Wednesday, July 11, 2007

VW#2: Editing and Revising That Won't Drive You Crazy

I. The Conversation No One Hears

Writer: I've been trying to think of how to best describe a writer's internal editor. Remember Mr. Hyde from the film The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? Take that monster, add in the English teacher you hated most in school, plus a little rabid Doberman, and that comes close.

Internal Editor: Paging Dr. Jerkyl -- your kickoff is weak; borderline pathetic. Trying to think? Thoughts that tough for you? And ye olde movie analogy, how original. So? I'm getting insult but no insight here. Where's the burning bush? P.S. If you trot out your issues with your ninth grade English teacher one more time, I will puke on your keyboard. SohelpmeGod.

Writer (patiently): Anyway, rabid Dobermans, hated English teachers, Mr. Hyde -- dealing with that kind of attitude from the internal editor can be daunting. Especially when--

Internal Editor: Daunting? What's that? Did Mr. Peabody crank up the Way-Back vocabulary machine?

Writer: --you're trying to write, and the internal editor keeps butting in--

Internal Editor: Excuse me. Am I the one who can't remember how to spell occasionally with two c's and one s, or who makes her angry male characters sound more like whiny ass little girls?

Writer: --because that constant nag, nag, nag just kills your forward momentum. That's why--

Internal Editor: Oh, just wait until we go through the rest of the WIP, Honeybunch. You're going to be my rewrite bitch for the next month. In fact, I think I'm going to changes the names of every single--

Writer (muzzling the Internal Editor): --you may find it easier to write without the internal editor shrieking in your ear the entire time.

II. Write First, Edit Second, Revise Third

I do not, under any circumstances, engage my internal editor while I'm writing. I don't backtrack, reread or make quick fixes during my writing time. When I write, I am a writer, and all I do is write, nothing else. The internal editor goes bu-bye and remains perfectly silent until I'm finished writing my new material.

The internal editor cooperates because she knows she'll get a brief shot at the new material that evening. I let her off the leash long enough to read through my new material, editing as she goes along for spelling, grammar, typos, and any other technical blips. We then put away that section of the manuscript and start over fresh the next morning with writing more new material.

Once the manuscript is finished, and I have no more new material to write, I take a couple of days off to get some mental distance between me and the work. Then I remove my internal editor's choke-chain and let her take over for the final read-through, edit and revision of the entire first draft manuscript.

This method may not work for everyone, but by completely separating the two main tasks of creating a novel -- writing and editing it -- I find I am happier and more productive on a daily basis and less likely to hit a block while composing the original story. I also have an easier time when it comes to the massive edit because I'm working with a completed manuscript, not story pieces. I have the confidence of knowing that I finished the story, which helps steady me for the less pleasant job of putting it under my internal editor's microscope and picking out every flaw in it.

III. My Approach to Editing and Revising

As I mentioned above, I do a daily technical edit on the new material I write each day. That means:

A. Opening up the file, performing a spell-check, and correcting whatever the computer finds wrong with the work.

B. I then read through the new material from start to finish to see what the computer missed or I don't like, and make corrections again (I usually do this via a computer screen instead of printing out a hard copy because it's convenient and conserves paper.)

C. Occasionally I jot down notes on a pad while I'm reading on some aspect of the story that will affect the next day's work, because once I save this part of the book after the daily edit, I won't look at it again until I'm finished the manuscript.

As thrilling as writing the book is for me, I look forward to the final edit, because I really haven't reread the daily edits, and now look at them through fresh eyes. This waiting-until-it's-over approach to in-depth editing also creates a certain creative distance from the work which I think allows for more objectivity.

How the final edit goes:

D. I use a printed copy of the manuscript for the final edit simply because I catch more on paper than I do on the screen, and this is when I need to nail every problem.

E. As I read through the manuscript, I use a highlighter to mark non-specific problems (such as a scene that reads flat or a chapter ending that doesn't flow into the next chapter's beginning.) I also keep a red pen on hand to make direct corrections to the text (almost exactly as a copy-editor from the publisher does.)

F. I may also jot down notes on a pad at this stage if I need to verify something or do more research.

Once I've read and marked through the entire manuscript, checked through my notes and made sure I have everything I need in order to revise, I then:

G. Sit down at the computer, open the electronic file, and begin typing in my revisions.

H. Once that's finished, I spell-check, correct typos, and then print out a second, revised manuscript copy.

I. I perform one more complete read-through for missed typos, grammar blips and so forth with the changes I've made.

J. After the last pass, I correct any pages that need it, and then ship off the manuscript to the editor.

My approach to editing and revising is very precise and tailored to my writing schedule, which is often so tight you can bounce a quarter off it. It requires a lot of self-discipline to make it work. I do recommend giving it a try, though, because if you follow my methods you have a better chance of finishing your manscript versus being trapped in a three-chapter loop of writing, back-reading, editing, rewriting, back-reading, editing, etc.

IV. Still Crazy, Now What?

If you find you're reluctant to change even a single word in your story, you're either 1) the best damn writer in the world or 2) you've fallen in love with your manuscript. Chances are it's #2 and it's paralyzed your internal editor, who doesn't want to get between you and your sweetheart. My advice is to save a copy of the complete first draft, put it in a pretty box under your bed, and then get back to work.

Sometimes the problems in the manuscript befuddle you, and you're not sure how to handle them. When I get that feeling, I know I'm not editing at a professional, objective level. My own solution is to take a short break from the work and read one of my favorite novels by another author. I always go for the ones that I think are perfectly paced, superbly plotted or that contain something I admire, and they often change the way I perceive my own drafts (nothing makes your mistakes shine like beacons than reading a great book someone else wrote.)

The most frequent problem writers tell me they have with editing and revising is that their repair work makes the final draft of the manuscript read stilted, patchy or clunky. This is caused by trying to save too much of the original draft to avoid a big rewrite. I think your novel is worth some extra effort, don't you? So don't avoid the rewrite work.

Editing and revising are as important as writing, so you writers out there, don't ignore your internal editor. Just see that they do their job, and leave you alone while you're doing yours.

For a chance to win one of today's two Left Behind and Loving It goodie bags, in comments to this post ask a question or share your view on editing and revising, or just throw your name into the hat by midnight EST on Thursday, July 12, 2007. I will draw two names at random from everyone who participates and send the winners a tote filled with a signed copy of my novel If Angels Burn (paperback), as well as unsigned copies of Kiss Her Goodbye by Robert Gregory Browne (hardcover), Rahab's Story by Ann Burton (paperback), One Gentle Knight by Wayne Jordan (paperback), Tied to the Tracks by Rosina Lippi (trade paperback), Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing by David Morrell (trade paperback),Abandon by Carla Neggers, the July 2007 issue of The Writer magazine, and some surprises. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Other editing and revising resources:

Self-Editing by Lori Handeland

Holly Lisle's One-Pass Manuscript Revision: From First Draft to Last in One Cycle

Editing Made Easy by Lee Masterson

Jane, Stop This Crazy Edit Machine by Tina Morgan

Painful Prose: How to Edit Your Paragraphs to Make Them Great


Other virtual workshops now in progress:

Joely Sue Burkhart's Do You Know the Secret?

Gabriele Campbell's How to Make a Battle Come Alive on the Page, Part 1

LJ Cohen's Organize your Novel with a WIKI

Rosina Lippi's Workshop Day 1: The Story Machine

Shiloh Walker's Heat with Heart Day 1, finding that missing emotion

Note on comments: We had a massive electrical storm here, and I was obliged to keep the computers shut down for most of the day and use my handheld for updates, which gets me into e-mail to moderate your comments but not into Blogger to respond to them. Weather permitting, I will catch up on answering your questions from VW#1 in the morning.

86 comments:

  1. Another great article. I work much as you do with the editing. The thing I like to do on my final pass is to read it out loud - I can catch a lot of errors when I hear them out loud that my eye might just gloss over.

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  2. I loathe editing. With a vengence. Unfortunately, it has to be done and who better than my internal editor. It took me a long time to get used to the write, edit, revise mantra. I got really bogged down before I learned to do this... several times. I can't remember who first introduced me but, whoever it was, thank you.

    Oh, and I'm throwing my name in the hat ;-)

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  3. Thanks once more for a great lesson, PBW.

    How long do you get to edit a novel, on average? And what length of time would you prefer for editing?

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  4. I tend to read over my manuscript int he morning, check through for spelling mistakes grammar etc, mostly so i know what ive written the day before so i can carry on.
    Other than that i tend to leave it to the end.

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  5. Your method is fairly similar to mine, so what I'd like to know is what you do when want to add something in chapter 38 that wasn't in your original storyboard - something you just thought of that you suddenly can't do without. Do you ignore it, or go back and insert the changes that make the subplot -- or whatever -- work?

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  6. What does editing in a "professional objective way" look like? Being really hard on it? Suppose you reread at the end of the night and the IE says "this isn't what the story needed at all!" Do you ever give up all the day's pages and start fresh the next day? Although if you get to that point, does that signal a bigger problem you missed earlier?

    Leave it to me to wedge in plot questions instead. I like your approach to editing, actually. I do a color system. First draft just gets written. In my head, it's blue. Then I go back over it and add in all the stuff I missed and rewrite what I can to make it work. Those new spots are pink in my head, so now the manuscript is patchy. So then I go over it again and smooth everything out. My goal is a purple manuscript. :)

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  7. When I write, I go back and reread the entire thing over and over. Usually this is b/c I'm afraid I screwed up a plot a point or want to make sure I haven't lost the dialogue. How do you keep yourself from doing that? I have a vivid, but flexible outline and I still miss tiny things here and there. What do you recommend to keep me on track without losing it in my paranoia? Thank you.

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  8. Good stuff. I know I've always had a problem separating the writing from the revising. It's a habit I've been trying to break for a while now.

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  9. My question is what if half way through your plot on the first draft you realize your word count is going to be low. Would you go back and revise the first part or keep going to the end and then revise?

    Amanda

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  10. Thank you. I needed that.
    The "Way-Back Vocabulary Machine" is a killer line.

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  11. I'm still trying to find what works best for me, and I will definitely give you suggestions a try. Thanks for the tips.

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  12. I tend to view the writing process as building a new house. I am the architect and construction crew. My internal editor is the interior decorator. She knows she obviously can't come in and start picking out curtains and floor tiles until the house has four walls and a ceiling. Of course she is more than happy to point out when I missed a window and if the front porch is crooked, but it is an arrangement we can both live with.

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  13. Bridget Medora8:14 AM

    Throwing my name in. :)

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  14. Sadly, I love the editing and revising part. It's getting to that point that's hard for me. Once I know I can make it to the end of the work, it's not hard for me to get back to it in revise/edit mode, even if it means a re-write. Of course, it's only happened once (MDiv treatise), but it was so rewarding to see the completed first draft that it made delving into the editing so easy--even when I had to re-write a whole chapter.

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  15. Any tips on how to gag that internal editor during the first draft? Let me tell you, he is a persistent bugger. :)

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  16. Excellent advice. For me, separating the writing and editing processes meant I ended up with a good manuscript in a reasonable amount of time instead of a pile a dreck that took me years to write.

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  17. Once the manuscript is finished, and I have no more new material to write, I take a couple of days off to get some mental distance between me and the work.

    I think this is vital.

    I do light edits as I write, but nothing major until a few days after I've finished. Otherwise, I don't even see the major stuff that does need fixing.

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  18. The writing is fun. Editing and revising, not so much. Thank you for the workship and the tips on how to handle a boring task.

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  19. My plan for the WIP is almost the same as yours. I've allowed absolutely NO go-backs. Forward only until it's done. Of course, my internal editor has already begun picking away at the edges, but I just give him the smack and tell him to go away. I know I'll have some serious editing/revising, but it's so much easier when you have the whole thing.

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  20. After years of writing screenplays and, now, with two novels under my belt, I've discovered that there's no other way for me to write but with that internal editor going fulltime.

    I can't leave a scene until it's pretty much ready for the printing press, so when I finish my "first" draft of a book it's as clean as I can possibly make it. And that first draft is actually SEVERAL drafts.

    The first time I type that last line, I'm done. And I've been fortunate that my editor generally agrees. I've had to do very little in the way of revisions for either of my two novels.

    I do it all in the word processor, never print out pages, revise as I go and listen closely to my internal editor.

    But that's only MY method of writing.

    The point, of course, is that everyone has a different approach to process and that every writer has to find what works for her or him.

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  21. Hmm. I have no insights to share, but I still like hearing about your process. Please just throw my name in the hat.

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  22. My internal editor won't be silenced. How on earth do you do it? It nags away at how useless I am until I'm paralysed with doubt.

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  23. OK, call me weird, but I love to edit.

    Really!

    I look at the revision process as just that 're' 'vision'--a chance to look at the work with a different eye. It may be because I've been the moderator of a poetry workshop for the past several years and I spend hours each week offering critique. I've trained my internal editor to be as respectful and objective to my own work as I am to others' writing.

    I also perform the cardinal sin of editing earlier material as I write later material. Somehow this works for me, because I get a stronger and stronger feel for my characters as I write and going back to shift the earlier work to match the later work just feels right. If it got me mired in an endless editing loop, I wouldn't do it this way, but so far, it's stood me in good stead and hasn't gotten in the way of finishing anything.

    Sometimes I think I'm a better editor than a writer. There is something magical about helping writers see their own work more clearly. When I offer critique, I work hard at clarifying the writer's voice, rather than imposing my own.

    If I didn't have these stories burning inside me, I would probably try my hand as working as an editor.

    Excellent post, PBW!

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  24. My internal editor is never off. Sorry, that's the way my mind works. I waste time if I just pour words onto the page. Why? Because when I do pour words onto the page, I usually edit them by half. No Kidding!. BY HALF. So I learned to write with the internal editor on and to move past "iffy" and "squishy" and tough parts that I can return to later.

    "If you find you're reluctant to change even a single word in your story, you're - you're human. When I find a section that I think is great, I know to go back and revise it. I've fallen in love with something and It's messing up the writing.

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  25. this time i'm working from a more in depth outline than ever before and it is making the process easier. i don't feel so compelled to triple check everything, and revise before i've gotten to the end.

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  26. My internal editor takes brief vacations but is rarely gone for long. I prefer being able to go back and read for consistency and edit as I go on the days when the writing itself isn't going so well. This mostly works pretty well for me because usually I'll wind up fixing whatever derailed me on the fresh writing in the first place.

    Oh throwing my name in the hat.

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  27. Editing is one of the things I really love to do. Maybe thats why I spend so much time going back and rewriting and editing the first few chapters. I've even been so anal as to edit and revise my outline in the middle of a book. I'm trying to keep from looking back, but darn it's hard!

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  28. Anonymous12:27 PM

    Just writing to say thanks. I am trying to get out of the simmer-mode where I stare at the screen a lot and the fingers remain poised, waiting to stroke the keys. I think it's because I do a lot of the writing in my head first -- but this is not an effective way to work at home.

    LJCOHEN wrote: "I look at the revision process as just that 're' 'vision'--a chance to look at the work with a different eye." I love that. I enjoy editing too, although the thought of trying to edit something this big is a bit daunting.

    PBW, do you have any advice for those of us still struggling with spotting typos? I know that I _must_ print it out, I can never catch them all on screen. I've heard the suggestion that one should read backwrds from the bottom to the top. Have you ever tried this? Do you have any other suggestions?

    Also: do you save your daily work as separate files, or do you just add on to the bottom of the previous stuff. I'm always looking for practical ways to make MS Word a better tool. I know you use DSN. Does that create it's on word processing page, or do you do the daily revisions in something else?

    Sorry, I had more questions than I thought.

    JulieB

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  29. Bookmarking this post!!!

    Thanks for answering my unasked question, as I pondered how to jump back into my wip after days away. Writing...

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  30. What an excellent article. When I first started writing I got invited into a critque group right off, which I love. But I felt as if I had to perform. So I would write and place my stuff in the file to be critiqued, then I would feel obligated to make changes to my work right then and there, and I found myself caught in that 3 chapter cycle of hell and got nowhere.

    Just in the past few weeks I have realized that it is okay to just write. Your article has reassured me.

    Thank you.

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  31. Too tired to comment intelligently, so just throwing my name in the hat. Thanks. =)

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  32. I'm mostly just throwing my name into the hat.

    It's interesting to read about other people's processes though. I'm looking forward to giving this way a shot during the Seventy Days of Sweat. :-)

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  33. Thanks for the tips. Throwing my name in!

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  34. Thanks for another great resource.

    Oh and I'm throwing my name in the hat.

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  35. Mary22:56 PM

    please throw my name in the hat.

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  36. I just finished a project, so reading this was quite appropriate for me at the moment and has motivated me to get cracking on my rewrite. I would love to finally get to a finished manuscript.

    I do have a question for you: Do you use beta readers at all before shipping off a finished ms?

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  37. I think my previous comment got ate. Excellent article! And thanks for the reassurance.

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  38. Interesting process. I think I'll give the "check the days writing at night" part a try. I do grammar and stuff edits as I go because I can't move on, but if I know I'll get to it that night...

    My question is how do you get that distance? You take a few days off, I take a few years off, and I still sink into the manuscript. I'm hoping that's because the story's that good ;), but I'd love some tips on achieving distance.

    Thanks for doing this. I'm playing catchup on yesterday.

    Cheers,
    Margaret

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  39. I use the same techniques to proof for writers. It's easier to do it on paper. And I usually read through twice cause sometimes I get caught up in the story and miss things lol.

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  40. My problem is that I find it hard to judge my own writing. Maybe sometimes I look at it too soon. And it's the fact I can't look at it with fresh eyes. I don't mean I look at it and think it's good, more that it's blah blah blah, almost like the words are meaningless. A couple of times I've found pages I've written months ago and read through it and thought it was pretty good - why did I abandon this story?

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  41. JillVB5:23 PM

    Throw my name in the hat please!

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  42. Extremely helpful article :)

    Throwing my name in the hat! WOOHOO!

    -applejacks

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  43. Anonymous6:12 PM

    Another great post!

    Throwing my name into the hat!

    Thanks,

    Terri W.

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  44. Great article! This part -- The most frequent problem writers tell me they have with editing and revising is that their repair work makes the final draft of the manuscript read stilted, patchy or clunky. This is caused by trying to save too much of the original draft to avoid a big rewrite. I think your novel is worth some extra effort, don't you? So don't avoid the rewrite work. -- totally spoke to me. I've been looking at a rewrite the wrong way. :)

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  45. The longer I write (and fight with myself to get words on the page), the more I begin to believe the method you just described might be the right method for me to follow.

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  46. I'm reading and absorbing throwing my name into the hat before my own electric storms cut me off from the world.

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  47. Question time! What do you do if you find, during an edit or random moment of clarity, that you've missed something major in a scene? Do you stop, go back into writer mode, and edit/add?

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  48. Sometimes the problems in the manuscript befuddle you, and you're not sure how to handle them.

    I've considered deleting the entire manuscript from my computer, but I think that might be taking the edit a little too far. That's short stories, though. I'm just about to embark on my first full-length novel edit, and I'm scared, but I know there are some gems worth saving.

    I have a few different POV characters, and I plan to double-check the scenes of each, in turn, to make sure there's a complete character arc for each one. Big stuff first, little stuff like infelicities of language and words repeated too close together last. *crosses fingers*

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  49. Throwing my name in the hat.

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  50. My process is almost exactly the same, other than I do my one-pass to fix glaring mistakes of new material when I sit down to work, because it helps me get my momentum and story place settled in my head. I do try to not backtrack more than a single day's work, though, because that's just temping the endless revision sit and spin. Don't wanna go there. I just start the day with a quick read/fix, then move forward again.

    Great essay!

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  51. Val Griswold-Ford8:32 PM

    Any tips on how to gag that internal editor during the first draft? Let me tell you, he is a persistent bugger. :)

    I find duct tape, a chest and a locked closet work really well, Rob.

    Seriously, though, I do the same thing. No rewriting until the first draft is DONE. Yes, it means I throw out a lot of words. *cough* three-quarters of a manuscript *cough* But it gives me the chance to get the story down on the page, and gives me a framework to hang the rewrites on.

    Just my .02. Thanks again for doing these, Lynn!

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  52. I am not a writer so tossing name into hat.

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  53. This is another very pertinent post. Your internal editor is a little sadistic, but witty too lol. Thanks again for the information. I seem to catch more in print than I do on the screen as well, so I will definitely be using that tip.

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  54. Very useful article (as well as the editing links)
    I generally do the write straight through, and then edit path... But I think I'm still too close to it most of the time, and I always need a beta reader to help me get the more subtle edits...
    I like your method of editing the dailys... I'll have to try that the next time :)

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  55. Anonymous11:02 PM

    PS, Taking my name _out_ of the hat as I've just won. I just wanted to ask my questions.
    JulieB

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  56. Anonymous12:00 AM

    Great advice in the editing article. May I throw my name in the hat?
    Lori L. Lake
    lori@lorillake.com

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  57. I'm by no means a writer. I'm just an avid reader. This blog was fascinating to me though. It would have been so helpful when I was in HS and college. I always had the worst English teachers ever. Jen :)

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  58. My internal editor is constantly fighting with the internal critic. When I'm writing, I just let them beat up on each other - because they're not beating up on me.

    As usual, an excellent post.

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  59. Adele Dawn5:15 AM

    Oh, I like that comment about the internal critic Jaye. It is never my internal editor I have to worry about but muzzling that critic is a major undertaking.

    PBW - I'm looking for some way of silencing the "You'll never be good enough to be published, why bother?" gremlin. I hate the little bugger, but he's terribly persistent. What worked best for you?

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  60. My internal editor is thorough, but a bit too thorough at times - when I get into editing mode, I tend to stay in editing mode even when the book isn't in front of me. So not only does my book look hopelessly flawed, so does everything else I do. I've found that I need to have another project going while I'm editing, so that when I start getting depressed and panicky I can put the editing away for awhile.

    Also, while the internal editor can be useful, sometimes I need to send mine away even while I'm editing; my regular brain is often more objective and efficient about edits, while my internal editor wants me to scrap the whole book and never write anything again.

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  61. Jaye, how do you differentiate? To me it's just a mass of "You suck."

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  62. Ashlyn wrote: How long do you get to edit a novel, on average? And what length of time would you prefer for editing?

    Depending on the project, I usually give myself five to ten days to perform the final edit. That's really my comfort time zone for a thorough edit. I never take that time for granted, though. If the schedule changes, and the editor needs the book sooner, I may only get 48 hours.

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  63. leatherdykeuk wrote: Your method is fairly similar to mine, so what I'd like to know is what you do when want to add something in chapter 38 that wasn't in your original storyboard - something you just thought of that you suddenly can't do without. Do you ignore it, or go back and insert the changes that make the subplot -- or whatever -- work?

    While I'm writing, I flag the change in the draft like this:

    [***Change Marcia's job from librarian to social worker]

    From that point on in the manuscript I incorporate the change, so Marcia is a social worker for the rest of the book. When I perform the final edit and hit that flag, I then go back and change all the references to Marcia being a librarian.

    The flag is great as an edit marker for me because I know everything preceding it has to be checked and revised accordingly, but nothing after it does.

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  64. Jess wrote: What does editing in a "professional objective way" look like? Being really hard on it?

    It's hard to describe. You know when you look in the mirror and you clearly see and admit to yourself that you need a hair cut, and to lose ten pounds, and that red is not a great color on you with your skin tone, and you take action to change those things, that's the same as being professional and objective with your manuscript.

    If you stand in front of the mirror and feel unattractive but you don't know why, or you see the too-long hair and love handles but you've got great excuses for them, then you're probably too emotional to be objective.

    The big indicator is "But..." As in "But I haven't had time for a haircut and it doesn't look too bad" or "But I can't lose weight and still have fun during the Christmas holidays" or "But Mom says I look fabulous in red!" You'll find you do the same thing with the manscript: "But my protagonist is tired so he shouldn't have to do anything but sit around in this chapter..."

    Suppose you reread at the end of the night and the IE says "this isn't what the story needed at all!" Do you ever give up all the day's pages and start fresh the next day?

    No, which is why I never edit new material for content, only for the technical blips. If there is something that is a big huge honking obvious disaster, or needs to be changed for the rest of the book, I flag it (see my comment to Rachel above) and move on, incorporating the change into the new material I write from there.

    Leave it to me to wedge in plot questions instead.

    Hey, plot happens. :) I believe I've got a plotting workshop lined up for tomorrow.

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  65. Personally, i ADORE editing, although i am not a writer. I would probably feel differently if i had just poured my heart out onto a page and then had to have someone pick it apart. but it is a necessary evil, and i like to be that evil. the hardest thing about being an editor is finding spots where you think the author could do it differently, then you realize "well that's how I would write it, but that's not the AUTHOR'S voice." that's the tough one, trying to help the author along, but not change his/her unique style.

    Anyways, i love editing. it's what i love. and i love to read. and i love the Darkyn. and PBW's blog rocks. -Maria :)

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  66. Jessica D. Russell wrote: When I write, I go back and reread the entire thing over and over. Usually this is b/c I'm afraid I screwed up a plot a point or want to make sure I haven't lost the dialogue. How do you keep yourself from doing that? I have a vivid, but flexible outline and I still miss tiny things here and there. What do you recommend to keep me on track without losing it in my paranoia?

    I think we're all afraid that we're going to miss something while we're writing, so those feelings are natural. You already know what you're doing to feed that fear, too: when you write, you go back and reread over and over.

    Think of backtracking, rereading and looking for problems when you write like this: you get ready to leave your house, and then you go back inside to make sure you turned off the coffee maker. Once is fine. Twenty times is not.

    If this has been your writing habit for any length of time, it's going to be tough to break. Here's an idea of how to wean yourself off backtracking and rereading -- write for a day as you always do, but every time you backtrack, make a mark on a notepad. At the end of your writing time, count how many times you backtracked. The next day, make a committment to cut down the number of times you backtrack in half, so that if you reread twenty times on the first day, you are only allowed to reread ten times the second day. Repeat this cutting-in-half method every day until you've trained yourself to go back only once.

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  67. Adele Dawn said:
    I'm looking for some way of silencing the "You'll never be good enough to be published, why bother?" gremlin. I hate the little bugger, but he's terribly persistent.

    I use plasma guns. I find them very effective for the 'doubt demons.' Mmmmmmm...plasma.

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  68. Great post! Please throw my name in the hat.

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  69. Throwing my name in the hat. :)

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  70. Just throwing my name in the hat! tWarner419@aol.com

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  71. I can't silence my IE completely. Knowing there's a lot of muck in the files will only block me. But I've threatened him with the rack and some flogging often enough by now that he only gives me useful advice and doesn't make me tamper with a scene for a month.

    Just well he isn't into kinky. ;)

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  72. How do you know when you're done?

    After much struggle, I've managed to turn my IE off for first drafts (otherwise I would have none, instead of three). However, once loosed, it seems to never be satisfied. My IE can always think of one more change that would make the story so much better (or halfway decent). My alpha readers said the first draft was good. My beta readers think the second draft is even better, but at the rate I'm going I'll be down to omega readers before I can shut my IE up long enough to send the thing out to agents. So how do you know when to stop?

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  73. Do you ever notice areas in your first draft which need to be fleshed out? Minor character direction within scene, scene descrptions, etc?

    Siana

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  74. Amanda wrote: My question is what if half way through your plot on the first draft you realize your word count is going to be low. Would you go back and revise the first part or keep going to the end and then revise?

    I would keep going to the end and then revise, for two reasons: You get a better perspective for adding more to a story if the manuscript is complete, and you can't really total your wordcount until you finish the novel (it may increase dramatically with future chapters, or you may discover something you need to add to the beginning of the book while writing the rest of it.)

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  75. Rob wrote: Any tips on how to gag that internal editor during the first draft?

    I'd throw him a bone every now and then by letting him do a little editing on the WIP. The main reason I do a daily edit is to gratify my internal editor, so she shuts up and leaves me alone while I'm writing.

    Let me tell you, he is a persistent bugger.

    He should meet mine. No, wait, they'd probably spawn and overrun publishing with evil nasty little critters....

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  76. Rob wrote: I can't leave a scene until it's pretty much ready for the printing press, so when I finish my "first" draft of a book it's as clean as I can possibly make it. And that first draft is actually SEVERAL drafts.

    Good point -- some writers manage to collaborate well with the internal editor, and they become writing partners versus adversaries.

    I'm laughing as I type this -- not at you, Rob, but at the thought of my internal editor as my writing partner. She'd talk me out of a writing career in a week, tops. :)

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  77. So many good posts this week, so little time in my schedule. *sigh* Throwing my name in again.

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  78. Buffysquirrel wrote: My internal editor won't be silenced. How on earth do you do it? It nags away at how useless I am until I'm paralysed with doubt.

    I had this one book my internal editor was sure I couldn't write. It was in a new genre. Experienced pros had already told me I didn't have the voice for it. The research involved went far beyond the scope of anything I'd done. So did the cast of characters and the plot. I let the internal editor hammer me for weeks about it, and then I just decided to write it anyway. Whenever that voice started nagging, I agreed with it -- it was probably going to be a big steaming pile of manure -- and kept writing anyway. If it turned out to be a disaster, at least I gave it my best shot.

    That novel was Blade Dancer. :)

    The internal editor is a good thing. We can't assume every word we write is gold. But we also can't assume every word we write is manure. The internal editor has to give the writer equal time on the page.

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  79. JulieB wrote: PBW, do you have any advice for those of us still struggling with spotting typos? I know that I _must_ print it out, I can never catch them all on screen. I've heard the suggestion that one should read backwrds from the bottom to the top. Have you ever tried this? Do you have any other suggestions?

    I've tried the backwards bottom-to-top trick, but it didn't improve my proofreading much. I am the world's worst speller, and I have grammar issues (see, internal editor, I didn't mention that person from my schooldays who GAVE me grammar hives.)

    I write with my voice via VRS, and the Dragon often catches about half of my common spelling and grammar mistakes. I've also tried using a text-to-speech reader, which reads something you write back to you, and that helped.

    Also: do you save your daily work as separate files, or do you just add on to the bottom of the previous stuff.

    I save my work every day in two separate files: the first draft and the daily edited version (I keep the first draft in case I've deleted something during the edit that I need to look at again in the future.) I don't combine everything until I've finished writing the book.

    I'm always looking for practical ways to make MS Word a better tool. I know you use DSN. Does that create it's on word processing page, or do you do the daily revisions in something else?

    I use the Dragon's pad for almost all my writing, and cut-n-paste what I do into Word after I'm finished writing or editing. I can use the VRS in Word, but it acts a little wonky.

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  80. Isn't it a bit wasteful to do the copyediting immediately after finishing the day's writing? Maybe you don't cut as much as I do, but many of the mistakes I would be fixing with such an immediately-after-writing pass, I end up slicing out as part of a larger section of prose, anyway.

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  81. Ris wrote: Do you use beta readers at all before shipping off a finished ms?

    I used to, but I have a high volume of output, and it was unfair to dump all those manuscript on the beta readers I trusted. Flying solo has been good for me, it's made me focus more on my editing and revising because I don't have beta readers as a safety net anymore.

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  82. Margaret wrote: My question is how do you get that distance? You take a few days off, I take a few years off, and I still sink into the manuscript. I'm hoping that's because the story's that good ;), but I'd love some tips on achieving distance.

    I think it's a combination of mindset and objectives. I tend to compartmentalize everything, even my own personality, so Lynn the writer lives in a different place in my head than Lynn the editor, quilter, painter, seamstress, mother, partner, daughter, blogger, etc.

    The mindset of me the writer is to create, build, entwine and progress the prose. It's all I want to think about when I'm tackling the WIP. When I'm done writing for the day, I send the writer back to her internal studio to take a nap, and shift into mother mode. In the evening, I take the internal editor (leashed) to the WIP. My mindset switches from pure creation to tailoring what's been done. The internal editor isn't interesting in constructing something new, she wants to tailor what's already been made so that it fits better. (I know not everyone sews, but writing is so much like sewing for me personally that the mindset is almost identical.)

    The writer always wants to come out when the internal editor is working. Likewise the internal editor wants to jump in on the writer whenever she's creating. Those two sides of my personality don't get along at all, though (the writer thinks the editor is a heartless bitch, and the editor thinks the writer is a daydreaming ninny), so I have to keep them segregated.

    If you don't suffer from multiple personality disorder like I do, then try the switch on a smaller scale. Write a short piece of new material -- poem, story, whatever -- in the morning, or your ideal writing time. Focus only on creation tasks. Put it aside, and go back and edit it a few hours later. While editing, focus only on polishing what you've done. Repeat this exercise until you feel more confident in your self-discipline, and then try to tackle a larger project.

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  83. D wrote: What do you do if you find, during an edit or random moment of clarity, that you've missed something major in a scene? Do you stop, go back into writer mode, and edit/add?

    I never backtrack. I have had revelation moments like that, and I tag them in the manuscript for the final edit, and change the story as I write it from that point on (see my response to Rachel's comment here.)

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  84. Perpetualbeginner wrote: How do you know when you're done?

    My natural inclination is to be dissatisfied with everything I write, no matter how great it turns out, and I would keep editing it forever if I didn't set up some ground rules for myself. That's why I'm so strict with myself about the one daily edit and the three-part final edit. If I can't get the problems solved during those four stages, I still have to turn it in.

    I hate the rules, but thanks to them, I've never turned in a manuscript that I felt was poorly edited.

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  85. laubaineworld wrote: Do you ever notice areas in your first draft which need to be fleshed out? Minor character direction within scene, scene descrptions, etc?

    My two main weaknesses -- description and emotion -- almost always need fleshing out. Sometimes my dialogue, which is the only thing I write that I don't plan out in advance -- needs trimming, because I love to write it, and have a tendency to ramble on and on with it past the point of effectiveness in the scene.

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  86. Anders wrote: Isn't it a bit wasteful to do the copyediting immediately after finishing the day's writing? Maybe you don't cut as much as I do, but many of the mistakes I would be fixing with such an immediately-after-writing pass, I end up slicing out as part of a larger section of prose, anyway.

    I don't edit the new material until about six to eight hours after I write it, so I don't have that problem. I always take the afternoon as a break to do housework and spend time with my kids.

    Everyone is different, though, and some writers are able to shift directly from writing to editing mode without a hitch.

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