Friday, February 6, 2015

Fast 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:
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?

Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school, currently serving as the ACFW Carol Awards Coordinator. She is a country girl now living in a metropolis of Denver


Krista Phillips said...

I'm with you. I LOVE writing the first draft but edits are tough, especially when you're on the 10th read through and STILL finding dumb mistakes, which is the case for me most every time.

For me, the most satisfying edit is when you're making big changes. It's difficult, but there is something exhilarating and empowering about moving a chapter or *gulp* deleting a chapter (and by that I mean saving it in another spot JUST IN CASE) But watching the big blob of a story be sanded and chiseled into something much more beautiful is so fun to watch, even though the process hurts a bit

kaybee said...

Casey, this is a good post. The best editing tip I ever received is an oldie but still good: get away from the work and let it sit. Go do something else, or write something else. And give it the time to be what it needs to be.
I agree with Krista about the "sanding and chiseling" part. There is little more gratifying than seeing your edits WORK.
Kathy Bailey

Robin E. Mason said...

I'm a Pantzer right out the gate, with maybe 5% no more than 10% plotter in me. I love doing my research, including finding just the right word for just the right situation, and describing someone's favorite flower. Sometimes, these things "land" in the flow of work as i go, other times not so much. Sometimes I depart and go looking for what i need or want; other times I place the [QUESTIONABLE ITEM] in brackets to come back to later. I "edit as I go" meaning I read back thru previous paragraphs or chapters before I sit down to write the next sequence, and I catch a lot of things - last night for instance, I cut two or three sentences and changed some words around.
and, of course, I let other eyes see it - a good friend of mine caught maybe a dozen "nitpicky" items for me in Tessa - as many times as my eyes have looked at that thing, I still didn't see those! LOL