Monday, September 13, 2010

Editing: Pleasure and Pain

I love editing my work. I also love getting the first draft down and letting the story unfold. I love getting to know my characters better and really understanding where they’ve come from and why they are who they are and why they act the way they do. But editing is where the story and the characters begin to shine.

And it’s a good thing I like editing because recently I discovered I was going about it the wrong way or at least the wrong way for me. As a result, I have spent way too much time working on Blood Judgment, my urban fantasy romance.

I would edit a little as I went. I just couldn’t stop myself from going back and reading over some of the previous writing and working it a little before delving into the writing session. So what, you say, lots of writers do that and do it well. True. But I bet those writers had it together at the beginning and had a better outline for their project. I outline as much as I can and then pantster it where I need to. It’s the pantstering that causes me problems. Of course, I also come up with some darn good ideas as I go along, too, so pantsing has its rewards.

Once I arrived at The End, I began editing in earnest making pass after pass until I thought, hey that’s pretty good. Then a bad thing would happen. I would make a change to a subplot or the main plotline and because of that change I would have to make changes in other parts of the ms. Parts that I had already edited to perfection, or at least what I thought was perfection when I moved on to the next section.

The problem is pretty obvious. It’s the going back and having to change what had already been edited.

Then I ran across a book called The Weekend Novelist Rewrites the Novel: A Step-by-Step Guide to Perfecting Your Work by Robert J. Ray. This book pointed out the error of my ways and put me on the path of good editing. Robert J. Ray explains how to handle editing subplots and the main plot to prevent the very problem I was having. Then once those edits have been made, and only then, do you polish the sentences. Talk about editing empowerment. This book is on my keeper shelf. I don’t agree with every little recommendation in the book, but overall, I really like it and find it useful.

How about you? What are your favorite craft books? What did you take from them that made your job as a writer better or easier?


  1. I'll have to check that one out! I think my favorite is Donald Maas' "Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook." I went through it when I was having trouble with my last book and going through the exercises in the book gave me all kinds of great ideas for deepening my stories and characters. I've vowed to buy a new copy (so I can write in it) for every book I start!

  2. I like the sound of that book! The Screenwriters Bible also had some good tips. I know what you mean though, without some kind of plan, it's possible to edit forever.....and ever....and ever....

  3. I'm going to have to check out that book- sounds just what I need!

    I too love Maass's books- he's a great guy. But I'd have to say the craft book that made the biggest impact is Techniques of a Selling Writer by Dwight Swain. It's a slog, no quick witty tips here- but it is GOOD. You can really see where alot of more recent craft books got their stuff ;)

    Great post!

  4. I am not a plotter, but I found the W Plot class by Karen Docter helped me out a lot with revision. For many of the reasons you cite. I pants my way through the story, then see how it fits into the W program. Helps me see the gaps and disconnects due to subplots, etc. I fix those, then worry about the line edits.

    I also took an online class from Lani Diane Rich on revision that was priceless.

    I have a total blindspot to books on writing, but online classes seem to get through.

  5. I'm also a panster who likes to edit. A couple of weeks ago I took an online class called "The Book Factory", taught by Kerri Nelson. Now, I'm not worry about editing until I get to THE END.

  6. Think I'm a pantser. There are four main type of writers: plotters, pantser, layers and puzzlers. There are pros and cons about each type. A couple friends of mine have taken plotting classes by . . . Oh, crap . . . Mary something and her partner. I feel like an idiot not remembering her name. They came back high on the information they learned. If someone tells me the name I can say, "That's it." Stupid me. I wish I was a better plotter. It might make my life easier.

  7. I've taken several plotting classes. I like to take a little from each one. I haven't yet found a method that completely does the job for me. Maybe I'm just being difficult. LOL I may have to try the W plot class.