Welcome to the official blog of Maumee Valley Romance Writers of America! We're a local writers' group in the Toledo, Ohio area. Most of us write romance, but we also have members who write other genres too. New members are always welcome to visit or join the group. See the meetings page for details. We post every Monday and Friday about all things book-related. Whether you're a writer, reader, or both, we hope you'll stop by often and get to know our dozen contributors.

Friday, May 18, 2012

You Can't Edit A Blank Page

Sometimes I feel like there hasn't been a time I haven't been editing. In journalism school we edited and edited to get our news articles just so and once they were perfect on the page we printed them out and pasted up the paper. When I moved into TV news I learned that kind of editing was simple. In television they send you out in the big, wide world, tell you to shoot good pictures and get good interviews...and them come back and make the hour of footage you just shot into a story of a minute or less. And then I started writing my own stories and learned all that editing would stand me in good sted...because writing the perfect story the first time through is truly a myth. At least for me.

But I've learned a few things along the way and editing isn't the heinous crime against creativity  issue it once was.

First, don't tackle it all at once. There are layers to my editing. As I'm writing the first draft, I read through the previous chapter before starting fresh with a new chapter. During that pass I correct small misspellings or grammar issues. I don't allow more than that. Once the book is finished I allot time for 3 full passes: 1 to check on grammar issues, 1 to check continuity - is that character's name really Reginald? WTF was I thinking?!? - plot and flow issues (this sounds like a lot but I've found they work well together), and a final pass to see what I've overlooked. On that final pass I print out a copy in 14ish point type and some kind of color ink (lately I like blue). I find the bigger font and color change helps me catch little issues I haven't to that point.

Second, time is my friend. You know those editing layers? I don't tackle them on the first, second and third day after finishing the draft. I wait at least 2 weeks before starting any kind of editing. And I try to let at least a few days slip by before going from one draft phase to another. Those built-in waits help me 'forget' the story so each time it's like looking at it with fresh eyes.

Third, new projects are a great carrot. During those wait times, I'm not twiddling my thumbs. I'm reading - out of and in the genre I write. I'm writing - sometimes on a new book, sometimes researching a new book, sometimes just free-writing some really, truly, horribly bad poetry that will forever be locked under my bed. But I'm still working on the creative side of my brain.

The subject line up there comes from La Nora herself. She said something to that effect a few years ago and it's kind of caught on in writing circles. Because she is 100% right. You can't edit a story that hasn't been written. In some cases you can't tell a story that hasn't been edited. 

Do you have an editing tip that you live by? Share in the comments!


Em-Musing said...

I need all the tips I can get. Mine? Duct tape. Otherwise I can't stay seated for any length of time.

Kristina Knight said...

Yep, duct tape is sometimes necessary to finish!! :)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Duct tape, lolol!

Editing--I worked for paper and radio (commercials and interviews). It's amazing how much self editing goes into written hard copy before it's implemented. Even when you have it tight and think it's good to go, I'm was often surprised how much more cutting and editing was required by the editor.

I'm the sort that also has to read the work from the previous day or session before I move on to the current. I do correct the minors but I also tell myself I can do a little shading if need be or if I had a problem with a scene and I think of a solution, I can fix it. I also set a time limit on that quick edit pass.

For me, I do editing in sections. I set aside so much time and I edit 5 chapters--I'm just checking for names, layers, and flow. I note areas I think need work and why. I'll allow myself some changing but not days worth. I do this as I write the story. Sometimes that review solves a problem I'm having at the current point I'm at with the story. Or if I've changed direction slightly or made a major change, I'll note with a brief sketch what has to be added to foreshadow those events. That way, it's not a major search and fix mission later.

Like you, when I write the end, I put it away for a couple of weeks minimum before starting major editing phases.

Editing is a funny thing. You have to find your method. The one that works for you. The one you can stick to.

Good article.


Constance Phillips said...

Love this, Kristina! It's absolutely true, and I follow a very similar style to editing to you: Several passes in different formats. Time can be your best friend.

Shay Lacy said...

I need to learn the art of setting the WIP aside as you suggest. For me editing is a race. I do the final part of puzzles like that too, so it must be something about the idea of finishing. Great post!

Kristina Knight said...

Great tips, Sia, thanks for stopping by!

Focusing on different things with each pass helps me focus, Constance.

Shay, you'll figure out a system that works for you. I do find about 1/2 way through edits I'm in a hurry to finish...it's a feeling I fight.

Brian said...

Hi Kristina,

Nice post. My site My Perfect Pitch compliments this, consisting of interesting articles from a published author, plus a free resource of over 1000 traditional book publishers currently accepting submissions. Keep up the good work.

Regards, Brian