Sunday, May 20, 2012

Edit as You Write or Go with the Flow




This is a subject that will warrant different responses from each author.  Some cannot help themselves but to edit as they go along trying to get down that first draft.  You have others of us who fly through a first draft with very little thought to the editing.  Their drive is in getting the story out.  For myself, I’m normally somewhere down the middle.  I believe there are advantages that come with approaching it in this manner.  In fact, I believe all things in life should be about balance. And that includes all aspects of our writing processes.

When I first started out writing, I never really gave much thought to the editing side of things.  I was more excited that I was writing in the first place, and once I had the first novel behind me, it was like “Wow! I wrote a novel!”  But things changed.  I continued to grow in my writing journey.  I realized I didn’t just want to write, I wanted people to read my work, and I wanted it to be available for the masses.  This meant editing.

I must admit before I set out to do so with my first novel, I really had no idea what was involved.  Prior to having written a novel, I’d pick one up to read with zero thought about what it took to get it in my hands.  Now here I was faced with taking a story I had conjured up and the challenge of making it great.  Where to start?  You know, I thought I knew what I was doing.  It’s funny looking back because it’s unbelievable how far I’ve come.  Anyway, that’s another post.  But, sum it up to say A LOT of work goes into editing.

It’s this paramount task that is very daunting to some, if not most, authors.  It’s like one of those things we say we’re doing, “I’m editing”, as if it were “I’m going to the dentist”.  It’s hard work, and depending on the state of the first draft, it can be an immense job.  This is why some reason if they edit as they go along, they’ll have an easier job on the other side.  What are your thoughts?

Sure there are advantages to editing as you go, as just mentioned, it might make the job on the other end a little easier to handle.  But is it worth it when you think about how it can affect the outworking of a story?  Again, everyone is different and has their process.  We all have to consider:  What are the advantages to editing as you go, and what are the negatives to doing so?

For me, I know if I were rigid about editing as I went along I’d hinder the flow of storytelling.  I’d risk the scenes becoming flat and monotone.  I like to go along writing as if I were watching a movie unfold before me.  Maybe you’re the same?

If I continually stopped to backspace for this, or exchange one word for another, or take out this whole paragraph because I didn’t think it would fit into the final product, wouldn’t it be like hitting pause a number of times when watching a movie?  It would disrupt your line of thought, and remove you from the emotion of the scene.  Let’s face it, emotion is what we really need to get out there.   Of course, this is polished during the course of edits, but think of what scenes you might have lost out on all together.

Like I mentioned at the start, I like to find a balance between the two.  If there’s a word I really know doesn’t fit I’ll change it, but I try not to judge myself as I go.  I let the story flow.  My personal style involves some embellishments and flourish with the first draft.  When I’m going with the flow sometimes a few sentences come out back to back that essentially say the same thing.  Maybe you’re cringing right now?  Not me, because when I go back to edit I have the option to chose what works best for me.  Sometimes it results in the blending of a few sentences to make one I’m especially proud of.  But if I judged myself, edited as I went along, I might not have reached that final product.

When it comes to the outworking of a novel, I can appreciate some direction in a first draft is needed.  I’m mostly a panster, meaning I go with the flow and let the story take me where it shall, but by doing this sometimes I can run into issues.  But maybe this is more planning than editing.  Sometimes when our story takes a different turn, we might want to go back and change things up a bit right then.  Still we have to use caution.  I believe scenes were write are for a purpose--whether they make it to the final draft or not is besides the point. These can provide more insight into who our characters are, provide background, and instill motivations. 

Anyway, these are my thoughts on editing as you write, or going with the flow.  What are yours?