1. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Revise as you go? Or wait till end of 1st draft?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by TDFuhringer, Feb 14, 2012.

    I shot my mouth off about this subject a couple weeks ago in another thread about something else, and now that I've calmed down I'm not so sure of my position. Before I get lost, here's the question.

    When you are writing long pieces (i.e novella or longer) do you write all the way to the end of the first draft and then correct, edit and revise? (a la Stephen King) Or do you do minor edits as you go, perhaps by paragraph or by page or by chapter? Or do you do full revisions of whole sections as you go?

    I used to think it was best to write all the way to the end and not stop to correct a spelling mistake never mind revise. But while writing my short story for the contest, and after reading some things others have said on the subject, I began to question that idea. I am constantly revising my writing process and I've recently experimented with allowing myself to do one full rewrite every chapter. It seems to fix a lot of character and plot problems right away rather that waiting till the end when those mistakes might be unrecoverable. I've even toyed with the idea of doing a triple revision after completing the first draft of each chapter, so by the time I get to the end of the book, the story and the writing are much closer to 'finished'.

    I've also found I can only concentrate on a few things during a rewrite, so I do multiple passes. For my short story I did the full first draft with no revision. Then a character, plot and structure rewrite. Now I'm on the second rewrite, for tempo, texture and tense. I'm planning on a final rewrite for tightness and polish (grammar, spelling, etc.)

    What do YOU do?
     
  2. CH878
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    CH878 Active Member

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    The way I do it is:

    Plan
    Write first (skeleton) draft
    Write second draft, filling out the story
    Complete third draft by editing this down to the good stuff

    In terms of corrections, if I see something wrong when I'm writing (usually brought up by Word) I change it, otherwise I leave it until I do the next draft or reread.
     
  3. Chad J Sanderson
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    Chad J Sanderson Member

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    Around the time I first started taking writing seriously, my dad told me something about editing I repeat to this day: "One of the hardest parts of writing is beginning. If you stop to edit mid-way through, and then try to continue, it's essentially the same as starting all over again. Mentally anyway." I follow that train of thought. If I'm writing a short story I'll try to write straight through to the end before I even think about going back to edit. That's the pure, unadulterated idea draft. I like to think that when I write my brain has already created a perfect story and editing is only necessary because my hands are sub-par assistants.

    I've only worked on one novel, but I followed the same pattern; editing after each chapter as if they were individual short stories. It may not be for everyone, but it really helped me keep my work tight and focused throughout. My mind can only handle so much at a time. If I were to try and edit an entire novel at once, with no prior changes, I'd probably be overwhelmed. After all the chapters are finished I then go back and edit for consistency, flow, and plot strengthening.
     
  4. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I seem to be one of those who writes the entire first draft before doing anything more than correcting small typos. It's not a conscious choice either, it's just the way i work and I haven't thought much about why. But it does work, and I've finished a first draft of my current WIP in two months and now I'm revising. I actually tried to do it the other way around and revise by the time I finished each chapter but it seems I can't see the errors with such a short distance. It need to mature, I need some mental distance from it to see how it could be better (now I'm talking pure rewriting and not just correcting typos and change a word here and there) so I guess I'm going to keep this method as long as it works. I think my brain works best when it can focus on one step at the time, instead of thinking both creatively, critically and do the editing at the same time.
     
  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I can't separate writing from editing. To me, they're both part of the same creative process. I can't put a sentence on paper until I'm happy with it, and that usually means rewriting it three times. (I'm getting better - sometimes it's down to two now!) And when a paragraph is done, I keep fiddling with it until it sings. I start each writing session by rereading (usually aloud) what I wrote the previous session and making more edits. It helps me get back into the voice I'm using, and that's very important to me.

    Of course, once the first draft is done, it might be a mess in terms of pacing and so on. And during the writing process I might have reconceptualized what the whole story is about (this happens to me a lot). But I will have discovered my theme. Then I have to go back into the story and strengthen the theme and fixing the pacing. This usually involves deleting whole scenes and adding new ones. This is a joyful experience for me. I can sweat blood writing a chapter, but then gleefully rip it out later and write new ones - this is fun, because I enjoy writing and by that time I'll have a far clearer grasp of what I'm actually doing.

    When I'm done, I'm proud of every sentence in my story. I can read it aloud and it sings to me. And that's why I write - to get that sense of having created something I think is beautiful.
     
  6. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I edit as needed as I go. But I save the bulk of it for the end.
     
  7. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I edit as I go. I can't move forward unless I know the story is "set" to that point, and I know I won't be having to go back and delete/rewrite whole sections (or God forbid - whole chapters) because I messed up earlier. My betas see it chapter by chapter, I edit/revise as needed and then, depending on my mood, I either polish or leave it until later. But there is no second draft, per se. When I get to the end of the story, the only thing left is polishing.
     
  8. MVP
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    MVP Member

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    I write in a composition book. I can't change what is down, unless I cross it out and make a mess. When I hit my first 100 pages, I took a break and started typing. When I type, I don't like to edit, but I will correct spelling errors or verb case. I am waiting until my RD is finished before editing anything that is not grammar.
     
  9. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I love making a mess. I can't stand letting something stand that isn't good. To me, messy manuscripts are well-worked-over manuscripts, ones that are worthy of consideration. If a handwritten manuscript has no corrections in it, I don't trust it.
     
  10. picklzzz
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    picklzzz Senior Member

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    I'm so glad this post was made recently. I've written six chapters of my novel (and I don't even know if how I've separated the chapters really makes sense yet). I keep thinking of plot and/or character inconsistencies, and I have been trying to continue, but when I'm awaken from a dead sleep because I realized the timeline is off by a month based on the one character's situation, I just cannot continue without correcting such a thing. I think with what I have now - which I think I'm calling Part 1 - I will go back and edit, strengthen, and modify. I am rethinking a whole subplot as well. So, I'm really grateful to have seen the post and replies because I had convinced myself that editing right now was wrong, but I just can't continue until I fix a few things, which may turn out to change quite a bit as I go through each scene.

    So, thanks!
     
  11. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    When I write short stories, I'll write them all out first and then edit. But with anything longer than a short story, I am wholeheartedly in the "edit as you go" crowd. Every time I finish a thought (like a scene or a chapter, depending when my inspiration stops me) I go back and edit. I feel that if I write out the entire first draft without editing, I will be limited by that first gush of inspiration which then limits further choices. There are so many scenes and plots that can be vastly improved by thinking of conflicts and resolutions a bit more carefully, disregarding the first and the second and the third idea, until I come up with something exciting and unexpected. If I edit the chapters as I write them, I can attend to these issues straight away, and then base further writing on that. Even, I can keep coming to earlier issues, making the story consistent before it's too late. I imagine if I was faced with a 100 000 words of initial ideas, it would be too daunting to try and change everything I want to change. I see myself compromising just because I can't be bothered.

    As for re-writes, I do multiple passes, sometimes up to 5, but I focus on the whole thing. Each time, I try to make it sound as good as I possibly can, everything, plot, characterisation, pacing, grammar, everything. Because I tend to notice multiple things, and I just can't willingly ignore some of them until the next draft. So my re-writes take a while.

    What you said about King doesn't surprise me. Even though I like him as a person, and a teacher, his books seem to me exactly like that - quick, unedited first drafts then edited somewhat so they are kind of ready for publishing, but if it was me, I'd do a lot more re-writing then he does. Remove a lot of unnecessary "page filling" descriptions, make it a lot tighter. Maybe that wouldn't earn me a s much money because my books would be a lot less frequent, but I think there is a happy medium.
    I don't read King much, I read a few of his earlier novels, and I love his ideas, but I don't think he is doing them justice. I always wondered if he's pushing the books out too fast, and compromising on the actual quality of the writing.
     
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  12. Rafiki
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    Rafiki Active Member

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    I prefer to fix little things as I go but concentrate on simply getting the story out there before returning for a massive rewrite/editing at the end. Of course that is just me.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i mostly write to the end first... but have also done some editing along the way...

    the important thing to consider is that you shouldn't even ask what others do, because among seasoned writers you'll find all kinds of methods being used and there's no single 'best' or 'right' way, so the only thing that matters is what is best for YOU!
     
  14. chaoserver
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    chaoserver Member

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    I think revising as you go is suicide for people who are easily obsessive.

    From what I've learned, the second I scroll up to previous chapters and start fixing stuff up, is the moment I guarantee absolutely no progress.

    Now, my first drafts are usually pretty good and not too bulky, so this is why its bad for me. If someone genuinely needs to trim down material, or has a mess of content staring them down I can understand. Also some people aren't as easily swayed from their course as me.

    Ideally I think the process should be:
    Ideas/characters/concepts/moments
    Draft 1- Solid base, write down dialogue bits, and various scenes when your at a creative block for the current moment
    Draft 2- Figure out the story, how you're definitively taking it, and how your defining certain characters.
    Draft 3- Hard edit. Characters are lifelike, no decision or moment is without explanation, description is on point fleshed out, foreshadowing is done if you care for it, hook, build up, climx etc. are all placed in satisfying locations. All in all, your done, save for the optional 4th draft
    Draft 4- Hire an editor or get friends to look over the draft. See what the fresh eyes think of the story, and if they are viewing it the way you want, or in a way your satisfied with then change it accordingly.
     
  15. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are definitely dangers with edit-as-you-go - mainly if the "go" disappears in the editing. One has to discipline oneself not to get really nitpicky, or try for perfection, and basically remind oneself that at some point one has to move on. (I think I really hate using "one" - anyone else? :rolleyes:) Then again, once you've been doing it this way for a while, the edits and revisions start popping in almost by themselves, and the writing just keeps going.
     
  16. chaoserver
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    chaoserver Member

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    Hopefully sometime I can write like that. I'm only just beginning to discipline myself, so hopefully the fruits of that emerge eventually.
     
  17. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    I write until I get stuck and then I go back and revise. Most of the time the reason I got stuck was because something was off or the story was moving in a strange direction. I can ussually catch that when I'm revising. Also I find that I can only write for so long before the story just needs to be knocked into shape because it feels like writing on a shaky foundation.

    But I don't think that one way or the other is better (to revise as you go or not to), they are just different. You should use the one that suits your personality and situation best.
     
  18. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think this is true of any "method" in writing. If one way doesn't work, revise it or try something else. Flexible, thy name is Writer. :D
     
  19. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Wow, you said it so well, I finally understand the whole concept now! Makes me willing to try this method too, actually! it makes sense the way you put it.
     
  20. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    My problem with writing all the way to the end without revising is that when I'm done, the story is told and I'm not very interested in it any more. But the draft sucks, so now I have to go back and rewrite a whole bunch of stuff I'm not interested in, when I really feel like moving on to another story. So that's a big yawn for me, a major bummer.

    That doesn't happen when I edit as I go. So long as I'm still in the midst of things, my interest stays high. That's why it works for me.
     
  21. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    That makes sense too.
     
  22. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thank you all for the wonderful insights!

    I am tired of my short story already. I am forcing myself to finish it only because of the contest. If I had to go through 100,000+ words without revising I'm sure I'd be sick of the story by then too. The more I think about it, the more I'm feeling revising as I go in chapter sized increments is the way to go, for me anyway. Then at least when I'm done I don't have to rewrite all 100,000+ words at once, I only have to polish it a few times.
     
  23. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    It depends a bit on the story for me, though I usually fall into the wait until the end category. Sometimes I write shorter novels that aren't that complicated and are planned in detail before I start, so the first draft is actually pretty decent since I can just focus on what to say rather than the story. To be honest, the vast majority of those stories are left as a first draft, because they are good enough for me and I don't have any plans of showing them to other people.

    But I'm also working on a fantasy novel right now, that is a lot longer and the plot is very complicated at times. Sometimes there are scenes that are difficult, so I need to just trudge through them, in which case I often write badly on purpose just to get it over with. It also takes a lot of twists and turns I hadn't planned out when I started, and those are usually badly written as well. In those cases, I sometimes need to go back and edit, just to make everything somewhat coherent and understandable. I leave most of it until the end though, or else the first draft takes forever.
     
  24. Magicangeleyes
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    Magicangeleyes New Member

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    I think if I were to edit as I went along I would never see the end. It already seems to be so far away. I accept I can do minor changes, but will leave the rest until the story is 'complete'.
    My mind is full of potential edits, but they may change before I've actually rewritten them, so why waste the time now, when I'll just go back and change them yet again?
     
  25. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think I will at least give the 'edit as you go' a try with my next project. Just to see what it's like and how it will affect the end result. And how long time it'll take me to finish compared to before. Hehe, I love experimenting when it comes to writing. :)
     

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