Friday, June 22, 2012

Editing: 'Writing' or Not?

Note: Next Tuesday (6/26), I will be putting up the first guest post ever on my blog!  I'm pretty excited about it -- I've known fellow writer DL Hammons (check out his awesome blog:  Cruising Altitude 2.0 ) for several years and he has graciously put together something that I know you'll find interesting and enlightening.

Today I wanted to share some thoughts about what I've been spending my writing time on recently.  This week, I've either done no writing or quite a bit of it, depending on how you define it:  

I've been editing.

I've written no new stories, and my overall word-count for the week has actually been negative since I've pared more than I've padded. But editing also means I've written many new words and inserted them into existing stories.  

So have I been writing or not?

To me, editing is a vital and significant part of my writing process, so I categorize it as "writing".  Maybe if you can create perfectly structured stories on the fly, with polished and pristine prose spewing out of you in a magical stream of consciousness, then you don't need to edit, and you might consider it non-writing.  I won't argue with you if this describes your writing, but I do envy you.

Because I'm nowhere near that.  I absolutely MUST edit.

And I realized I've developed a definite love-hate relationship with it.  I love the results of editing -- my stories are certainly improved after some serious and dedicated red-lining and revising.  But I also hate it.

Because it's tedious and frustrating at times -- it's so easy for me to get bogged down in petty internal wording debates. 
"Delvan lifted his baster and fired."  No. How about, "Lifting his blaster, Delvan fired."  Um, no.  Maybe just "Delvan fired his blaster" works better?  Or "The Blaster was fired by Delvan?"  No!  What am I thinking?!? Passive never works, especially in a fight scene!  Arrrgggh!   Um, wait...  Why was Delvan firing his blaster again? 

At times like this, editing can be excruciating.  Not because I'm so attached to my words that I don't want to change them.  No, I have no problem killing my darlings.   

My problem is that I'm too prone to kill them over and over and over.  I'll kill them, revive them, kill them again, bury them and move on, and then later come back to dig up the corpses just so I can kill them once more.

So what about you?  How does editing work best for you?  Any editing tips you want to pass on to this serial word killer?


Tonja said...

I think it counts as writing times two (maybe ten). I edit one chapter at a time. I print it, read it out loud to find the awkward sentences, mark the changes, enter the changes into the Word document, and repeat, often more than once. Then I give it to my CP and/or take it to my writing group, get their feedback, and repeat the process. How can you not love editing? :/

I note the number of chapters I edited in a week so I have a sense of accomplishment.

Brent Wescott said...

I think you absolutely must get "bogged down in petty internal wording debates." Of course, if it's holding you back from writing anything at all because your internal editor tells you you suck (which happens all to often to me), that's a problem. But perhaps "bogged down" isn't the right phrase. Deciding the EXACT RIGHT word and word order is exactly what a writer does. It's not bogging anything; it's part of the process. To me, it's the fun part.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Editing is definitely writing for me. I truly don't understand the process where some people can write an entire 50k word manuscript in 4 weeks without polishing and refining what they wrote along the way. In fact, I was just talking about this on Tonja's blog this morning.

I totally get rewriting that sentence where Delvan fires his blaster 7 times. Because I don't want the sentence to begin with the same word as the last sentence. And I don't want to repeat the same words too many times, or have every sentence in the paragraph follow the same structure. It has to FLOW.

If that's not considered part of writing, then somebody's got the definition wrong!

PS: *Reducing* word count is part of writing, too -- sometimes even more important than adding new words.

DL Hammons said...

I'm right there with you pal. It is the most tedious part of the writing process, and I sometimes end up feeling like a dog chasing his own tail!

Looking forward to next Tuesday!! :)

Heather Murphy said...

Editing is absolutely writing, otherwise it never gets finished unless you're perfect...I'm not!
Looking forward to your interview with DL!

Chris Fries said...

@Tonja: I like that -- editing is writing x 10! And you have a very thorough way to do it!

@Brent: Yeah -- maybe "bogged down" is a little strong, but it sure feels like I'm spinning my wheels sometimes, covering and recovering the same sentences, making changes and then changing them again, and sometimes -- BACK to the original, lol! Thanks for the comment and the support!

@Dianne: Yes it is part of the process, but the freee-spirit creative in me wants to write and then move on, lol! I love jazz, blues, and jam-band music. All of which is based on improvisation -- creating music live and in-the-moment. Editing is more like studio work -- Recording that same solo over and over again to get it "just right". Many times, it can end up sounding stale and forced. I want my writing to be as refined and honed as possible, but I also want it to seem fresh and live -- that's a HARD balance to get!!!

@DL: I hear you!!! And I'm looking forward to it too -- thanks again!

@Heather: The frustrating thing is that I'm not perfect when I create it the first time in a rough draft, and I'm not perfect even after multiple edits, lol!

Misha Gericke said...

I don't count editing as writing, but I also see it as a necessity for any writer's creative process. And the writer who says otherwise is either inexperienced or delusional.

When you're feeling like you're killing words and editing feels frustrating, it might be a good time for you to take a short break. But DON'T start another project or you'll be tempted to stay with that rather than the one you're supposed to be working on.


Nicole said...

Word counts aren't the be-all, end-all of writing. Editing is a huge way to move your WIP forward. I'd say you're being highly productive. :)

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Wouldn't it be awesome if we could churn out perfect prose as easily as some musicians create magic on the fly? Alas, I can do neither. Problem is, I have a very difficult time knowing when the editing is "done". There always seems to be more and more and more room for improvement. Agonizing. Nothing like spending hours and hours rearranging and rewriting one lousy paragraph, which you can only hope is "better" once you're finally "done" with it... or are you simply sick of working on it? As you can tell, I'm not a huge fan of the editing process, either. I want to move ON, doggone it! But like eating our veggies before digging into dessert, editing is what we've gotta do. And I've been editing and rewriting like crazy during my blogging break. WHEW! Good to be back to the ol' blogosphere again. (Not gonna start posting again until tomorrow.)

Donna Hole said...

LOL, love your internal editing debate :)

I agree, editing/revising is writing. It is creativity on the most frustrating level, as you've pointed out. But, I actually prefer editing to draft writing; creating the initial story is so exhausting for me. You have to figure out where all the characters are going, and who they are, and what they need to accomplish. (I don't plot because I find myself just trying to write the whole story so I gave it up.)

At least with editing, I know all the details, I just have to refine them.

I like your style Chris. It is a pleasure meeting you.


Leslie S. Rose said...

New follower - *waving* - found you from DL Hammonds blog. I actually love revision/editing. To me it's like adding shadows and shading to a sketch and see the depth pop.

Chris Fries said...

@Misha: I agree -- I may not always enjoy it, but it is necessary. And I hear you about the need for breaks. But I do sometimes shoot off to jot down some thoughts on new material. I find that a brief dose of 'creating' something new can actually help me then come back and refocus on the revising that I was wallowing in earlier.

@Nicole: You're right. And truthfully, I'd rather produce 100 words of finely-tuned, exquisite prose than 10,000 words of jumbled crap. But man, editing can be like pulling teeth at times, LOL!

@Susan: Hi! Good to see you again! And it sounds like we're definitely on the same wavelength about editing. I hate it! But I also know the vital importance of it, and I can love the results.

@Donna: Hi -- it's very nice to meet you, too! I do see your point. In some ways it's easier -- at least I've got 'the big picture' all in place. But it can still be extremely frustrating too, lol! Thanks for the visit, comment, and follow!

@Leslie: Hi -- it's great meeting you! And I do love your art analogy -- that's actually a great way to think of it! And fleshing out a sketch is absolutely 'drawing,' so editing is definitely 'writing,' right? ;^) Thanks for the visit, comment, and follow!

Simon Kewin said...

Editing is definitely writing, but doing it means I'm not hitting my daily word count target. I find the best way is to go back over what I've already written, editing and redrafting, and then to just continue on into new writing. Covers both bases.

Mina Lobo said...

Of course editing is writing - and danged hard work, too!
Some Dark Romantic