Friday, March 15, 2013

Fasting Drafting...Edits?

I think I have FINALLY figured out how I edit. Sure has taken me long enough. Years of studying how everyone else does their editing. Years of trial and error have finally led me to this point:

The fast draft editing style. It is by no means unique. I went to a class at ACFW two years ago that taught certain aspects of what I'm going to mention here today. But this is how it has worked for me.

Edit in stages.

Edit in layers.

Edit in drafts.

Photo credit: freedigitalphotos.net
All of these three braided into one is how I work through my edits. When I sit down after pedaling through the fast draft (my favorite part since I get to discover the story) I am always daunted by the edits. It's enough to drive me to Facebook, Pinterest, Blogger, Email or anything else that will burn the hours and get me as far away from these edits as possible.

When you think about having to read through your 93k novel ten or twelve times, doing it the first time through just makes it seem like Mt Everest. Tell me about it, it's all I think about.

But you have to start somewhere. It's not an option. If you go into your edits thinking this is going to be the only pass you have to make, you'll be stuck within the first paragraph, trying to make it so perfect that all it does is stifle your creativity.

If all you think about is the multiply passes you have to do after this first one, you'll be so daunted you won't even want to start. The neat thing about the fast draft, is each time you go through you're going to catch more and more. You don't have to get it all on the first swipe. So enjoy it!

There are days I don't want to edit. But I sit down and do it anyway. This style benefits those days most of all, because I know I don't have to catch everything. I'm tightening. Fixing misspelled words. I'm looking for inconsistencies and adding deeper meaning to the story.

Second, third, fourth, fifth pass is all a different level of what I just described. Each time you go through your story you're going to see something different. You're going to find new ways of tightening dialogue and characterization. If you're taking classes and studying how-to books you're also going to be putting those skills into action with each new pass.

It's helpful on those days that you don't want to edit, to be able to realize, I AM accomplishing something today. Even if it feels like all you're doing is simply reading your work, don't take this phase of the edits for granted. Work hard, make those changes and move on.

If you find yourself stuck because you can't fix something the way you want it fixed right now, don't grab the nearest paper bag, force yourself to keep going. This has been the hardest lesson for me to learn, but absolutely the most valuable. You can't be a perfectionist with your writing so don't hold yourself to those standards on the first couple of edit passes.

The current novel I'm editing is taking more rewrites then I planned. Instead of going through and rewriting everything in the first draft as I originally planned, I'm going through and fixing one or two things at a time. #1 priority for my hero? Adding more dialogue, so that's what I'm working on. Second priority? Figure out who these characters are all over again. I knew who they were when I started writing them, now I need to figure out who I want them to be.

Time to layer. Layering, at least for me, is not something I can consciously do. I have to let the story flow and mold it from there. Doesn't mean that it will all stay the same. What that does mean is I have a point of reference. You'll have more respect for yourself as a writer if you go into your novel with appreciation for what is already written, but a knowledge that you can make it better.

I hate editing.

There I said, sign me up for Edits Anonymous. But one thing I've learned: is I edit myself into a corner. Thinking I have to have this figured out before I can get published. Thinking everything has to be done in less then two or three passes. That's just not accurate and sets you for failure. You can fast draft edits fairly quickly. A couple weeks at the most, taking notes along the way for things you want to change on the next run through. Sometimes if I don't have the creative energy to write a new scene in the moment I feel it should be written, I take a note and go back on a day I want to create something new.

The neat thing about edits is that you get to see the story refine before your eyes. It evolves and molds. And that's a great thing.

What are the best edits suggestions you've heard that help you?

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Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She lives in rural Eastern Oregon in a town more densely populated with cows than people.

22 comments:

Karen Schravemade said...

My eyes have been opened.

I. LOVE. THIS.

I'm definitely on of those perfectionist writers, slaving away over each paragraph of edits and therefore getting totally bogged down. I've never even thought before about the possibility of doing it another way. I want to try it!

Thanks, Casey. Invaluable!

Debra E. Marvin said...

I definitely edit in messy layers. I try not to polish words until later on but sometimes that's what I feel like doing that day. I also make copious notes and charts. What's my character's goal here, is it clear, how is he feeling when the scene opens, what is not trying not to show? all those emotional, character things...
but sometimes it's about moving a whole paragraph to another part or just dumping it.

my problem is I REALLY EDIT BETTER on paper... oh, the mountains of it.
I always use both sides of the paper. I also edit on my kindle by reading my chapter on there and highlighting anything that needs a fix ( I can make notes).

For anyone who has a kindle and hasn't tried this--it's great. Reading it there really helps me be more objective for some reason. It's like i'm reading someone else's work.

I have to go through the whole thing a few times to really see what my characters might be hiding.

Julie Jarnagin said...

I'm going to try this! I'm editing right now, and I've been stuck on the second chapter for two weeks. I think I'm too much of a perfectionist to do my editing how I've been trying to do it in the past. Thanks for a great post.

Mary Vee said...

When I see an editing problem, but cannot think of a rewrite solution which satisfies me, I highlight the section and move forward.
I find that by releasing that section, taking the pressure off the brain actually stimulates my brain.
I scroll to the next page and read. Mid sentence I stop, and realize, like superman, the answer to the previous section leaped at me, more powerful than a locomotive, faster than a speeding bullet.
Well, it works for me. I am a hindsight thinker.

Jeanne T said...

Casey, I've been struggling with my edits too. When I went to the MBT Deep Thinkers retreat last month, they talked about editing in layers. I loved it. I think the steps were something in this order. Read through it first, no mark ups or changes but lots of notes. See what's working or not working. Make character development changes. Look at emotional layer, spiritual thread wordsmithing.

For me, I'll have more read throughs than this on my first story, but having them share the importance of going through and editing in layers was so helpful. What you're sharing strengthens my determination to let go of perfection and go at it in layers. :)

Great post today!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Can I join the I HATE EDITING club? I do. I hate it. It is soooo hard!

But I love the way you broke it down here, Casey. It was so helpful! Thank you!!!!

Crystal Walton said...

Isn't it great to know we're not alone! I was just talking with some other writers about the writing manual, Sweet Agony. That's certainly how editing can feel sometimes.

I also do my editing in several stages, tackling certain aspects each time. A huge help for me is turning it over to a reader for an outside perspective on things I'm too close to the story to see myself. In addition, stepping away from it for a brief period of time allows me to return with fresh eyes.

Pepper said...

Oh CASE!!
This is GREAT!!!
So good and so true.
I've had to learn to do the fast draft or I will NEVER finish the book because i have to make the current chapter/page PERFECT first.
Fast Drafting gives me permission to move forward, so I can come back for editing.

But Mt Everest? Oh definitely!!
The tune from Sound of Music comes to mind "Climb Every Mountain" - one step at a time.
Great reminders to take it in stages, Case.

Susan Anne Mason said...

Casey - have you been hiding in my dining room watching me pull out my hair? Cause it sure sounds like it!!

I have been editing several manuscripts for over 6 months - a daunting process to be sure. Some days I'm sure my writing is pure garbage.

I do multiple edits as well. The worst for me is the repetitious words. I think I used the word 'heart' close to a thousand times in my latest work, and had to go through each word and decide if it stays or goes. Yikes!

It's true you see something different each time you go over it. Knowing when to stop - that is the hardest part. At some point you have to say, enough is enough!

Thanks for letting me know I not alone in this editing quagmire!

Cheers,
Sue

MrsP said...

I am editing my first novel and just now figuring this out. After reworking the same five pages for a week, I'm moving on and trying again next time.

Casey said...

Karen, I think a LOT of writers edit like you do. I know I did/do. It's HARD not to make it perfect, the great thing about editing like this is it makes it more accessible and fun. :)

Casey said...

Debra, I like to write my notes out on paper too. There is a different level of connection with the story and the task you're doing I think, when it's all written out in black and white and tangible. I just don't do it that way very often. :)

Casey said...

Julie, isn't being a perfectionist just the perfect way to stifle creativity? I know it is for me. Keep pushing through, you'll make it! :)

Casey said...

Mary, thinking is often more powerful in hindsight isn't it? ;-) I've realized about myself when I edit line by line and all I see is the line I'm working on, I tend to get stifled. I have to have about a paragraph bumper so I can skim ahead and see if I cover something ahead.

Casey said...

Jeanne, yes definitely let go of that perfectionism! It doesn't get us many places because we want to take it all in one leap instead of by steps, slow and steady. I that is a concept I need to embrace a little bit more. One step at a time. :)

Linda Adams said...

The best tip I ran across was to edit BEFORE revising. Yeah, yeah, it goes against most editing advice. But I'm a pantser, and I sometimes get a lot of junk in my story, all of which can get in the way of revising the story.

First pass is to get rid any scenes that were great ideas but ended up not fitting. Save them on the side, yes, in case I need them later, but get them out of the story.

Second pass is to get rid of the small flotsam that came into the story -- a paragraph here, a sentence there.

All of this is a very fast pass. I'm thinking too much about it, or trying to make it work -- just get rid of the clutter.

Casey said...

Sherrinda, ugh. Every time I edit I realize just how much I STILL don't know. ;-)

Casey said...

Crystal, one of things I did on this story is gave it to a good friend with a brilliant eye for what makes a story work. She had fabulous tips that confirmed what I was thinking and pushed me beyond to make it better. Good friends are invaluable!

Right, I'm going to take about a 1-2 week break after this round of edits before spinning around and diving back in. :)

Casey said...

Pep, oh, but I love the first draft! There is something so special about it (at least for me) I love that point of discovery. Then I just have to back through with enough respect for the time I spent writing it and enthusiasm to make it better.

Casey said...

Sue, no you are NOT! And believe, I'm there in the mental-draining, hair-pulling feeling there with you! Give yourself permission in those moments of frustration to start fast drafting. You'll feel about the story and yourself overall. ;)

Casey said...

MrsP, wise decision! Keep plugging along. Sometimes that's seems all we do in editing, but each step is a lesson and time well spent.

Casey said...

Linda, your comment is GOLDEN today!! Perfect to kick start my editing journey today. Love the thought about "just getting rid of the clutter". VERY true. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!