Hi All: We are continuing to work through Renni Browne’s answers to some of the questions you all posted on the subject of self-editing. Since Monday is a holiday here in the US, this will be a slightly lighter day than normal.
Gerhi Janse van Vuuren asked:
I’m writing a Nanowrimo novel so the editor is off at the moment. But I will have a draft in about a months time. The standard advice seem to be to let the draft lie for a time (a week, a month) before picking it up again. But I know from experience (academic writing) that when I get to the end of a draft I already know about a ton of things I want to fix. Should I still let it lie or immediately fix the things that I feel needs fixing?
Renni answered: Sounds like you can have it both ways. Jump on the things you know you want to fix and then let it lie.
Randy adds: It’s good to let it lie for a bit. That’s a good time to get your critiquers/reviewers/editor to work it over, while you do something different. However, you don’t always have that luxury, especially when you get in the publishing pipeline and are producing book after book on deadline. So then you may want to start revising immediately, even while you wait to get answers back.
On Self-Editing: What are the major points to work on? I have been writing a lot over the past few days, but I feel like I’m going too fast on the actual book. I feel like the most important characters aren’t coming out right. I feel like the story is going too fastSlike I’m rushing it. In self-editing, do you worry about grammar and spelling? I generally don’tSthat really doesn’t seem to be the most important part to meSbut what about the other stuff? When you read over your chapters AGAIN, do you polish the sentences and dialogue? Edit out the worst scenes? Rewrite as you go? Basically, do you edit and write at the same time.
Renni answered: When you’re writing a draft, let it flow and lock the editor out of the room. I say this somewhere in the book, but I should have put it on page one. Writing and editing come from two different halves of the brain–writing, of course, being a right-brained activity. Now. Having said that, I’ll admit that the last piece I wrote–an article on “What Editors (Really) Do” that’s up at www.editorialdepartment.com — I found myself several times writing a sentence and then, as I started the next one, realizing that the preceding sentence would have much more impact if I changed a word or a phrase to such-and-such. But at the same time I was having this thought, I’d be finishing the new sentence in my head. Aaaaargh. With me it was a shouting match and I went with whichever voice was loudest. I stand by my advice nonetheless. Do your best to let the first draft flow unimpeded by critical thoughts, which can (a) stop the flow, or (b) undermine what’s coming out in sneakier ways. (“That’s lousy, you know.”) When you let prose flow, it may be rough, it may even be lousy in one way or another, but it may also have energy or bite or surprise it would never have if you fussed with it while it’s coming out.
Randy adds: I’ve found that the creative part of writing is very chaotic and unpredictable and unrepeatable. (If you’ve ever LOST a great piece that you slammed out in a white heat of passion, you know very well that you can’t redo it the next day. You’ll get something the second time, but it won’t be the same.)
However, the editing part of writing is very predictable and repeatable. I’ve sometimes edited the same piece of work twice (by accident, because I thought I’d lost my edited pages, only to find them later on after I edited the whole thing AGAIN). And I’ve found that my edits were pretty darn close both times. Not exact, but pretty repeatable.
So if you’re slamming out your story and you feel tempted to fix that broken sentence with the glaring typo, think twice. If you edit it tomorrow, you’re almost certain to fix it the same then that you would now. But if you lose your train of thought, can you get it back? Maybe not. So that’s what I remind myself when I’m tempted to edit while creating.
Sometimes I do edit while I’m creating, of course. I do that on the days when the words just aren’t screaming off my fingertips and it really won’t hurt to lose my train of thought, because it’s just a toy train anyway. But on those rare golden days when I can’t type fast enough to get the story on the page, well, I’d be crazy to fix the spelling errors. On those days, I let it rip. You really can fix it tomorrow.