Monday, August 17, 2009

Editing Woes

I'm tinkering with my NaNo novel and I'm a little worried. While I'm fixing sentences and paragraphs, and making sure I've chosen the best word (and not used the same one over and over), I feel like I'm not changing enough. Everyone knows NaNo is supposed to be about writing crappy first drafts, so where's my crap?

I have a hard time believing that I just wrote that clean of a first draft, so now I spend my time worrying about my ability to objectively edit my own work. *sigh*

I do have some larger issues I plan to address after I finish this draft (I still haven't written the ending) so it's not like I think it's perfect, but I guess I feel like I should be doing more.

Sunday morning I woke up at 6am (thanks Owen) and worked until 4pm. By the end of that marathon session I edited roughly 40 pages and wrote 800 new words. A usual day for me is 10 pages edited and 100-200 new words, so I'm thrilled with the progress. Not only that, I did some major rearranging and chopped several sections that seemed "weird." Hopefully this means I'm finally editing properly.

Do you ever feel like this, or am I crazy?

23 comments:

Stacey Graham said...

"Do you ever feel like this, or am I crazy? "

Absolutely! (the "feel like" part, not the crazy)

I'm having the same problem with my WIP, I edited as I went along so didn't see the glaring problems until I put it away for a few months and looked at it with fresh eyes this past week. And oy, what I found!

I'm ready to get this zombie out the door though so I'm working on the opening scene, shipping it off to betas and then BANG ZOOM, it's outta here and I can concentrate on my next NaNo!

GREAT work yesterday, Mel!!

Avery DeBow said...

I'm right there with you. I find some days the more I look at my work, the more confused about its merit I become. If I feel it's working well, I wonder what I'm not seeing. If it seems horrible, then I wonder why I suck so badly. Being objective about one's work is difficult on a temporary basis. To remain distant and free of prejudice indefinitely is almost impossible. As long as you still know to doubt yourself, though, I'd say you were on the right track. It just might take another editing go-round after this one.

Melanie Avila said...

Stacey, it's the fresh eyes part that's worrying me. I haven't looked at this in nine months and while yes, I'm finding some things to change, the bulk of it is remaining intact.

Thanks!

Melanie Avila said...

Avery, that's a good point about doubting ourselves. The fact that I know there should be something wrong is hopefully a good sign.

I'm debating some big changes for the next draft -- I just want to finish this thing before completely tearing it apart. I might add a fourth POV that would be entirely flashback, but I'm leery of having too many gimmicks. Either way, I know I'll have plenty of work ahead of me.

Terry said...

I've been looking for a couple of book buddies for that reason. What I'd like is one person that is also working on a novel-length project, so we can share chapters and provide encouragement and constructive criticism. I think every author distrusts their objective eye, so having someone else to look things over is a gift from God.

Melanie's Mom said...

This comment is from a non-writer, but someone who has read your work. I think you have progressed in your writing skills such that your initial drafts are fairly clean, so there wouldn't be a lot of obvious stuff in the NaNo work. That said, as you've noted, the hard part is the guts of the story, making sure the POVs hold together and having a satisfying ending (as a reader I want that). Giving yourself permission to write "crap" in November doesn't mean that is what you wrote. It just means you didn't have to worry about the details at that time. I think it's like spelling -- if you're a good speller, your first draft won't have any or many spelling errors, while a poor speller will have many. That doesn't mean you can't edit or look at your stuff critically, it just means you're starting from a different place.

Jenna said...

I am the complete opposite so your process seems foreign to me...I won't call it crazy ;). Like we've talked about before I am a messy, messy draft writer.

But I'm different than a lot of writers--I think my work sucks, every last word of it, and I never "fell in love" my writing or my stories, so editing goes fairly well for me. I am brutal when it comes to changing characters and plotlines and nixing weak dialogue. I am equally brutal when it comes to structure and premise--I constantly ask myself if someone else wrote this would I rush out to buy it.

I also ask myself as I edit if what I'm writing was written by someone else would I be jealous of their writing prowess. If the answer is no I work on some serious changes.

Knowing whether you're objective enough is hard. I think one important thing to do is sit down some late afternoon and put on your reader hat (I say late afternoon because often times our brains are fried by then making us less likely to see the story we intended to write and more likely to see the story we actually wrote).

As you read it try and look at it as someone's else story and be brutally honest as to whether the story would pull you in if you picked it up to browse it in a bookstore. You have to stop yourself from imaging the lovely version you have in your head and instead read the version that is actually on paper. Try and remember that a reader would only have the back copy to know what is going on.

I know it's hard but doing this has helped me see spots where my story drags or gets boring.

Reading my stuff out loud also gives me a different perspective of it.

Robin said...

What everyone before me said. I think it's because you're a more sophisticated writer, so the first draft is more clean and polished.

I'm also pretty sure you're not crazy. :P

T. Anne said...

I'm in the process of editing two books at the same time so I can commiserate with you! I can't stand when I get to major mistakes (and I can't believe I didn't catch them on previous edits. I mean common I am a writer, um...right?) LOL.

EriCan said...

You're not crazy Melanie! I don't really go through that myself- I'm more on par with what Jenna said. I write crap a lot. I get excited about ideas, then I start writing... My first drafts are mostly dialogue, so the meat of the story is left out. I do get some stuff in there, but not nearly as much as I'd like.

Sounds like you are doing wonderfully. Keep it up :)Listen to your mom- she seems like a wise woman ;)

Janna Qualman said...

Totally. And good for you! *thumbs up*

Nadine said...

That is awesome that your editing is going so well!

I am the opposite and always think my work is crap, lol.

Melanie Avila said...

Terry, I agree. I've found a couple people that I think we have a good beta relationship. That's so invaluable!

Melanie Avila said...

Mom, I've said it before and I'll say it again: you're so smart. :)

I struggle believing that I write clean first drafts because I don't really go back and edit as I write, but I DO make sure I'm happy with how something sounds as I'm writing it. If that makes sense.

Good example about the spelling.

Melanie Avila said...

Jenna, I really like the idea to look at it as if someone else wrote it. I was trying to do that yesterday and I couldn't decide if I'd be interested in it or not. It's definitely a useful technique.

I need to read my stuff outloud. That's one thing I don't do, except from a line or two here and there.

I am able to nix weak dialogue, but I've yet to cut a character. Hmm...

btw, I cannot WAIT to get to talk to you about some of these things!!

Melanie Avila said...

Robin, well if YOU say I'm not crazy I might believe you.

Melanie Avila said...

T. Anne, I know what you mean! My betas on my final round of The Other Side caught some really ridiculous things. And they ALL caught it, so I know I totally should have. Oops.

Melanie Avila said...

Erica, that's funny you mention dialogue because I always worry that I don't have enough. Don't get me wrong, it's not like I have a ton of introspection, but I don't have long chunks of dialogue.

I'm reading My Sister's Keeper right now and I keep noticing that her characters are long-winded, but in a good way.

Melanie Avila said...

Thanks Janna!

Melanie Avila said...

Nadine, I don't think your work is crap. :)

I don't think my work is awesome, but I don't think it's crap. I feel like it's good enough for 20-run self-publication, lol.

Natasha Fondren said...

Sure! When I'm going through page by page, it's pretty smooth.

Depending on how much time I have, I'll split the whole thing up into one scene per notecard in SuperNotecard, then use the sidebar (which makes an automatic outline if you title the notecards) to get a bird's eye view of the pacing and plot. That's when most of my deleting hits, when I rip out whole scenes, characters, and see where I need to add new scenes. It also allows me to read each subplot in order (skipping the big plot & other subplots) to make sure they're paced okay by themselves. And then, the bird's eye view also let's me see if I've alternated plots/sub-plots/POVs in a good rhythm, too.

Melanie Avila said...

Wow, you are soooooo much more organized than I am. I keep hearing people talk about "writing software" and I couldn't understand the benefits. You make a good case for it. (and yes, I know we've talked about this before. :) )

I'm not opposed to cutting characters/scenes/chapters, it's just SEEING what needs to go that's challenging for me.

Donna said...

I went through the exact same thing, and I mean EXACT same thing with my NaNo novel. I edited it and was like WTF? Did I miss something? It can't be that good.

It wasn't. Find a good beta. All you need is a good smack of constructive criticism upside the head and you'll be like, "Why the hell didn't I see that?" Hindsight is wonderful, let me tell you.