1. AuroraJenkins
    Offline

    AuroraJenkins Member

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2013
    Messages:
    35
    Likes Received:
    0

    Should I edit as I go, or after I finish a first draft?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by AuroraJenkins, Apr 24, 2013.

    I'm only one chapter into my current story, but if I can get past the early stages then I plan for it to be quite long. My question is, should I edit each chapter as I go, or see if I can finish an entire first draft before doing any serious editing? Because I can already tell that my writing so far has some rough spots and generally isn't up to par with actual books or short stories that I've read.

    My unique situation is that the writing feels kind of... Shallow. Almost like I don't give the little things enough of a description because I'm eager to move the story forward. It's definitely far more than a simple outline; it's clearly the story itself complete with narration and dialogue and some description. Just maybe not quite enough time spent on some of the earlier scenes or scenes I just want to get done with. So should I just write the whole thing out in this "shallow" format and then go back to fill in the blanks later? Or should I try to make it really thorough as I go? I'm kind of afraid that if I focus too much on editing too early, I'll never finish the complete draft at all. I leave a lot of longer stories unfinished, so maybe that's part of the reason why.

    What are your guys' opinions about this?
     
  2. Nicki_G
    Offline

    Nicki_G Member

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2011
    Messages:
    61
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    Minnesota
    I know that others will not agree...but, I do major edits once I have a hefty draft, or at least 4 or 5 chapters, put on paper. If I start editing too soon, all I will do is edit and I will not make any other progress on my draft.
     
  3. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,727
    Likes Received:
    4,824
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    I edit as I go. So do many others. Still others insist that you must charge ahead and finish your first draft before you even think of editing.

    If there was only one best way, one way that worked best for every writer, then every writer would use it. But there isn't. It all depends on how you think, how you work, and what is most important to you as a writer. Nobody can figure that out for you. Write the best way you can. Experiment with different methods and find out what works for you. Prepare to encounter many people who will tell you you're doing it all wrong because you don't do it their way. Ignore them. Write your own stories your own way.
     
  4. TerraIncognita
    Offline

    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

    Joined:
    May 28, 2010
    Messages:
    1,339
    Likes Received:
    40
    Location:
    Texas
    You have to do what works best for you. I usually edit as I go or get a handful of chapters down then edit. Sometimes I do a major overhaul midway through. I never wait until the first draft is finished to edit something. Sometimes my edits wind up changing the direction of characters or plot lines so it's easier for me to do it periodically or as I go. There's no right or wrong answer to this one.

    As for wanting to move the story forward that is good. You don't want superfluous things weighing it down. If it doesn't move the story forward it doesn't need to be there. Having balance in your writing is good. You don't want so few details the reader can't follow or get invested but you also don't want so many that the reader gets bored.
     
  5. SwampDog
    Offline

    SwampDog Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2013
    Messages:
    409
    Likes Received:
    108
    Location:
    Back in Blighty
    .
    One caveat - don't edit too heavily too early.

    If your tale takes an unexpected turn further down the road, you may want to edit previous chapters, but if you've already edited heavily and feel they're now set in stone...
     
  6. Sue Almond
    Offline

    Sue Almond Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2013
    Messages:
    30
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Canary Isles
    Editing as you go along?

    There is some very good advice on here already and I think the most important thing has been said: There is never only one way of doing anything. Your instinct is to 'get it down' and I think you should go with that. the time spent on each chapter doing it as you go along is going to mount up and if you make major changes later you will still have to go back and do it again. Modifying and correcting as you go will not save you the final tasks of revising, editing, correcting and often major rewrites which every writer has to do at the end.
    >I would like to share a quote with you (please can someone put me wise if I am not allowed to do this, it is very short but I would hate to get into bother with copyright! It is about a travel writer revising a piece of work before sending it off: '....attacking its descriptive excesses and its badly drawn observations, smoothing over its passages of stylistic roughness and honing its readability...' (Douglas Kennedy: The Moment p.195) I used this to help my Creative Writing Group, in a recent session, think about what they were about to do and we discussed the difference between, revising, editing, correcting..... They all did the same short piece first, for comparison and then worked on their own pieces, first individually and then in pairs.Everyone was much happier with their pieces after the exercise and they had all been tightened up and improved. They all agreed that the quote was very useful in pointing them in the right direction and most agree that while it is sometimes difficult to resist it is better to leave what you have done alone till you have got the story down. If you start at the beginning every time you pick up your work you are never going to have time to write after a few chapters. It distracts you from the first stage which is creating the story. The other stages require different skills and different areas of concentration. Do what works for you, always but I think you need to do minimal correcting and editing before the end in general.
     
  7. erebh
    Offline

    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2013
    Messages:
    2,620
    Likes Received:
    467
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Editing is not just spell checking, its making sense of the stuff (in my case 'crap') that I've written and believe me when I edit a chapter I think, wow what was I smoking when I wrote that?

    When I edit I change characters names, their jobs, their attitudes. I'll take the 'funny' off one and give it someone else. My book can completely change direction so I edit along the way, probably two chapters, 10-12000 words at a time. If I finished the book before editing I don't think I'd have that freedom to do anything but spell check and MS Word can do that for me (to a point).
     
  8. iolair
    Offline

    iolair Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2009
    Messages:
    265
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Exeter, UK
    On my current project I wrote the whole first draft of the novel first. Then I rewrote the whole thing, from scratch, fixing major issues, rearranging characters and scenes and so on. Only then did I start to edit. Works for me - but we writers are a varied bunch.
     
  9. ChaosReigns
    Offline

    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2013
    Messages:
    1,090
    Likes Received:
    455
    Location:
    Canterbury, Kent, United Kingdom
    Do what you feel comfortable with, i personally edit as i go, but one of my fellow writing chums at work, edits after he has written it all, so it all depends
     
  10. ProsonicLive
    Offline

    ProsonicLive Senior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2013
    Messages:
    119
    Likes Received:
    6
    light edit as you go, heavy edit when done...too much editing as you go can make you loose ideas
     
  11. Thornesque
    Offline

    Thornesque Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2012
    Messages:
    456
    Likes Received:
    71
    Location:
    Michigan, USA
    I cannot edit as I go. There is no 'light-editing' for me. If I start editing, I'm going to edit. Anything I see that should be changed, I will change. There's no speed control in my brain for that. And if I start editing, that's all I'm going to be able to do. I won't be able to stop once Chapter 1 is done and say "Okay, I'm going to keep writing until I feel the urge to edit again..." I think that Chapter 2 has to be as bad as Chapter 1 was, so I go to edit that, as well.

    My middle ground was the write the vast majority of my stories out by hand, and when I typed them up, I was able to make alterations at that point. Then I was stuck editing at smaller intervals, instead of looking at an entire piece and trying to rewrite it. My mind was focused on what I'd just read, not what came before it.
     
  12. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,819
    Likes Received:
    7,343
    Location:
    Scotland
    I would say if you're feeling the urge to write quickly, and your creativity is spilling over, do that. Don't worry about editing. You can always go back later and fix things.

    However, I'm also getting the feeling that you think your writing lacks depth? If so, maybe you need to slow down a bit instead. Not to edit, but to visualise.

    Take some time to visualise each scene carefully before you even start to write it. Make sure you know exactly what it looks like in your head. Who is in it, what they look like. (You don't need to describe them when you write them, but make sure YOU know what they look like!) Think about where they are standing, or who moves where. What are they thinking? What do they say? How are they feeling when they say it? What's going on in the scene, in general? If there is action, make sure you can see it happening BEFORE you write it. What do you think the next scene will be, and how do you set this one up so the transition works? In other words, spend time with your story before you start writing it.

    Sometimes you can do this in idle moments, sometimes before you go to sleep at night or before you get out of bed in the morning. Go for a walk. Sit in your favourite chair. Whatever works. Spend time in your head. I think that will help your story set down roots.
     
  13. Jape
    Offline

    Jape New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2013
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Liverpool, UK
    I do a draft then edit - but I write short stories, so my approach is different to the budding novelists who have replied.
     
  14. shadowwalker
    Offline

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    Messages:
    3,299
    Likes Received:
    851
    Well, I edit as I go - and I mean complete edit. When I finish a chapter, unless my betas point out something, all that's left is the final polish. I don't go back and change things - each new chapter is dependent on the chapters I've already written. (If I come up with some idea that causes that drastic a change, it goes in my "new story ideas" file.)

    That works for ME.

    Now, my only concern about you editing as you go is your mention of leaving longer stories unfinished. If you've developed that habit, you need to break it, ASAP, and I would recommend writing the story through to the end and then going back for the editing. You may find that finishing first and then editing is more suited to you; you may hate it. The more important issue now is to finish. You can decide on method for the next one.
     
  15. Jhunter
    Offline

    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2011
    Messages:
    1,233
    Likes Received:
    45
    Location:
    Southern California
    Here is my process:

    Write chapter 1 --> Edit chapter 1 --> Write chapter 2 --> Edit chapter 1 and 2 --> Write chapter 3 --> Edit chapter 1, 2, and 3 --> Write chapter 4

    You get the point by now: I edit as I go. And I don't just mean normal editing, I also copy edit to the best of my abilities. The reason I don't just edit the current chapter I write, is because I want to make sure everything is still cohesive and working together. Sometimes I don't need to change anything in past chapters, but sometimes I need to overhaul a chapter. It varies, but I always edit the latest chapter without fail after I finish it. I literally can't move on to the next one if I don't. My mind won't let me. However, with that said, I constantly outline new chapters as I think of them, so I at least know where I am going even if I take the time to edit.

    I also know for me, as a person, having to go back and re-write an entire manuscript after completing a first draft would daunt me to know end, I would just give up and not do it. So that is another major reason I edit while writing the first draft. Obviously, I know even doing it this way, I will still have to edit when I am done--but it won't be nearly as daunting.
     
  16. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    there's no 'should' since either way works best for some and one way doesn't work best for all...

    that said, it's generally a good idea to first get the whole thing down on paper/screen as if flows forth, save editing till you get to the end... the reason being that if you edit in bits and pieces as you go, you're constantly interrupting the story's natural flow and could end up taking 10 times longer to get it all down, from start to finish...

    if unsure which works for you, just try both ways for a chapter or two and see which produces the best result...
     
  17. jeepea
    Offline

    jeepea Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2013
    Messages:
    98
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    Colorado
    I'd say to write the first draft as quickly as you can, not worrying about how detailed you think your scenes are. Put all of your passion and creativity into finishing that draft and then revise. For me, I often end up in a different place that I thought I would when I started the story. I write with an outline but usually abandon it at some point in the writing process. Because my ending was different from my original intentions, I have to go back and edit the beginning of the story so that things align with the ending. At that point, it becomes a little like the 'butterfly effect'. Every change I make ripples through the story, both backwards and forwards. I like to keep my drafts as fluid as possible, for as long as necessary, until I'm absolutely sure that my story is as it should be. Then I edit for tightness and grammar, etc., until I'm satisfied.
     
  18. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,829
    Likes Received:
    2,382
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    Only edit if you can pick up the thread again and keep going - when I was younger I got stuck in a vortex of
    rewriting the first three pages over and over, justifying the action - I can do better, this doesn't sound right, I suck. lol

    Every one's got their own system - I write full out but when I get up to take a break - I return to the computer and
    read what I've written with the object of toning it up a bit. I can't help myself. Then I start writing fresh again. So at the end of
    the night - if I'm in my groove - I can get several pages down that I'm somewhat satisfied with ( as in first draft satisfied. )
    But it's not for everyone. My first novel I wrote when I was about 14 - I wrote non-stop no looking back. It's heavily
    flawed but it's one of the few books I've actually finished. Find out what works best for you. But all in all - don't be worried
    about first draft flaws - the important thing is getting something on paper you can actually tweak and edit.
     
  19. Anthony Martin
    Offline

    Anthony Martin Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2013
    Messages:
    271
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    San Diego
    I'm of this camp when it comes to short story writing--get it all out in one fell swoop so you don't lose that early creative energy. Also, see signature. :)
     
  20. ChaosReigns
    Offline

    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2013
    Messages:
    1,090
    Likes Received:
    455
    Location:
    Canterbury, Kent, United Kingdom

    thats pretty much my process too
     
  21. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,727
    Likes Received:
    4,824
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    I've been meaning to ask you about that. I've read your signature many times now, and I can't figure out what it actually means. Care to help? :)
     
  22. Anthony Martin
    Offline

    Anthony Martin Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2013
    Messages:
    271
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    San Diego
    Signature

    Sure: I often think of "tight" in the context of drunkenness, "straight" in the context of clear-mindedness and the rest is self-explanatory.
     
  23. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,727
    Likes Received:
    4,824
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    Ah. I'm not used to "tight" meaning drunk. I've heard it used that way, but it wasn't the first thing that came to mind. That makes "straight" make sense. Thanks!
     
  24. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    i don't see it as good advice to recommend writing while drunk, though... ;)

    and don't you mean 'therein'? :confused:
     
  25. Anthony Martin
    Offline

    Anthony Martin Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2013
    Messages:
    271
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    San Diego
    Oh it's certainly not meant to be advice to anyone, though I can see how it might be read that way. Sometimes it's just a characterization of my (and probably many other writers') complicated relationship with writing (which does sometimes involve the occasional drink); other times it's a reminder that at the end of the day the editing has to be clear-minded and the product has to be true. It's also the name of my blog.

    Certainly, it pays homage to one of my influences, Ernest Hemingway, who famously said "write drunk; edit sober".

    And yes, I mean herein. :)
     

Share This Page