A conundrum of edits

The baby toys are everywhere nowadays.

I’ve been having problems writing, so I thought writing about them might help. Heh. Yeah, writing about writing… that’s never really made sense. So, I guess this is more of a train-of-thought post than anything. I’d love to bounce ideas off of everyone and read about everyone’s processes and… stuff.

Yeah, I’m a great writer, can’t you tell?

On our way home tonight Chris & I got to chatting about my novel. I’ve asked him to look over the first few chapters of it as I’m editing it and give me some thoughts. Given that he’s completely different from me in the way we think – he’s logical, I’m emotional – I thought his different perspective would be pretty invaluable. I was right.

I haven’t worked on the book for about a year now. I’d finally started the first edit after finishing the whole thing, and there was one scene in particular that had been giving me a lot of problems. I was never really able to put my finger on why it was giving me issues, but with Chris’s help I think I’ve kind of figured it out.

With the edits I’ve done so far, the scene in question, ch6 sc1, became kind of redundant. The ‘quest’ is explained in a new chapter, and in the original draft, ch6 sc1 was the one to explain it. Since explaining it twice (even if it is two different characters explaining it) is unnecessary, I removed that bit of dialogue, but now the scene seems completely empty. I can’t just take it out, because it’s important to show the quest being shared, as all the characters that take part in this scene team up. I just… don’t have anything to fill it with. There’s a couple of small things I can keep from the previous iteration, but other than that, I’m blank. The scene is barren, useless, blah.

So, writer friends. Let’s talk editing existing writing. What’s your process? Do you use pen and paper, or do you prefer just to attack it in your word processor of choice? Do you do it in order? Do you edit until it’s perfect, or do you do one pass, move on to the next scene, and finally when you’re done with the novel, start from the beginning anew? What do you do when you find that you’ve moved content out of a scene, and need to create new content to fill it?

I’m curious to hear everyone’s thoughts on editing, and maybe even about my particular situation. :)


4 thoughts on “A conundrum of edits

  1. It has always seemed to me that people view events with their own lens on what is important and much of that is affected by what is occurring nearest to them.

    Alas, I have not reached your point with my personal writing, but at work my technical writing encounters similar issues frequently.

    Streamlining a description generally helps. Answer the question of what is the most important tidbit to convey to your reader. In the first section that your reader comes across get out the major bullets. In subsequent sections expand on what you have said. Having hit those major bullets, describing the event or idea a second time only requires that you touch on the major bullets to show continuity. The second description can even skip a few of the major bullets focusing instead on only the the most important sections and providing insights that were previously not available or regarded as irrelevant.

    The way that I decide in which section to reveal the details of a particular point is, simply stated, I review the context. To help me do this I will generally work with a dual monitor setup in my word processor of choice. Having both descriptions on the screen at the same time allows me to review the similarities and differences between them. The differences can be outlined in a third document or simply extracted as is to that third location. Reviewing the flow of the surrounding text of both descriptions allows for a general feel of what information MUST be conveyed first and what can remain hidden until a bit later.

    My documents are generally small, less than 250 pages in most cases, and lend themselves to redlining. Through the use of this process I can distribute the document and draw attention to the edited sections in question most easily. It allows the reviewer the ability to see how a section was previously described and how you intend for it to be described now. While it is quite a bit of information being sent back and forth, it allows comments like “I liked it when it used to say ‘xxx’ instead of this ‘yyy’ description.” to carry more meaning since both ‘xxx’ and ‘yyy’ are right there on the same page.

    Another strategy that I am very careful to cultivate at work is the preservation of any and all writing. If a paragraph is written it should be archived for later review. Even if ultimately it proves to be inadequate, its value lies in the thought process that brought it to life. Another way to think of that is: If it was important enough to write down at some point, it is important enough to keep until a good location can be found to let it shine. I use a configuration management tool to achieve this, but simply saving the document frequently and making a copy of the document when editing a new section, you can achieve much the same results.

    And to paraphrase Forrest Gump, “That is all I have to say about that.”

    I hope my rambling helps. Good Luck!

    • The two-monitor bit is a great idea! I never even thought of that, since the word processor I use for my creative stuff can only have one window open at a time. Looks like I’m going to have to start branching out, because I bet that process would be an immense help.

      As far as archiving important information, that’s something I just realized I really need to start doing. Since I’m coming back to this after a year, there’s a lot of small details I can’t remember and I find that I’m having to go back and pick through my writing with a fine-tooth comb to find some things. Blargh. I’ll definitely have to think of a good way to keep those handy.

      Your comment gave me a LOT to think about. Thank you so much!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s