Monday, March 4, 2013

Editing: Everyone is Different

When I first started blogging almost two years ago, I got a lot of advice thrown my way. Most of it was excellent. If not for the blogging community, there might have been a very poorly written and badly done self-published book from me. I'm grateful for how much I have learned from all of you.

But, I also realized that even though the tips were excellent and even though there were proven testaments to those tips being effective, not everything was exactly right for me and my journey.

Take editing for example. When I first heard someone say that you should let your book rest before editing, I agreed immediately. The English teacher that first got me writing taught me that a good nights rest on a paper made it that much better. Why would a book be any different?




I tried it with a couple of novels, but I struggled for two reasons.

1. All those things that I KNEW were wrong keep hitting me in the back of the head. It was hard to stop thinking about my book and giving it the rest it needed.

2. When I went back to my book I'd look over it and hate everything and want to start from scratch.

As I was writing my current WIP I was thinking about how nothing ever worked out for those two reasons. Then I remembered something. In High School, before I let those papers rest, I would do one quick edit just to make sure I got all of my thoughts across. That way I had no problem letting the paper lie as long as it needed.

Because of that remembrance I'm doing one quick edit on my book before I take my rest. I can't tell you how much peace of mind it's brought me. I'm sorting out all the details and I know when I go back for a second edit it will be all the better.

Has anyone else had the same doubts about a piece of writing advice? If so, please share!

20 comments:

Stina Lindenblatt said...

The 'give your ms distance' rule has got to be the one everyone struggles with the most. Even people who have the best intentions flounder, unless you make it to a certain point. Then it's easy. I have to be truly distracted with something else to be able to give a ms the necessary distance.

T. Drecker said...

I give my MS a few weeks before heading back for edits, BUT I've already edited quite a bit before that. I usually write a chapter or two, go back edit it and write 3. Then I go back and make some changes and start 4. I know people say one should just throw-up the words and let it be. I can't work that way. Things change while I'm writing or new ideas come... plus, I notice mistakes I've been making. So that waiting period is more a mid-edit process.

Julie Luek said...

I love to read all the advice. So much of it is gained from hard-earned experience. And why should I recreate the wheel? But then I have to take it and make it fit how I write and my vision for writing. Sounds like you've done exactly that.

Al Diaz said...

The same happened to me. I have learned a lot of things since I started blogging (like 3 months ago) but I have realized not all advice fits me. At first, I tried to do everything I read but now I take it easy and give it some thought before deciding if I'll follow the advice or not. Not everything works for everybody.

LM Preston said...

I love advice. I'm good at throwing away the bad and keeping the good. Usually the good is re-told more than once.

Sarah said...

I used to have trouble with the whole "write what you know" thing, especially since I'm partial to fantasy. If everyone wrote what just what they knew, there would be no fantasy genre. I have come around, though. I try to think of it more as building from experience than sticking strictly to what I know.

By the way, I always look forward to reading your blog. You've done really well with it.

ilima said...

As I draft a book, I HAVE to go back and read what I've written every so often (from the beginning) despite advice that I shouldn't. But it helps me appreciate the story as a whole instead of getting caught up in the crappy line by lines I'm writing and motivates me to keep going.

Kelley Lynn said...

I've NEVER given my draft a rest after I'm done. I just dive back in again and again. Send it off to CPs, that's my break time. Once I get their edits back I dive in again.

And do I get to read this work you promised me??? ;)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I don't wait to edit either. I'd forget what I wanted to change if I did. Besides, by the time I finish writing a manuscript, I've forgotten the beginning anyway.

Rena said...

The piece of writing advice that I threw out the window is the "stick to one project" advice. I know people go on and on about how hard it is to go back and forth between projects, but it doesn't make sense to me to wait until I finish a first draft to edit a project I've just gotten a bunch of feedback on.

and to be clear, once I'm drafting, I ain't stoppin for nutten. So anytime I'm editing after the initial edit stage, it's while I'm drafting something else.

To each his own.

Mark Noce said...

The "rest" thing is a double-edged sword. It can be good for a fresh perspective, but given too long it can derail your rhythm. At least it works that way for me. I try not to take big breaks and instead opt to keep trucking along...but it's all very good advice:)

Carrie-Anne said...

I totally understand the need to look at a book with fresh eyes instead of immediately feeling it worthy of publication. Of course, I can say that, since many of my files sat on disks in obsolete file formats for about a decade, unseen, while I continued growing as a writer. Now that I finally have access to them again, I'm able to edit, revise, and rewrite much better.

The one "rule" I really hate is the "show vs. tell" rule. Apparently that means something much different to me than it does to many other modern writers. I'd rather write in the style I'm used to than make my books even longer and sound like someone I'm not, just so I never directly tell the reader anything.

Jessie Humphries said...

I think that letting it sit is vital...even if its hard. I like ur idea of a quick edit, but I know for me it might backfire. I think I might be better off giving my brain a break! Just me.

Jeff Hargett said...

I think you've drawn a most important distinction. I edit while I write. I edit the next day when reviewing what I wrote yesterday. I edit when I finish the book--and more than once. But for me, the *final* round of editing must wait until my eyes have gone months without reading my manuscript. I cannot do a proper (final) edit as long as I can recite every line I wrote.

JEFritz said...

I've had the exact same trouble with that piece of advice. When I have a full head of steam going, it's a lot easier for me to start with edits and when I "let it rest", I lost all the creativity I had and struggled to get it back. Yes, letting it rest is important, but I have to get it to the point where I CAN let it rest first.

Krista McLaughlin said...

I've had that problem too! I have a hard time letting it sit. And I agree, without this writing community and learning from them, I'd probably have self-published several poorly written novels and been unhappy. Holding out for a publisher/agent is worth it; that's what I've learned. :)

Donna K. Weaver said...

Yes. You have to do what works the best for you. I need that time--but how much time depends. If I know of a particular problem I can fix it without doing a full edit. Other times I need to be able to see it as a whole and I need some separation to get that vision.

prerna pickett said...

I only give my manuscripts a rest if i get sick of going over them. But if go through it and find there's something else i can fix, i go back immediately. I don't think there's a wrong way to edit, just as long as it gets done.

Imogen Elvis said...

That is such a good suggestion! I've had the exact same problem, where I've written a draft and then left it and come back shrieking at the quality. I think I should try doing at least a quick edit before putting it away. It really is a good thing we have the blogging community. I can imagine the amount of things I wouldn't know about the writing process if you weren't here!

James Duckett said...

I must admit, I'm a HUGE fan of walking away from all projects for a while before coming back to edit them. I do this with all my writing, either in story form or even an Email that is semi-important. Even a walk around the block can make it all fresh.