We’re getting close to the end of the questions on self-editing. First, a quick response to a question that came in today, in response to my celebration yesterday that my Snowflake is done and I’m ready to start writing my book.
I’m curious, what does a completed ‘Snowflake analysis’ look like for you, Ultimate Snowflake Guy? If you don’t mind… How far did you go with it, how many separate docs, pages?
And as you get into the novel, if/when things change, do you usually go back and change your snowflake?
Randy sez: In this case, it’s one Word document of about 67 pages, and one Excel file with 50 or 60 lines in it. I started writing Chapter One today! I typically revise the spreadsheet as I complete each quarter of a book. I don’t revise it a lot, but I do tweak things around because writing the story is the ultimate way to know your characters and understand the story. The reason I do the Snowflake is that it’s a lot easier to revise a spreadsheet of 60 lines than a manuscript of 400 pages. It just is. Like the Pirate Code, that Snowflake is just “guidelines” for me to follow if I feel like it. It is usually a pretty good guideline, but I have no compunction about changing it on the fly.
On to some of the questions that were posted for Renni Browne, self-editing expert extraordinaire:
I also am a edit-as-you-go writer (as well as a seat-of-the-pants writer). I can’t seem to stop it and the Dean Koontz interview gave me hope that I’m not doing it wrong. I’m interested in her views on this type of editing, even though most everything says not to do it this way. I know it adds to the writing time but does shorten the editing time.
Renni Browne responded: I’d like to add that no writer should tell another writer her process is wrong. If it works for you, fine. If you’d like to shift the balance and let the writing flow less impeded by rewriting, try putting a comment to yourself at the point where you want to edit, then sail right on.
Randy adds: Hear, hear! A writer needs to follow whatever process works. I find it useful to listen to other writers and see how they do things, because that may give me a good idea. Or not. If it does, then I’m ahead of the game. If it doesn’t, then I lose nothing to listen.
The next question on the list is Christophe’s! I guess he and I jumped the gun there. He thought I’d skipped it, and I didn’t see it on the list that Renni answered. That’s what I get for skimming. In any event, let’s see how Renni answered his question.
How do you edit a chapter that has been rewritten ten times? A chapter that you can’t get a clear view of anymore because you have all the ghosts of the previous versions haunting your brain. It’s been rewritten so much you can’t make out anymore if it’s good or bad or somewhere in between.
Renni responded: I just had this situation with my article at www.editorialdepartment.com “What Editors (Really) Do,” which is about the length of a chapter. It was important to me–I’ve been editing manuscripts for forty-five years, and people don’t know what that actually involves. There are different kinds of editing at different stages, and I wanted to make distinctions. Now, I wouldn’t dream of writing anything for publication anywhere without having it edited (my writing is my child, just like yours), so I always send my final draft to an editor at The Editorial Department. But in this case I kept writing the piece over, putting it aside, and writing/rewriting it again. Came a day when I read it and felt the way you describe yourself so colorfully in your post. I e-mailed it with an SOS to one of our editors, who liked it very much but also pointed out a huge goof I’d made and didn’t see because I’d bogged down in all that rewriting. All of which is a roundabout way of saying when you get to this state, unless you can put the chapter aside for a l-o-n-g period, professional feedback–or, at least, experienced feedback you don’t have to pay for–is the only option that makes any sense. Problem chapters (or articles, or short stories) are problematical for a reason. You can’t see it, you’re too close to it, it’s your child, you can’t be 100% objective about it.
Randy adds: Funny old game, this writing thing, isn’t it?