Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Editing and Re-Editing, Just Stop it Already

Most writers love writing. That’s pretty much a given. However, a good portion of those writers hate going back and editing. They’d rather continue with the flow of new ideas and just write, write, write.

I’m a little weird, so of course, I’m one that actually does like to go back and read my work and polish it until it’s blindingly shiny. In fact, I sometimes take so much time on editing and re-editing that I don’t work on new ideas. Worst of all, I’ll sometimes go back and start editing a story that’s still not finished.

What that means is that the first few chapters of my story is great, the middle so-so, and the end is non-existent. Not good. At this rate, I’ll never finish anything.

As it turns out, I’m not completely alone. This is a trap that a lot of new writers fall into and it’s a trap that is the more dangerous to new writers in particular. So not only are we susceptible to this, we’re the group it negatively affects the most. Great.

So why is it a trap? As mentioned a couple paragraphs ago, I’m having trouble actually finishing stories. This is why. I’m so wrapped up in editing the beginning, that I’m not writing the end. Bad newbie writer!

Okay, so why is it more dangerous to new writers? I’m constantly learning things about writing. Every day that I write and/or research, I learn more and improve my skills. So, any edits I make now, will probably be changed later as I improve further. Basically, I’m wasting my time editing something that’s just going to be changed later anyway.

But hold on there. Experienced writers can fall into this trap as well. Quite a lot of writers like to spew forth words and write whatever comes to mind, not worrying about grammar and style. All that will be worked out in editing. So, why not start editing right away and help the process along? Well, I’ll tell you why not.

When writing, the author gets in touch with their creative side. Lots of ideas start flowing and plots, characters and other ideas often will change midstream. By the end of the book/story, what you wrote in the beginning might very well be edited out altogether. So if you went in and edited as you went, you just wasted time on editing something that’s no longer included. That’s valuable time (since most of us writers have a full time job to “pay the bills”) that you could have used to write.

That’s what I’m fighting myself over. I really, really, REALLY want to go back and edit and edit and edit some more. I swear it’s like a compulsion. But I’m not getting anything finished.

So here’s what I’m doing. I’m fighting the compulsion. I’m forcing myself to not go back and either write new material or edit finished work only. Yeah, I can go back and reread passages to get back in the flow of things. If I see a glaring error, I allow myself to change it, but I don't go back purposely to edit now.

I have to say, it’s actually working. I finished two stories and have outlined two more so that they’ll be done in about a week. With a little bit of focus, I went from no stories done to almost having four done. That’s quite a difference.

Anyone else suffer from the constant need to go back and perfect your work before it’s done?

1 comment:

Margo Berendsen said...

Yup I'm the kind that keeps going back trying to perfect my stories. Been working one for 20+ years... (not the ONLY thing I'm working on... still I can't seem to give it up)

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