Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I am NOT going to edit, I am NOT going to edit…

by ANDREA MACK on OCTOBER 30, 2009

When you’re working on a new novel, do you find yourself continually wanting to go back and change what you’ve already written, rather than move forward to write a new section? I hate this, but I can’t seem to stop doing it. Here are some crazy ideas I have to break the habit:

1. Pay one of your kids check on you to make sure you’re not backtracking, with instructions to whine loudly if they find out you’re cheating.

2. Put an alarm clock next to your computer and set it to go off after about 20 minutes (to shake you out of editing mode ).

3. Password protect the previous day’s file and have a family member choose (and hide) the password. Start each day in a new file.

4. Put a strip of paper with a description for each of your planned scenes into an empty mug. Stir. Pick one each day for your starting point. If they’re not sequential, you’re less likely to edit what you’ve already written before you start writing.

5. Write down the plan for what to write next before quitting for the day. Then you won’t need to read over the previous part to get going again.

Any better ideas?

– Andrea

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Christina 10.30.09 at 10:34 pm

Halarious. I totally see your point. The only thing that keeps me from going back to edit is a word count that I must finish at the end of that day. Then I send that word count to my sister for accountablity. She’s a tough one too!

But all your ideas so great!

Danisidhe 11.01.09 at 7:54 am

Love, love, love #4 will have to try it!

I do something similar to #5 in that I try to stop mid-scene, preferably somewhere exciting, so that I know exactly where I’m going AND have that itching-to-write feeling all night and all morning, till the chores are done and I’m writing again (though it does sometimes result in chores not getting done at all lol.) I find that I get so antsy that when I get stuck in I have distracted myself from looking backwards :D

Elle Strauss 11.01.09 at 10:04 am

Hey Andrea,

I found you right away, awesome. You’re hard core about not editing. I agree, that over editing before the first draft is done is a creativity killer.

You could start a support group for earlier editor junkies.

Masonian 11.02.09 at 2:46 am

The trick I use may sound a bit Luddite, but it’s effectiveness knows no bounds for me.

I write my first draft longhand in those rinky composition books.

If I want to change something in a previously written section I just sketch it out where I am in the notebook with a reference and MOVE ON!

With longhand, not only am I forced to keep moving ahead, but when I finally DO get to the keyboard I edit as I type.
The advantage is that I do my first real editing with “The End” already written. It makes all the subplots tighter and makes the character arcs sharp.


p.s. we have our own crazy writers’ group here in Las Vegas. Greetings from the Illiterati.

Kate Fall 11.02.09 at 11:22 am

Ugh, I have to edit a few pages where I left off to get going again! But I find it helps to keep my chapters in separate Word files so I can only go so far back. When I’m drafting new stuff, I use a page count goal instead of a word count goal. I have to write at least 4 new pages before I try going backwards!

Cassidy 11.02.09 at 1:28 pm

I just downloaded a program I found called Scrivener (http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.html). After only and hour or playing with it and watching the tutorials, I fell so in love that I completely organized my nearly-complete novel into it. It was time-consuming, but very worth it, because now I can see my novel in sections rather than one monolithic chunk like it was in Word.

The best thing about it is that you can organize your book into chapters and scenes. When you open the program, it goes immediately to the exact point you were last working on. That’s helped me because I’m not scanning down through pages that need work and getting distracted along the way. And I’ve marked scenes that need heavy editing as “to-do”, which helps me ignore them until I’m ready to edit. It’s helped me stay disciplined and only work on writing new content rather than obsessing about what needs editing.

Debbie 11.02.09 at 2:48 pm

I am -so- like this as well! It’s one reason I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year. :-)

RJ Keller 11.02.09 at 2:53 pm

I set both my font and background page to white until I’m finished writing for the day so I can’t see the words. I also turn the spell check off. Those squiggle red lines on what appears to be a blank paper are cool at first, but eventually they’re distracting.

Andrea 11.03.09 at 8:11 am

I guess I’m not the only one with this problem. Masonian, you are so right about it being a HUGE advantage to begin revising with the end already written. It can be such a time waster to rewrite stuff that may not fit into the novel after you find out how it ends!

Cassidy, that program sounds interesting. I’ll definitely check it out!

Debbie, NaNoWriMo would be a great way to get around the “too much editing” problem. I wish I had the time to commit to it.

Samantha Clark 11.06.09 at 2:55 pm

I had this problem with my first novel, but I didn’t have that same urge with my second, I think for a number of reasons.

With my first novel, I didn’t really know what I was doing :) , so at the beginning I was messing around with POV a lot.

Also, I was writing whenever I had the time, so when I sat down to write, I had to go back a way to re-familiarize myself with the story. Finally, my husband encouraged me to just finish, so I got serious and made a commitment to write every day. I finished the novel in a couple of months — and I had been writing it for a couple of years!

With my second novel, I didn’t have a plan for the full book when I started it, just the beginning, a premise and a direction. But I wrote every day – except a few days here and there – and when I wasn’t writing, I kept the story in my head all the time, in the car, in the shower, cooking, etc., so the next time I sat down to write, I had an idea of where I was going. Doing this, the story was written in about three months, with me only writing an hour or so in the mornings before work.

So, I think one of the best ways to stop yourself from editing in a first draft is to be prepared whenever you start writing and to always be thinking forward not back. If you get ideas about things you’ve already written, note them and keep moving forward. Editing is for the revision mode.

Andrea 11.12.09 at 5:23 am

Yeah, Samantha, writing regularly and having a more thought out plan are both strategies that have helped me with not going back to edit. It has really helped me to stop and focus on what I’m going to be writing about before I get started each day. Think before you write is my new motto.

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