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Thursday, 11 October 2012

Don't Edit As You Write - Thought for Thursday

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Don't edit as you go. This is something you hear a lot in writing circles, but do you follow this advice? I'll hold my hand up and tell you its something I've found very difficult to master.

I'm much better these days, but its taken years to get here, and sometimes I slip back into the habit of tweaking things here and there as I write.

I'm good with flash fiction, most pieces I write call for no more than 200 words, so I'll set my timer and just keep writing until I get to the end of the story, or the alarm sounds. I've usually overwritten by 150 words, so I'll take a hatchet to my work, and par the story down to the required length. This takes two, maybe three edits until I am satisfied.

Longer works prove more tricky, I have to summon up the willpower not to start fiddling. Re-reading, changing a sentence here and there. Realising I need to add another two sentences to get things to make sense now, because I've changed something crucial. So I add a clue, remove a character, change tense, delete dialogue and before you know it I'm screaming and pulling my hair out, three hours have passed and I've only written fifty words!  Sound familiar?

If you are constantly worrying about spelling, syntax or tense, then you're interrupting the flow.  Stop it, and worry about revisions in the editing stage later. Just get the story out on the page.

What do you think? Can you resist the urge? Or do you get along fine editing as you go?

20 comments:

  1. I've never really understood this advice, then again, I've pretty much mastered the "art" of editing as I go. It's just what I've always done. If I see something needs automatically changing, I'll change it. Especially typos. Typos are not going to survive more than a second after I see them. Ack!

    My mindset is to have my MS as "perfect" as a first draft can be, thus making subsequent edits better for everyone. The trick, however, is to still follow your word count writing goals (if you have them.) Understand that if you edit as you go, it's going to eat up time. And if you really ARE in the zone, then sacrificing an edit might be a good idea until the zone fades!

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    1. Totally agree with word count goals, because as you say you have a deadline of sorts, and you won't be going nowhere until you have got those words on the page.

      I've written novels, edited as I went along, and without editing, and I agree to trying to make the manuscript as good as you can in first draft so there is less editing. However, when I wrote regardless of errors, I did get the story out much quicker. There was carnage though! Afterwards its a war zone edit...

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  2. I think I really need to get the rest of my story on the page - it's been too long!

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    1. Go Duncan Go...Just do it! NaNoWriMo is next month, have you considered that?

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  3. Great post, Maria. I'm afraid I can't stop myself editing as I go along so yes, this all sounds very familiar. I've tried, but things niggle at me and I can't resist the urge to go back. You are absolutely right about it interrupting the flow - I wish I could turn off that inner editor x

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    1. I was in the same boat! Then I did NaNoWriMo...It was a hard lesson to keep going without looking back, and at times I wanted to cheat and look at the last page I'd written, but I knew I'd start meddling if I did!

      Why not give it a go for just one story? Grit your teeth, and challenge yourself. :-)

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  4. Good point but I do it too. The problem is that before I settle down to write afresh I have to reread the last few pages and I inevitably get drawn into editing before I can move on. I think the danger lies in continually rewriting a first chapter and refusing to move on til it's "perfect" because it never will be.

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    1. Ros, Your comment has hit the spot with me. I am in 'stuck' mode on a 2nd draft, I can't sort out the first chapter to my satisfaction, and it is niggling at me like a festering wound.

      I hate being stuck and keep telling myself it'll come to me as I go along, but it nags away in the background constantly!

      Perhaps this weekend I will nail it.

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  5. I have to say that editing as I go doesn't work for me. Spelling mistakes, grammar, clunky sentences, dodgy character descriptions - I just let them stand. In the past, I've tried stopping and correcting, but then I correct, and correct and correct.....it stifles the story for me. And I really need to finish the story.
    I'm not a total Pantser though - if I see the plot majorly adrift from my (very loose) plan, then I have to drag it back, even if I chop a chapter or two.
    I'm doing NaNoWriMo for the first time this year, but won't be able to start on it until November 6th - even more important not to edit when I just cut my writing time by 6 days.
    I see you were a winner in 2011, so you probably don't need it, but happy writing for November!

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    1. I admire anyone who does NaNoWriMo, and to miss the first five days too! I've done it for the last two years, its a marathon of words, and you will be put to the test. A great learning curve too.

      I'm not taking part this year, I need to push on with draft 2 of my novel.

      I salute you though - good luck - have fun!

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  6. It depends. I don't spend hours tweaking an awkward sentence to get it perfect in the first draft, but if I realise I've created a major plot hole, or need to add something in earlier in the story then I do a quick fix when I spot it.

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    1. Must admit if I spot a plot hole I try to mend it too. :-)

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  7. I edit as I go along, and edit again and again over the days and weeks. It is time consuming and not ideal, but suits my style. Last week I did write 1250 words over a day and it survived a couple of edits OK. I knew where I wanted to go and concentrated on blending in all the salient parts. If I have a really super clear idea of where I am heading on a chapter/short story/flash before starting, it helps the whole focus of the piece and results in less editing being necessary.

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    1. After talking to many writers, and listening to comments, it seems we all have our own ways of getting things done. I don't think it matters how we get there as long as we do!

      Keep writing Keith, you will get there!

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  8. I'm a compulsive editor - even emails get a couple of edits before I send them - but if I can manage to switch off 'edit mode' the writing does flow better.

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    1. I hold my hand up...I also edit emails. We are similar, I also find if I can switch off the internal editor I flow...

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  9. I never edit as I go, although the story I'm currently writing does have about five different starts and I have no idea which one I'm going to use!

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    1. Oh Annalisa, I have numerous first chapters too! I find it disconcerting and confusing, I hope you are coping better than I am with so many different starting points...

      Writing is terribly hard work sometimes... ;-)

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  10. If I can get into a groove, I can resist it. But sometimes I find myself cutting and pasting, or just cutting when I should be venturing forth with the story.

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