1. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    What do you guys mean by "editing"?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by minstrel, Aug 8, 2012.

    I keep seeing threads in which people say that the "writing" part of making a story is creative, and the "editing" part is not. They say you have to take your editor's hat off when writing so as not to impede the creative process. Only put the editor's hat on after the first draft is done.

    I don't really understand this. Isn't the editing part creative, too? When I'm "editing", I find myself not just deleting bad writing, but writing lots of new material to replace and enhance it. This is at least as creative as the "writing the first draft" part of the work.

    I've read dozens, maybe even hundreds, of interviews with celebrated writers, and the large majority of them work the way I do. I've never seen them complain that the "editing" process isn't creative, or that they need to wear a different hat and apply different skills to that task.

    So can you guess describe what you actually do when you're editing? Are you just cutting unwanted text? Are you adding anything new? Are you just correcting grammar, spelling, and punctuation? What do you actually do when you edit?
     
  2. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    There's also the need to trim scenes or rewrite them, which a lot of beginning author's don't like to do, because they're in love with their words. That's why editing takes a different mentality.
     
  3. Exzalia
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    Exzalia Contributing Member Contributor

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    editing your more looking for spelling and grammatical errors then just writing new stuff, at least for me. It's why I dislike it even though I know it's important.
     
  4. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    I've always thought of adding new stuff and cutting old more as revising. Editing is just checking spelling, grammar, mechanics, stuff like that. Yeah you might have to rewrite some stuff, but usually its for clarity sake. Revising is the part where you work on content.
     
  5. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like the "writing" mode more than the "editing" mode because the editing is more work and I find it more stressful. In writing, I'm concentrating on writing the story, finding out what my characters are like. In editing, I'm still being creative -- I'm adding and I'm subtracting. But I'd say I'm more trying to make sure I've conveyed what I think my characters are like -- that is, having established them in writing mode, and having created a persona for them in my head, when I'm in editing mode, I need to make sure I've gotten that persona across. I need to take out or change things I might have put in the m/s that don't quite jive with the personality I thought I had given them initially.

    I also need to make sure that the plot and the actions make sense and are supported by things the characters did earlier. I wasn't so worried about that when I was just writing, because I was getting the story out. In editing, I need to make sure it all makes sense -- that I've written the words that support what happens later.

    I also review the punctuation, grammar and spelling. I'm trying to get it as polished as possible to show it to someone important. So, at least for me, "editing" is still creative. It's just more stressful.
     
  6. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I generally agree with this, but I tend to regard editing as a relatively small part of revising.

    I've noticed, though, that while almost everyone here talks about editing, hardly anybody mentions revising. This is one of the reasons I asked my question in the first place. Is everyone here so sure of their style, their characterizations, the depth of their themes, the soundness of their plots, etc. that they don't need to revise? Is everyone convinced they got it right in the first draft, barring grammar and spelling?

    I'm not that sure of my stuff, so I need to revise. Quite a bit. I do a lot of it as I go, during the first draft, and then there are several more revisions after that. I enjoy doing the revisions - I look forward to them - because it's during revision that the rough work becomes fine and finished. What was somewhat misshapen and approximate becomes detailed, sculpted, and as close to beautiful as I can make it. To me, that's a lot more than just "editing," and it requires at least as much creative effort as the first draft.
     
  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I love editing. When I'm writing, there's always doubt about whether I'll come up with anything. When I'm editing, I have the reassurance of having something to work with.

    When I edit, I delete and add and move paragraphs around and delete whole sections and add whole sections and eliminate weak words and phrases and often realize that I entered the piece from entirely the wrong angle and that some little barely-mentioned element is the real focus. It's all fun.

    Good heavens, no. The first draft is just barely more than raw material. But I suppose I call that whole process, from tearing the thing to pieces, down to fixing a punctuation issue, "editing". Whether I should or not.
     
  8. John Eff
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    John Eff Member

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    I would agree that the editing process is creative in its own right. It's not just about spelling and grammar - it's also taking something rough and putting a shine on it by adding, subtracting, altering and clarifying words, paragraphs, passages or entire chapters. It's the process whereby your original vision is crafted into its final form.

    I'd say that's creative.
     
  9. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    For me, I guess there's different stages of editing.

    I first edit as I write. I may go back and cut out sentences, cut out words, or even whole paragraph. I may add stuff in as well. If I just thought about something that I really like, I may go back and edit something into place a few paragraph back to set it up.

    Then, once I'm done with the chapter, I give it a number of reads with a free hand to change and revise/rewrite anything.

    Towards the end however, I get into a third area where I pay particular attention to paragraph construction, grammar, and anywhere that I want to read a different word into the story (I usually change the story to read the way I want to read it, trusting my instincts).

    Personally, I think all of that is editing, though I can see how some would break that up into Writing, Revising, Editing. I think the most important thing however, is to do what works for you at this point.
     
  10. GoldenGhost
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    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

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    I would have to agree with your post, Minstrel. I think the entire process is creative from beginning, middle, to end, just like a story. It involves both sides of the brain, and in order to sharpen a piece you must use every resource you have at your disposal to come up with something worth reading, at least in fiction, which is generally fabricated beyond belief, to a certain extent. That, right there, involves creativity, whether you are writing the a draft, or revising a third.

    Maybe, what people are referring to when writing the first draft, and curbing the internal editor, is allowing your brain to freely associate thoughts and ideas unihibited, which creates a larger pool from which to sift the coheisve, necessary, and powerful thoughts that propel your story towards completion. In a way, I also agree with this, because I think that sometimes we like to limit our minds, constantly changing things, instead of casting doubt aside, exploring every little possibility and roaming free.

    This might be a bad comparison, but think of the mentality inside a dog. A dog likes to explore, and sniff things, and dig, and bark at objects. If you were to put the dog inside a track with two walls on each side, allowing him to only run straight, never letting him go outside those parameters, there's only a certain amount of things he can explore, sniff, dig, and play with. But, let's say you give him an entire country side, free of those bounds, think of all the things he may stumble across, all the wonderful scents, or pungent even. He may find things he likes, he may find things he hates, but then he may find things he absolutely fleeping loves. Now, he can go back and gather up all the things he likes, and bury them into the ground, ignoring the things he didn't, creating a treasure he can proudly sit on and call his own, while he barks at anyone who tries to tread on his territory.
     
  11. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Awww that is such a cute metaphor! "creating a treasure he can proudly sit on and call his own, while he barks at anyone who tries to tread on his territory" - loved it!

    As for editing - I'd never even thought of the word "revising" personally. I've changed my plot about 3-4 times by now before I even got my full first draft. Now that I have my first draft, I'm in the editing stage - by that I mean, I'm rewriting scenes that don't work and correcting grammar, and deleting scenes etc. I've just stumbled across a potential problem in my themes and I'm not sure how I'm supposed to "revise" it - I have to keep it, it's the theme that runs throughout the story, it's the thin red line - and deep down I'm kinda worried it might not work in the end. If I do end up revamping it, I like to call that a "rewrite" - I've never thought of it as revision, although of course it is revision.

    I guess I consider "editing" as making sure everything works - flow, plot, pace, foreshadowing, characterisation, is there enough description, dialogue, is the dialogue realistic, cheesy, absolute crap and unnecessary, or what? All this I consider as editing.

    However, I've never had a proverbial hat to put on or take off. I kinda just "do it". You simply train your mind into thinking "Whatever makes this work." In this mindset, you're very flexible to change - or about as flexible as you can be as a writer tearing her baby apart - but it certainly makes criticism and deletions easier to swallow. I like to talk to my computer and scream in my room in front of the screen, take a deep breath, then get back to work personally. Gotta let off the steam somehow cus otherwise it'd turn into "Ok let's just give up".
     
  12. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I used to just say "edit"; now I say "edit/revise" because it's been pointed out on several forums that there's a difference (editing - the mechanics, revising - the crafting). At any rate, the edit part is second-nature to me (mother was a teacher), and the revise takes place as I write, so the creative part is always at work. And even editing is creative, because there are times when one needs to break the rules to make the story (or a particular part of it) that much stronger.
     
  13. marktx
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    marktx Contributing Member

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    I find myself doing both as part of the same process. For me, it's a bit cyclical and iterative. I tend to let the next scene cook in my head a bit, then write it down, then revise and massage. Periodically I find myself re-reading the entire novel from the beginning to get a "running start" at the next section I'm going to write, and in the process of doing that, I find things in the earlier chapters that need to be fixed (basic mechanics, plot holes) or tuned (voice, detail, clarity) or enhanced (fleshed out to serve later story points).

    After I finish the entire story, I am sure there will be more re-reading, revising, and editing, but I am already doing quite a bit of that in the course of the writing itself.
     

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