Do YOU believe editing can be minimalised?

Rewriting and editing sucks seems to be the general consensus amongst writers.

We all complain that writing the story in the first place is the hard part.  Wrong!  It’s when we come to edit, or—Heaven forbid—rewrite, that we realise the easiest part is already behind us.

When we have an idea for a tale, most of us simply write, set our fingers to work, and belt it out at a speed which our eyes refuse to focus on.

Then we proofread it. Cripes!  How often have we cringed at the spelling errors, the missing punctuation, the incredibly wonky sentences which make no sense, the over-explaining of a character or a scene as though the readers need step-by-step instructions (I’ve even been known to detail my character sitting on the lav—like the reader couldn’t understand why they’re in the bathroom otherwise)?  They all sound easily rectifiable, right?  But how many writers bung in adverbs on their first drafts because they’re a whole deal easier and quicker way to convey what you want to say?  How many of us end up with a hoard of passive sentences?  How many times have we written dialogue scenes where the characters show no emotions or appear to be static apart from the movement of their lips?  Or how many times have our characters ended up sounding a like a party of robots who only converse in precise English as though slang has never been born.  All of these and more need rectifying on the edit.  However, it’s amazing how much critiquing the work of others (essentially editing and proofreading), and (born of practice, practice, practice) writing experience, helps us to spot these more AS we write them, rather than after.

I say this because the rewrite I’m currently working on is a novel I knocked together (over a timespan of six weeks) when I’d only been writing for six or seven weeks, and I can’t help but compare it to my most recent writing.  The novel story itself is pretty good (even if I do say so myself), and the telling of it isn’t that bad.  But every one of the paragraphs seems to contain a passive sentence, and far too much of the dialogue is performed in frozen pose … at least my adverbs aren’t that much in abundance.  Because of this, I’m am spending time dissecting each and every sentence as an individual part of the story, and then each and every paragraph which those sentences belong to, and then each and every chapter, until I’ll hopefully have a complete novel with none of the above-mentioned issues.

Based on this, I know a simple edit would not have been enough to bring this baby of mine up to the level I’m at now.  When compared to my most recent work, where I contemplated, for however long it took, over every single sentence BEFORE writing it, I see a major difference in quality.  Like my older stuff, my newest piece has been critiqued by fellow writers.  I have had far less comments on the telling of my story, and far more on how it made the reader feel.  My time-taking and consideration brought the desired result.  By taking more time over the writing, I had far less editing to do on it.  But, in all fairness, that piece isn’t a novel, only a novella.  Would I be able to spend so much time if it were 2-300 pages long, as opposed to 50 or 60?  Who knows?  But I will damn well give it a jolly good try now I know it pays off, because editing is hard work—really hard work—and rewriting is even harder.

So, how do you feel about this?  Do you believe it’s possible to make a conscious effort to minimalise the edits?  Do you/would you/can you write slower if it results in less editing in the long-run?


6 thoughts on “Do YOU believe editing can be minimalised?

  1. I totally believe editing can be minimalized. Over the course of five novels and loads of critiquing, I’ve come to train myself on the use or misuse of some key ‘errors’ or dislikes of my own. It’s now ingrained in me so much that my errors in first draft are more the sentence that doesn’t make sense and the need to clarify what I’m trying to say rather than passive sentences, grammar issues, telling, the use of weak verbs and those adverbs. I’ll stop … literally in the midst of writing and reformulate a 1st draft sentence if I start to write the word ‘was’ in narration. 🙂 But that’s me. I know some ascribe to the ‘right it and get it on paper and edit later’ assertion, but I just can’t. And I can still write fast. I just avoid the 1st/2nd draft issues and move straight to 3rd draft … where clarity and story-line omissions seem to pop up. So for me, I go straight to the story issues which I don’t think would ever be a first draft fix anyway … as I can’t teach myself the story. That comes organically. 🙂

    GREAT post, Julie!!

  2. Thanks, Aimee 🙂

    How long, though, did it take you to learn the lesson of giving such consideration to each sentence DURING the initial writing of it? Did you write a couple of novels before it clicked or, like me, did it take a year, five novels, and a heap-load of necessary rewrites as a result of not clicking sooner? 😐 Okay, not that many for you, but you get the idea? 😀

  3. Novel #1 : All wrong
    Novel #1.5 : unfinished for Nano 2009 and all wrong (but I didn’t care and didn’t edit — that’s why it doesn’t get a full novel number LOL )
    Novel #2 : Started posting on Scrib at 25k words and started getting it write-er. <– This is Little White Lies which I did get one partial request on. This is the one I am going to rewrite (for story) but the writing itself has only changed a little since.
    #3 : Mystic Therapy? I am happy as is. This is where my drafts started coming out SO much better
    #4 : You read
    #5 : You've read first drafts, you tell me. 🙂

    So it DOES take work and learning what to look for, but I started REALLY crit'ing others' work during LWL (#2 above) and that's when I figured it out. 🙂

  4. #5 needs edits, but its different than the simple thing we CAN fix by paying attention while we write. 🙂 But *I* think that’s the key in cutting down editing time. It’ll always be necessary, but not for the simple I-could-have-fixed-it-while-writing stuff. 🙂

    D&L deserves every edit you give it, IMO. 🙂

    I say that abut Scrib all the time, too. It’s like the best ‘writing class’ I could ever have taken. Writing by fire and boy people can give you poor grades without worry. 🙂 But then instead of sucking it up and knowing you have a whole semester left with said professor, you can give ’em back. 🙂

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