos going over it. The next morning I will nearly always have a number of changes in mind, and if I don't go back and make the changes before going ahead with new writing, I will be too distracted. It's better for me to make the changes right away and move on.

    I'll still go back after the first draft and do a complete editing pass, but I don't do well just plowing ahead and trying to ignore wjat I wrote before.

    It tried NaNoWriMo last year, and that is when I discovered the "vomit words and don't look back" paradigm doesn't work for me.

    Your mileage may vary.
     
  17. boo
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    boo Member

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    I guess when I write, I already write really slow, I mean a lot for me would be 2000/words a day, but I can't write a lot consistently, that's why I could never do NanoWrimo. I usually average around 500 words a day, which is a good goal, I think, and it's not so much that you get so bogged down by a huge word limit, that like you said it's just vomiting words and editing can only do so much depending on what you're starting out with. But each person is different, some can write in great torrents on no sleep and coffee and high on drugs and complete a novel in two weeks and be the next Jack Kerouac lol, for me this does not work. :) I think we each have a point where too much writing, quantity vs quality becomes a serious issue, and this differs for each person.
    I don't know though, for me, a rough draft is exactly that. A rough draft. If you get hung up on writing something perfect from the beginning, you will never finish. You're never going to get it right from the very first draft, that's why I would save editing until it is finished.
    Also, an outline might help, if you want to organize your thoughts, and may call for less editing if you have a fairly detailed idea of what you want to write in the first place but I can't do outlines, I envy those who do.
     
  18. John Carlo
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    John Carlo Active Member

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    I've been very interested in trying that ever since I heard about it last year. There's a new one starting in three weeks. Out of curiosity, what exactly didn't work for you? With the time I have on my hands, I figure if I edit as I go, I'll be lucky if I can finish in a year. Having a good foundation (though sloppy as hell), it sounds very tempting to have something down, then spend the rest of my time editing for the next couple of months - maybe be done early spring. Was it just the fact that you personally need to edit as you go? Or was it the whole thing in general? I've never actually spoken to someone who's done the NanoWriMo, so I'm just curious.
     
  19. Sillraaia
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    Sillraaia Senior Member

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    I will have to go against the grain here too - I must read some of what I wrote previously to get into the mood to write, and if I know there is something wrong about it, I will stop, and take the time to edit it before I can move on. If I see it, and it sounds wrong, and I don't fix it, I find it is too distracting for me to then try and think about what happens next. I cannot free up that creative part of my mind without first satisfying the OC part.

    Different people use many different approaches, what works for some, wont work for others.
     
  20. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    I don't read some of my favorite author's work RIGHT before I begin writing because it effects my style and my voice. I will start mimicking the author and that is not good considering the rest of my writing is in my own style of writing.
     
  21. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    ^ I do the opposite for the same reason...reading a few select works by particular authors helps me focus my writing into that particular style or tone...I find it quite helpful....
     

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