1. rlspin
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    rlspin New Member

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    Self Editing Dilemma

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by rlspin, Apr 30, 2015.

    Hi Everyone

    I'm new to this forum and was wondering if I could get some advice?

    I have begun my first novel and have a pretty clear vision of where I want to go with it.
    My problem is editing whilst writing!
    After my initial writing spurt, averaging around 1000 words per day (I know a lot of people who advise 1500 - 2000 words a day but I'm pretty new to Novel writing), I'm now averaging a paragraph a day! 1 Paragraph!
    I initially figured it was some form of 'Writer Block' in the sense that I knew what to say but not how to say it, but I've recently come to the conclusion that its because I keep editing what I write, constantly!
    I cant move on unless I feel the paragraph is right.

    Does anyone have any techniques or advice to help me stop this behaviour?
    ANY advice would be greatly appreciated it.
     
  2. stevesh
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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    I would suggest that you don't worry about what people you don't know say about how many words you should write every day. If you're ending up with one paragraph that's exactly how you want it, I don't see anything wrong with that for now. My guess is that your daily production will increase as you gain experience with writing and editing, and you'll eventually wonder why you worried about it.
     
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  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Welcome to the forum. This is a very common topic and the short answer is that there is no one right answer. It's a matter of how you feel you work best. If you're really not comfortable moving on until you know the paragraph is as good as you can make it, then my advice would be to stick with your current method because otherwise you'll likely be too distracted by all the things you have to fix. Just keep in mind that no matter how much editing you do as you go, you'll still have several rounds of read-throughs and edits when you're done.

    I also wouldn't worry about getting a certain amount done each day. The real world has a way of intruding on all of us. Write what you are comfortable writing on the day. Some days, there won't be time to write at all. It happens.

    First novels are, first and foremost, a learning experience. You learn what works for you in terms of style, structure and work habits. Don't be afraid to experiment with different approaches.

    Good luck.
     
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  4. rlspin
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    rlspin New Member

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    Thank you so much guys, I really appreciate the advice!
    Its been grinding at me for days now but reading what you both have had to say, its made me feel a hell of a lot better!
     
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  5. Gawler
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    Gawler Contributing Member

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    As it is your first novel you are going to find it is also a learning process. There is nothing wrong with editing as you go but remember that this is only the first draft. As you go you will continue to make revisions, some of which may not be obvious until you finish the draft.
     
  6. AlcoholicWolf
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    AlcoholicWolf Contributing Member

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    A good piece of advice given to me was to avoid the editing process until after. Just get it down; don't be afraid to write crap. At least you're writing.
     
  7. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    ^^^THIS!^^^

    That's a big piece of it. Separate writing time from editing time. Writing time is for creating. Only creating. Only new stuff.

    Editing time is for editing. Period.

    Personally I've found that editing time is when I have a little time but not enough to think - like if I only have a half hour. Not enough to write a scene but I can edit old stuff. But main writing time is just for writing.
     
  8. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm curious, why are you editing each paragraph/part? Is it a matter of grammar or simply doesn't read the way you want it to, or is because you are not leading the story in the direction you want to go? There could be other options but if it was the last part then I would suggest doing an outline of the story at some level to see if that helps. As the others have said, just put the story down on paper and worry about the editing later. Good luck with your novel.
     
  9. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Try writing with a white color font, on white background. Then you won't see what you've written, (the only things that will appear will be the red little marks under the words you've misspelled, lol, but that looks pretty funny: :) ) I tried that once to get rid of my own habit to go back and go over what I've written instead of just keep writing and it worked. I pretty much forgot what I had written the moment I ended each sentence. Maybe you won't write an entire novel that way, but it's good exercise.
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2015
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  10. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I write in spurts, but always get 1500 words ready for the critique group. It helps to have a deadline like that.

    On the other hand, I'm going on 3.5 years for the book and hope to be done by 4. It's not the amount of time I spend writing, it's the reworking of the chapters after I learn more about writing. And I learn more by taking the chapters to the critique group.

    As for not editing as you go, that depends on so many variables. I wrote a two book rough draft (134,000 words) in about a month and a half. So I do think there is something to be said for letting the story flow onto the page without worrying about perfecting it. I continue to write chapters that way to some extent. But now that a more refined chapter is on the page, I work hard at editing it. It's how I write. For whatever reason, I can see how to fix things but it doesn't come out in fixed condition when I first write it.
     
  11. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I know what you mean about going back over each paragraph, sometimes it's hard not to because the idea or dialogue for a particular piece comes so fast, that you can't always get it down. You read it through and find all the glaring errors. Second time, you change some of the dialogue or add a bit more. Third time, you make additions to set the scene. Fourth, that's when you add character movements and emotions. Fifth, you pick up a few grammatical errors. Sixth time you read through, you realise your character has said/done something that was mentioned differently in another part of the book so you sit and think about the story structure and decide which way to go, change this bit or the other bit. Seventh, you get your narrator to read it to you and you pick out a few more errors and then you move onto the next section in your mind. You know it's not finished, polished or perfect but it's as perfect as it's going to be in order for you to move onto the next part ...

    I totally get you but @stevesh is absolutely right. Don't pay too much attention to what other people tell you you 'should' be doing with regards to word counts per day. Write the amount you are comfortable with and the way you are comfortable with. There's nothing to stop you going back and making changes in six month time so don't worry.

    Good Luck.
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2015
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  12. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Writing and editing: two very separate processes.

    First drafts are crammed with dead verbs, no verb in the clause, no sense in scene to anybody but the writer: the pictures are not there. If you, the scribe, cannot read your piece aloud, at speed, with a joyous, and mellifluous rhythm that nourishes both eyes, then it is not ready, yet.

    Still, 'first drafts' are fantastic, under-rated...[imo]
     
  13. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    That's it! That's exactly how I write. :D
     
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  14. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Some people write tight, tidy first drafts. Other people write very loose, sloppy first drafts. Some people write tidy drafts for one book and sloppy ones for another book. Some people like to edit as they go, others like to save it up until the end. There's honestly no right and wrong - just experiment and see what works for you.
     
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  15. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you're a paragraph-a-day writer and you would be OK with that level of progress indefinitely, there's no need to change.

    If you're not OK with that level of progress and you're unable to stop yourself from editing, I would suggest choosing a scheme to make yourself reduce the editing focus. A scheme that I think I once suggested was that every day you have to write X (200, 500, 1000, whatever you choose) NEW words, and after you have written those new words you can do all the editing you want. But you have to write the new words FIRST. No editing until you've finished your new-word quota.
     
  16. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Also bear in mind that a paragraph a day, if it's a good paragraph that you keep and are happy with right up to publication, will net out faster than a lot of writers manage. Say you write/edit/perfect a 100-word paragraph every day. It'll take you just over two years to have an 80K word novel. Faster than a lot of people, especially for a first novel.
     
  17. rlspin
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    rlspin New Member

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    Thanks guys, I really appreciate your advice, you guys have been incredibly helpful!
    So, from what I understand from everyone's advice, as this is my first novel I should treat it as a learning experience and experiment too see what works with me, and I shouldn't worry about the level of progress, as long as I'm getting something on the page.
    As for the experimenting with what works for me part, I may try the techniques @Tesoro and @ChickenFreak suggested, I feel they may help me separate the Writing and Editing processes in a way I would feel comfortable doing.
    Again, thank you for the advice! Ill put to work what I've learnt/learned.
     
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  18. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Speak for yourself. They're joined at the hip for me.

    Speak for yourself. My first drafts aren't as foul as yours, because I edit as I go.

    Agreed. ;)

    Not so much, in my case.
     
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  19. Christine Ralston
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    Christine Ralston Active Member

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    How I write varies from day to day. One day, I may produce new material and on another day, I spend more time editing what I've already written. On the days I'm editing, I'm also brainstorming and working through unresolved issues in the story. This helps get me through writer's blocks and onto days where I'm again writing new material. No matter how much you edit each paragraph as you write, you can't avoid major editing later as you have to make sure that the story as a whole flows and you really can't accomplish that until after you have a completed first draft. I just go with whatever the day may bring. Some days life intrudes more than others and we as writers just have to deal with that.
     
  20. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    There's no real set thing a writer can do. What you do is what you do. I long for the days when I used to just write. I would write ( with pen and paper ) and turn the page and get a new one and not look back. Now I write until I feel a hitch. Then I sit back examine my scene, tweak a word or two and move on. I don't polish, polish though. What I'm going for is - is the scene going in the right direction? That's my main concern. Right now I've chopped a hair washing scene in Not Pink and I'm trying to replace it with a wall papering scene. I've stopped and started the wall papering scene three times. It keeps feeling like it's not doing what I want it to do and I have to retry until I get it right. I usually cut it off at the point where I feel it going astray.
     
  21. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    For me, editing a paragraph to perfection is usually a waste of time. That's because there's no assurance whatsoever that a paragraph would still exist, or exist in any recognizable format, or exist in the same place, when the work gets closer to final. The building block of my writing is the phrase, not the sentence or paragraph, and phrases run around like ants when I edit.
     
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  22. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I'm in @ChickenFreak 's camp on this one.

    That doesn't mean you shouldn't go back over what you wrote yesterday and do a quick polish, but I feel it's better to move on as steadily as you can. There are writers who find it easy to write 'correctly' after a few edits, and aren't able to move on till they're satisfied they've achieved an end result ...and that's fine if you can do that. I can't. I'm always chopping and changing, and I don't actually know what I've got until I'm done with the whole story. It's not that I don't plan at all, it's just that my plans change constantly as new things come up.

    I think the most important thing a writer can do is to finish. Finish what you start. If you're writing a paragraph a day, then you ARE progressing, so continue to do whatever level of pre-editing you're comfortable with. You'll soon become comfortable with it. No problem at all, as long as you can dump your perfect paragraphs later on, if they don't actually fit the finished story after all.

    Folks who really have problems are the ones who can't get past the first couple of paragraphs because they're not 'perfect.' They go over and over and over the same ground, and can't move on. This is industrious time-wasting, in my opinion, and a very very bad habit.
     
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  23. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    This is how I started out when I was 12-14. I have thousands of pages that only have like three sentences on them. A really tough habit to break.
     
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  24. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I actually found I have to edit as I go. The one time I did the whole "never look back" thing, yes I managed to write tonnes, but my goodness that's the one draft I've never gone back to edit. The task is too daunting when I know 90% of it is trash that needs to be entirely rewritten. Whereas I have far more motivation to go back and edit a draft that I know is already 90% there in terms of quality - not counting for the fact that usually by the end of a draft I've improved quite a bit and do actually end up rewriting loads anyway - nonetheless, the "bad" stuff still isn't half-bad. Whereas the stuff I wrote in the "never look back" version is something I can't bring myself to read lol.
     
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  25. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Interesting point. Even though I wrote out my two book draft in a month and a half, it seated the story in my mind but I've not referred back to the draft as I began the more finished version. I plan two see what I wrote before beginning the second book. It'll be a kick to see what the first draft of the first book looks like when I'm done.

    It wouldn't make sense, given the way I write, to take that first draft and begin editing it. I don't see how any of our own writing styles applies to someone else as 'the right way' to write. They are just that, our own styles.
     
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