Thursday, June 23, 2011

First Things First: Writing and Editing

Sometimes it's pretty clear when to do what. I crack the eggs BEFORE putting them in the cookie batter.I cut fabric AFTER I take measurements. I lather, rinse, THEN repeat.

And of course, first pants, THEN shoes.

But when it comes to the writing process, it's not so cut and dried. The posters in my elementary school classrooms would beg to differ--they say you "prewrite" (which inevitably involved bubbles and arrows in my grammar school days), write a rough draft, revise it, which produces another draft, which you edit and polish into a final draft.

Anyone else feel like it's not so simple?

Now, I know writers who do keep it simple--they butt-in-chair, hands-on-keyboard plow through a full first draft before going back to tinker with it. They draft by Just Writing.

I've heard of other writers who will make their daily cycle editing the previous day's work, then writing new material. Or writing first thing in the morning, then editing in the afternoon.

Some writers write half of their first draft, then reevaluate it and revise it before moving on. Some folks write the end first, and then string together other scenes, then revise to smooth out the bumps.

Some writers make each chapter perfect before moving on to the next chapter.

Me? I have no idea when the best time to start revising is. For my own writing, it's fairly constant. I write a sentence, I change a couple words, I keep going, I hit a stride, I'm still on a pattern of type-type-type-delete-delete-retype. And then as I read through scenes to get me in the right frame of mind for writing on, I'm still swapping and changing and adding and deleting. It's part of a pretty organic process for me--it makes first drafts take a while, but the revision stage is--at least has been thus far--easier. Revision ends up being more about big-picture issues than individual scene or language troubles. Which has its own set of drawbacks: Sometimes I delete well-polished material.

But that works for me.

So all I can really say, when it comes to writing and editing, is, essentially, Pants First, THEN Shoes: Words First, THEN Edit. It doesn't matter when, or how many words, or how long between writing them and starting to tinker with them. Just write them. Then make them better.

What's your writing-editing-later-rinse-repeat process?

7 comments:

Brooke Johnson said...

I'm in the same boat as you: type-type-type-deleeeeeeete-type-type. I tend to go over things written the day before to see if I can't improve it, and to get back into the feel of the story, remind myself what's happened so far. You wouldn't believe how many times I say the same thing more than once when I fail to reread the latest work. Like with you, it's an organic process for me. It just makes sense.

Connie said...

I write the first draft from beginning to end. I may do a bit of editing (which usually consists of leaving myself notes in the text on what needs to be done later), but I just push on until the end. For me, it works because often the story forks in ways that I hadn't anticipated, forcing me to change things earlier in the novel.

Jill said...

Generally, I work just like you do--write, edit, tinker, write some more. Last summer, I tapped into a more instinctive must and wrote an entire first draft in a flurry w/o editing. Oh, my, but that book is an overwhelming mess. It needs a lot of work. But the instinctive muse was so inspiring. I loved that muse!

Jill said...

an instinctive muse, I meant to say!!

Rowenna said...

Brooke--good point! I would definitely repeat myself a bunch :)

Connie--I admire that--I guess I take my chances with the forks, because I definitely have them too!

Jill--interesting! I wonder if it ends up depending more on the project than the person :)

Caroline said...

I'm pretty much in the same boat with you. So how about letting me row, and you can steer? Sorry, I couldn't help myself.
I've been trying to do the totally unpolished, first draft thing, but I'm failing miserably. I keep going back and tweaking, which invariably depresses me and so I watch TV instead. Sigh.

Miss Rosemary said...

I'm random. I write until I can't write anymore and when I"m stuck I edit and rewrite which usually helps me get back to writing new sections.