1. Mithrandir
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    Mithrandir Contributing Member

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    Over-editing

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Mithrandir, Mar 19, 2013.

    I am nearing the completion of the first draft of my first novel, and I already have several ideas about the second draft. However, one of the concepts I've seen tossing around here, over-editing, has me worried. How do you know when you're doing this? Have any of you found yourself over-editing and managed to fix it? Any general ideas for knowing how to edit one's work?

    Thanks
     
  2. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    HA - I rip out hundreds of words out a time but a 6000 word chapter after editing out 1000 words oftens ends upf 6300. I have no idea when to stop. I do however keep entire paragraphs and even pages in a "dump folder just in case... When to stop? When you're finally happy I suppose....
     
  3. cazann34
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    cazann34 Active Member

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    I suggest you make a copy of every draft. Copy and past your work onto another page and edited that, then repeat the process for the third, fourth and so on. Then there's no worries that you're delete something that wish you hadn't.
     
  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    And do you ever use stuff from your dump file?

    If it's a whole thing I'm editing out as opposed to re-writing the same thought, I push paragraphs or lines to the bottom of the page with a big space dividing them from the stuff i'm keeping. If I haven't worked them in when I'm done or moved them to a different scene, I delete them.

    But then maybe my edited out stuff is a lot crappier than yours. ;)
     
  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I read an interview with a writer (I forget who) who said "I revise until it's getting worse instead of better."

    I think the answer depends on what you want your novel to be. Do you want it to be a perfect, highly-polished gem? Are you willing to spend years revising it to make it perfect, rather than moving on to the next novel? Or will you be satisfied with something less than perfect, but at least with no glaring flaws? It's up to you. Revise until you're satisfied.

    Don't worry about "over-editing." I think you'll only over-edit if you accept someone else's theories of what you should be doing when you're editing. If you're happy after two revisions, say, but a book you've read says you should revise four times, you'll spend all that extra time just going through the motions, changing things you don't think need to be changed. That would be over-editing.

    Just revise until you're satisfied.
     
  6. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Wanna bet?

    Have I used anything from the dump folder...emmmm no.... I have this feeling though that when my best seller becomes a great, and I leave that dump folder to the grandchildren it'll be worth a fortune... like the first draft of Ulysses...
     
  7. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    In my case, a dump file could be a serious source of embarrassment. :p
     
  8. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Six years later I'm up to draft 126, if that's any help. But I know that my next work will be stronger for it, because as I keep editing, I keep learning.
     
  9. John Eff
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    John Eff Member

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    This. When editing, there's always a slightly better word to use or a better way of phrasing a passage. Being a devout tinkerer, I'm forever messing about like this but there comes a point where I just know I've overstepped the mark and the piece has lost something instead of being improved.

    If unsure whether to make a change, I'll type out the proposed revision beneath the original and compare the two before making a decision and binning one. Being an equally devout ditherer I daren't keep all changes as I'll spend hours making a case for each, so I only keep the revised piece in its entirety.
     
  10. SwampDog
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    SwampDog Contributing Member

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    I suppose revision of a piece of writing is a bit like painting - over-fiddling and you're left with patches of muddy colour and and a work that's getting worse, not better. Better to stop short than overwork.
     
  11. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You're on your rough draft - it's far too early to be already worrying about over-editing. 50%-90% of what you wrote will be crap, that's not a reflection of your writing skills, but rather a simple reality of what rough drafts are like, unless you're a super pro with decades of experience (and even amongst those there're few who can come up with a "rough" draft that doesn't need any editing). For the moment, edit to your heart's content - this is the stage when you need to be absolutely ruthless. I think I changed 2/3rds of my novel after my rough draft.

    As for the future - I'd say trust your writer's instinct. For myself at least, my gut instinct is almost always right. If I feel something's bad, I can usually write something better. If I feel something is very good, 8 or 9 times out of 10, others will agree with me. When you get to the stage where you're just worrying and looking for things, rather than actually editing, that's probably when you should stop.

    The truth is, it can never be perfect - if you wait for that perfect perfect gem, you won't find it and you'll just never publish that piece because, guess what? As you write, you're always improving (at least you should be if you seriously wanna consider writing as a career), which means if you give yourself enough time, you'll see flaws even in your most excellent old work, which means you'll revise it. This leads to you improving. 6 months later you look at exactly the same passage and you'll see yet more to revise because well, you've improved. The improving part is good - but the perpetual cycle of editing old work is NOT. You just gotta let it go sometimes and say "Enough is enough" and put your improved skills to work on your next masterpiece, rather than chip away at some treasure that's never gonna see the light of day because you're holding onto your baby far too tight.
     
  12. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I do the same. And if whatever I cut out was re-written better, I delete it permanently, or if I cut out a chunk abut my detective listening to pj harvey or looking at some girl walking by in the rain, I'll store it for later because there will come a time when I'll need a reflective moment. Which reminds me, gotta go and write today's quota :)
     
  13. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Get distance

    Definitely use a dump file. Whether or not you ever use something from it—and you might, depending on why you cut it out—it makes you confident about cutting stuff. You won't hesitate. You'll just dump the offending bit in the dump file, knowing it's still there if you change your mind.

    I finished my novel about 10 years ago, found myself tinkering away with the edit, day after day, not really accomplishing a thing. So I plopped it in the corner and walked away. Now, 10 years later, I find it's really easy to discard large chunks of bad writing, and to see the structure of the story rather than all the chaff covering it. I've managed to cut more than a third of the original, and just cut another unnecessary chapter this morning.

    DEFINITELY, give yourself plenty of distance before you try to edit. Ten years might be a bit much, but can you leave it for a year or so? Work on something else in the meantime? Depends on your circumstances, I suppose.

    And yes, I did reinstate a few phrases from the dump pile. Not many, but a few.
     
  14. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    I always save every revision as a new draft. If I'm not done editing on one revision I don't make a new one.

    And from there read every part of your revision. If it gets to the point of being cumbersome to read or confusing unintentionally it's probably too much.
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    hopefully, you'll know it if/when you do it... stop worrying about 'over-editing' and just start editing!
     
  16. Mithrandir
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    Mithrandir Contributing Member

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    I have to finish the first draft first... roughly 23,000 words to go on that.
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ok, so then don't worry about the editing till you get there... and when you do, don't agonize over it, just do it! ;)
     
  18. JetBlackGT
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    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

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    I have a 4 gig thumb drive with 18 copies of the book I wrote :) Every week, I'd save the previous work as a new file and add to that. Same goes for editing. Every week of editing adds a new file. In other words, there are currently 18 (ever-enlarging) copies of the book, on one thumb drive and it takes up so little space, it is not visible on the little colored bar, at the bottom, that shows how much of the drive is left available.

    Save save save. I doubt you will ever be sorry you did. I can certainly think of times when I wish I HAD saved but didn't :(
     

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