1. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    Editing/Revising: How do you do it?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Rumwriter, Oct 26, 2011.

    I am having such a hard time editing my work. I'm in a creative writing class, and our focus this semester is on short stories.

    I'm looking at what i have written, and so unsatisfied with it, but I just can't make it work better. I know it CAN be better, I'm just not getting it out. I feel like as I look at the words I wrote which already don't work I'm infecting my brain with sub-par writing. I would love ideas and help you guys could give on how you edit your work.
     
  2. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    This is how I do it:

    Step one: print it out. Editing on a screen is incredibly difficult, as your eyes tend to gloss over mistakes. On paper you can read through it without getting a headache.

    Step two: read through it, all of it, without touching a pen. You need to appreciate how a story works as a whole, before you can deconstruct it at a finer level. Note down any problems with continuity, or how it works as a story.

    Step three: go through, line by line, and find the faults in each sentence. Strip out anything that doesn't work, doesn't need to be there, or doesn't make sense. Rephrase clumsy sentences. Then when you're done, make the alterations on the digital version.

    I'm not sure how helpful this will be, but it's the process I use. One thing that may help you is to read with your writer's head on. When you read books, look at how the authors use sentences, how they word things. Look for what doesn't work as well as what does, and understand how they've done it.
     
  3. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    I start out by writing a chapter, then I read it over and over at least a dozen times to check the flow.

    After that I comb through it for grammar and other technicalities.

    Then I will comb through all of the dialogue tags to see if I can axe some of them completely or change them for the better.

    Once all that is done I will go through the entire thing with a comb to see if anything needs to be added or removed. Most likely it always ends up being dialogue (for me at least).

    Then I end it with reading it another dozen times to see if the revisions flow.
     
  4. Dryriver
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    Dryriver Senior Member

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    My secret "editing-sauce" is that I do it on a small NetBook computer, with a 1024 x 768 pixel screen barely large enough to display 3 - 4 paragraphs of the text at any one time.

    The small screen forces me to really work my way through the text one little chunk at a time, editing everything on a paragraph-by-paragraph and sentence-by-sentence level.

    Nothing quite beats an A4 paper printout of your text for spotting spelling errors and checking things like continuity and consistence.

    But the one-step-at-a-time, chunk-by-little-chunk editing the NetBook computer screen forces me to do has definitely improved the quality of my overall text, especially the wording and punctuation and smaller details in the text.

    I hope this helps you in some way...

    - DryRiver
     
  5. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't usually edit/revise after something is written (do it along the way) but one thing that can be tremendously helpful is to read it out loud. You can catch so many things that way - missing words, awkward phrasing, run-on sentences, repetition - you name it, you'll hear it. It can also jump start ideas for rerouting or redirecting the scene.
     
  6. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    I'm not keen on revising as you go, as I think it can lead you into a feedback loop where you never get past the first few chapters, but I agree about reading it aloud.

    And on that note, what I find very useful, is loading it onto my Kindle and having the Stephen Hawking voice recite it to me as I read along myself.
     
  7. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    I was not aware Kindle's had such magical powers, how do you do this? I would love to do the same.
     
  8. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    For me, revising after is the better choice. I find doing it as I go disrupts my creative juices because all I think about is the technical aspect.
     
  9. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    I think it's only the Kindle 3G, but you need to press shift and Sym at the same time (and make sure the volume is turned up).
     
  10. Nicholas C.
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    Nicholas C. Active Member

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    This is kind of one of those different strokes for different folks thing. A lot of writers will advise you to not edit as you write, but for me it is just natural to do so. I am also a musician/audio engineer and I often find myself mixing/editing as I'm still tracking parts. Doing things like gain staging, eq adjustments, etc, give me a better feel for how the song is going to sound near completion and allows me to decide where I want to go with it in regards to recording additional parts. I think it's a neat analogy because I find that I approach writing the same way. I think my writing actually approves, and adapts to where I want to go with the story, when I've editied that parts that have come before.
     
  11. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    Nice, I have a Kindle International 3G, I will check this out!
     
  12. AmsterdamAssassin
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    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

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    I found loading the draft into an E-reader [I use a Kindle] works better for several reasons. You can engage text-to-speech and have the Kindle read the text to you. You don't have to walk around with, in my case, 500 A4. It saves paper. The notes can be done with the keyboard, and a highlighter is included. If you select 'View Notes and Marks', you get all your notes and marks in a list, so you can work your way through systematically.

    So, I write a full draft, load it into the Kindle, read it [or have it read to me] and make notes and marks all the way through, then I sit down and work my way through the suggested edits.

    I have a Kindle 3, if you press the Aa key [right of the spacebar] to change the font size, the third option down is Text-to-Speech. Select Turn On and have your work read to you.
     
  13. Arathald
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    Arathald Contributing Member

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    To all the advice already given, I would add this: don't get discouraged when you see how bad your drafts are. Any writer's first draft will be so full of cliches, plot holes, immensely awkward sentences, etc. that it will make them want to hide in a corner. As Ernest Hemingway put it, "The first draft of anything is s***."
     
  14. TheSpiderJoe
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    TheSpiderJoe Senior Member

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    I never started my revision process until I had a completed rough draft of the entire story. I noticed when I tried to make the first two chapters perfect, it was taking too much time away from the story as a whole and ruining my motivation to finish.

    Once the store is completed, I go through a series of revision processes.

    1) Simple read through, correct simple spelling errors
    2) Continuity read through, make sure names are spelled correctly at every instance
    3) Sample reader evaluation (usually my brother since he's my biggest critic)
    4) Complete overhaul revision (sentence structure, phrasing, ect)
    5) Out-loud read through
    6) Final dialogue revision

    In between parts 3-4 I took 3 month break. It helped me identify clear inconsistencies with my story and I HIGHLY recommend it.
     
  15. JPGriffin
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    JPGriffin Senior Member

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    To put it as plainly as I can, I don't. I know what I try to convey in my writing, but the readers might not know the same thing. Sure, one quick run-through for grammatical/ spelling mistakes, but apart from that you'll want outside opinions on the actual writing and content. After you figure out what's unclear, what needs to be explained a bit more or less, THEN you go back and rewrite the scenes that need to be rewritten. You should NEVER be your own editor, or else nothing will ever be good enough (unless, of course, you're full of yourself). That outside opinion is going to be the people you're selling to and appealing to, and while everyone wishes they write purely for themselves, they're the ones that will make or break your writing.
     
  16. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    I like having my work as polished as possible before I have someone read it. There is no point in having them tell me to change things I would have caught on my own. This is why I much prefer to edit myself before handing it off, that way any and all suggestions made will not be redundant.
     
  17. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    re: editing as you go - you do have to be disciplined when doing this. But it's basically the same rule as editing/revising after: when you're 'diddling' rather than improving, you stop. And editing as you go doesn't mean no one else is giving you feedback either. My betas get each chapter as it's completed - I take a second look based on their comments and then it's done. But the idea of vast rewrites/revisions to a 'first draft' - might as well just start a new story IMHO.
     
  18. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you find that you have trouble even figuring out where to start, you could pick one specific piece of writing advice, and try applying it, just for the experience of changing your writing.

    For example, I've been trying to eliminate my tendency to use unnecessary modifiers. So I might write the sentence:

    She was a little angry, and her voice got very quiet.

    and in editing, change it to

    She was angry, and her voice got quiet.

    It's a fairly mechanical, rule-based change, but it makes a big difference in the sentence, and when it's done I can lean back and compare the old and new sentences - and, of course, do the same thing through a lengthy piece of writing.

    I'm not suggesting this specific piece of advice, I'm just suggesting that you pick a piece of advice, and try applying it to your writing. And then pick another one and apply it. If you're afraid that this will spoil the writing, then try backing up the piece, applying a bunch of rules to it, and then comparing the original with the final result. You might like the final result better, you might not like it as well, but either way you'll be slowly developing the habit of changing your writing.

    ChickenFreak
     
  19. walshy12238
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    walshy12238 Senior Member

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    The way I do it is when I'm finished, I print it all out and read through the entire thing, without even thinking about editing it.
    After I'm finished doing that, I'll grab a bunch of different coloured highlighters, and then highlihgt the bits I don't like, and the bits I do like. Sound confusing? Well I have a colour system to fix that:

    Red/Pink - Needs a lot of reworking, re-writing and fixing up (In my opinion, at least).
    Yellow - It's getting there, but still needs some work (Once again, in my opinion).
    Blue/Green - Either it needs little work, or it's basically almost exactly what I want.

    After I go through and get everything to the Blue/Green zone, I hand it over to someone to read, and then work off of what they said to do. Then I re-read again, and see if it flows well. If it does, then voila, done. If not, then I go back to the highlighters.

    Whoever said editing is easy, they're wrong.
     

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