1. ThePotato
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    ThePotato Member

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    Going back and re-writing

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by ThePotato, May 4, 2013.

    How often do you go back over what you've written, and edit your work? Do you prefer to leave that until much later in a project? Or are you forever going back over your work and changing little things?
     
  2. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    I waited over eighteen months before I began the second draft of my WIP. Then I spent a month planning the re-write before I physically started. Other times when I re-read it I felt the urge to re-write it, but I restrained, waiting until I was ready to take on the project in full.

    Even now, I know that my re-write needs an edit. I've been making notes in an external .txt document as I go along as a reminder to go back and work on them. If I let myself go back and edit during the writing process then I know my overall progress will slow. A couple of months back I sat down to write and instead ended up spending the two hours I set aside to work on it simply editing. I felt dreadful after because I'd made zero progress.
     
  3. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    When I started writing, many years ago, I used to have to rewrite each paragraph endlessly just to make it remotely acceptable. Now that I've gained some skill, I find my rewrites don't involve changing the text so much as adding to it. When I go back over a scene (which I do often during the writing of a story), I usually find I've left too much out; there's stuff in my head that didn't make it onto the page, and it needs to be there.

    I revise as I go, each page or each scene as many times as necessary. When the first draft of the story is done, it rests a while (a week, sometimes more) and I go over it again. Often, the story has changed in my mind so much that I have to rip large sections out of it and write new material to bridge over the gaps. Once that's done, it sits again for a while, then I make a pass or two over it to correct minor errors here and there, and then it's done.

    I could keep fiddling with it forever, but at some point I have to say enough is enough and move on to the next project. If I didn't, I'd drive myself crazy.
     
  4. squishytheduck
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    squishytheduck Senior Member

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    After I put something down, I keep editing the minor details here and there until I start changing a word, then changing it back, then changing it to the new word again. Then I let it sit for a week to a month, and I go over it with a fine-tooth comb. I only do flash and short story though, novels probably have a longer time frame.

    Oh, I also want to say though, with edits after a long incubation time, save it as a different file. You might want to go back to draft 1. It's like source code... just back stuff up and save everything:p
     
  5. ThePotato
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    ThePotato Member

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    I remember hearing - in a film I think - that to begin with, you should just write. And write. And keep writing. Then after you've gotten everything down you should go back and edit it. I'm finding the issue is that I want to make it perfect on the first go.

    I think I'll try and do what you guys are saying you do; I will just go back to the first draft in a few weeks or months, and until then try to refrain from constantly picking at it.

    Squishy - I have to ask, what is a 'flash'? I'm sorry, I'm new to all of the writer's lingo!
     
  6. squishytheduck
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    squishytheduck Senior Member

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    My bad, Potato, it's a story that's shorter than a short story (500<flash<1,000<short story<8,000 or thereabouts). They're usually single-scene vignettes, since you don't really have much room for anything more.
     
  7. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Do whatever works for you. The rule of "Just write and turn off your internal editor/critic" is because most writers run into the problem of being overly critical and ending up not writing anything at all. Again, like many writing "rules" - it is there to be broken where appropriate. It's really more of a guide, because it's what the majority of writers tend to do (be too perfectionist and therefore produce nothing).

    For myself, I like to re-read what I've written - one scene, or perhaps the last 3-5 pages. Do any editing necessary, and then move on. But then again, I'm not the sort who's undecided or unsure about her work - when something is good, I know it's good. When something is bad, I just can't rest. So usually I'm not stuck in one place for very long. When I'm stuck I tend to take a week-long break, think a lot, and then usually delete everything I have and stop trying to be good, and simply letting my gut tell me what to do. Usually, it comes out perfectly then. And then I move on to the next scene. But I never re-read the whole novel til it's finished.

    But for those who're more critical about their work than me, not editing til the whole project is done could be a good way to go. I've never done it that way though and I've finished one novel so far, so my way could work lol. Depends on the individual really.

    EDIT: it's worth noting that I re-read my work not *only* to edit and ensure quality, but I simply enjoy reading my work. I relish in my own good writing haha - call me narcissistic but I think a healthy admiration for one's own work is necessary to get you to the finish. (and then when my writing is not good, I am very embarrassed by it, hence why I can't rest)
     
  8. ThePotato
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    ThePotato Member

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    Right, thank you!

    I've personally found that going back over what I've already written can break the feeling of 'flow'. But I have yet to finish a single story, so what do I know?! So far though I'm preferring editing as much as my patience can handle on the go, but I think once I'm able to get into my flow easier, I will stop over-analysing my every sentence.
     
  9. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Certainly, it does break the flow - that's why I only do it at the end of a scene :D

    Over-analysing needn't be a bad thing always. I think there's a need for it too (well, analysis. Over-analysing is by definition a bad idea, of course lol) - it's just discouraged because usually writers are already doing that. When I first started, I agonised over every sentence too. Eventually you become more confident and you stop worrying :) At the same time, as long as you enjoying it, why does it matter if you're agonising over every sentence? As long as you're still writing, and you're making progress towards the finish, that's all that counts. It only becomes a problem when you edit so much you end up hating it (which is the point I've reached with my finished novel. It lies in the wasteland of my laptop right now and I'd sooner work on a new one than get through the hurdle of making my novel sparkle. It's about 98% ready and I just can't be bothered anymore lol)
     
  10. blackstar21595
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    blackstar21595 Contributing Member

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    The first draft of anything is always shit. For example, my post had four revisions done to it.

    And as far as editing while you write, I suggest you put brackets around what you want to take out to show an "optional omit." This way, you don't mess up the flow.
     
  11. Edward M. Grant
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    Edward M. Grant Contributing Member

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    I used to do that, but now I mostly edit as I go along. When I discover I need an axe in act three, I can just go back and put it on the wall in act one.
     
  12. jeepea
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    jeepea Member

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    Writing a story is, for me, a little like creating a new recipe. If a chef has an idea for a dish, and has decided on the ingredients she wants to use, she doesn't write down the recipe until she has experimented with ingredients and cooking\baking times and presentation. When I'm making a story, I have components that I want to work with such as characters and conflict and setting. I decide on the way I would like the story to go and write a quick first draft. I rarely look back at what I've written from day to day, just plow on through to the end. At that point I read it and begin editing. I often find that my original idea for the story changes considerably by the time I reach the end. This means that I have to change the beginning, and, it is possible that in rearranging the beginning, I have to change the end again or the middle. I do this as much as the story demands. Like the chef with her ingredients, I want to achieve the maximum potential with the components of my story idea. I do a lot of rewriting with this method, but it works for me.
     
  13. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever

    to be honest, my first draft was complete shit!
     
  14. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This is the exact opposite of me. I have to start each writing session by reading over what I wrote the last session, just so I can recover the tone. Often I make changes as I do this rereading, and it leads me naturally into the new day's work. Reading what I've done to date doesn't break the flow, it makes it.
     
  15. Mal-Madrake
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    Mal-Madrake Member

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    I rewrite things quite often because occasional typos are almost unavoidable and sometimes I see the minor incositencies in tone only after I read it for the third or fourth time or sometimes I just don't like the word or phrase that was originally present and so search the vast expanse of my mind for a better one. Sometimes I even decide that things need more explaining or when working with paralel story-lines I reposition the order of the chapters of the characters.
     
  16. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I edit and revise as I go - personally, I can't move forward if I don't know what to base it on. Once I finish a page or a chapter, it's done unless my betas find a problem. When the story is completed, the only thing I have left is the final polish. The very thought of writing a full book and only then going back for edits/revisions is depressing - and I'd never do it. The book would sit on the hard drive for the rest of eternity.
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i have no set number of times i'll edit what i write... most short works need only one proofread to catch typos and some long works need to be gone over multiple times...

    i finish what i start before editing..
     
  18. ThePotato
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    ThePotato Member

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    Today, I have gone over the 6 pages I have written and found that I wanted to edit almost all of it. So far I have gotten through only 1 page, and changed almost every word - although I haven't changed the general idea of each sentence. I did this after reading your comment and thinking to myself, "now I think about it, it really would be depressing if I had to go over hundreds of pages of my work to find I needed to edit most of it." I think now I'll just write what comes to my mind in whatever way feels comfortable at the time, and then worry about editing it later - but I won't leave it too late, so that I leave myself a lot of editing later on.
     
  19. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is the key - deciding what's comfortable and most effective for you. :)
     
  20. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Ditto. As I've said before somewhere in this forum: if there was one method that always worked best for everybody, everybody would use it. There isn't, so each writer uses methods that work best for him or her.
     

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