14 articles tagged as Editing

Navigating through a WIP can be as complicated as trying to navigate the Tokyo subway system.

Last week was a week of progress, only it wasn’t the adding to the word count kind of progress. Instead, it was a week of removing words, removing whole scenes, to get my WIP back on track. Talk about exhausting!

Writing’s Awesome. Editing Kind of Sucks.

I love writing. Nothing is more exciting than seeing your pages fill with words created by you, seeing your characters come to life, seeing the pictures in your head become reality on the paper. Editing and rewriting, on the other hand, kind of sucks. It means these brilliant scenes have to be reworked or sometimes erased all together. It means those words you thought so hard about, suddenly cease to exist.

Usually when I hit a roadblock, I know that means I went off course somewhere. And I start to find all sorts of other non-writing things I have to do because I know what going off course means. It means you have to find a way to get back on course. And sometimes it is hard to get yourself to go back and painstakingly rework the problems. But I think that is the difference between someone who enjoys writing as a hobby and someone who has chosen to make writing a career. Big words from someone who has yet to submit anything to a publisher and has definitely not made a cent from writing. But all the same, I notice that the writing I did in high school rarely led to serious rewriting. The writing I do now that I am taking my writing seriously, now that I know I have to present my best piece of work if I hope to get a paycheck, involves a lot of thinking and strategizing, and yes, even deleting.

How do you cope with roadblocks? Do you plow through them, or do you go back and try to figure out where you went wrong and, ultimately, fix the mistakes?

I have finally made the tough decision to rewrite my entire WIP. I’ll still keep some of the same characters and the same general concept, but it just isn’t working. Coming to this decision was not easy, but you can only do so many edits to a piece of writing. Sometimes you need to just take what you’ve got and toss most of it out the window.

Have you had to do that? When you make that decision, is it something you just feel, or do you give yourself a certain number of editing rounds/time limit before coming to this decision?

For the past several months I’ve been trying to force myself to write in first person. It fits the genre and I love my opening paragraph, which only works in first person. The trouble is that I find it difficult to tell a story in first person narration. And this is causing a lot of struggles.

Yes, I succeeded in completing a first draft in first person narration, but when I went back to read my writing, it felt stale. It was lacking the excitement and energy of things I’ve written in third person. Yet for some reason, I keep clinging to this idea that the story must be in first person. But why?

So what if a lot of books in the genre rely on first person narration? So what if I have to rewrite my first paragraph? If I’m not comfortable writing in that style, if I lack the talent to write in that style, none of the reasons to retain it will matter because no one will ever want to read my book, and that, after all, is what makes you a novelist – you need readers. And this leads me to my current dilemma – should I rewrite the entire first draft to fit within a form I’m comfortable writing in, or should I try to stretch myself and step outside of my comfort zone?

What would you do in my shoes? Do you prefer first person to third person? Or do you let the story dictate your plan of attack?

Arthur was not harmed in the capturing of this photo

I hear people talk about writer’s block all the time. I’m familiar with it. I’m sure you are familiar with it too. But as I work on my edits, I’m realizing that there is a worse block out there – editor’s block.

Writing is fun. You are creating a new world, creating new characters, making something new. Editing seems to be the antithesis to creating. Instead of making tons of new things, you are taking away from your creation. Sure, you are taking away to make it better, but it’s hard to see that while neck-deep in the editing process.

The dreaded cuts

No one wants to cut words they’ve spent countless hours writing. This is one reason why it is so important to focus on getting the story down in the first draft and waiting to fix the writing until the second, third, fourth, etc. draft. Why spend countless hours perfecting one sentence when you may end up cutting that entire scene?

Even if you aren’t cutting well-crafted prose, you may still find cuts difficult. And this is where I’m at in the process. I am making cuts to scenes I felt attached to when I wrote them but now I see that they don’t fit in with the natural flow of my story. When you are in the midst of writing, things seem like they fit. But the writing process takes longer than the reading process; you are likely to forget details  or even characters, leaving loose ends and contradictions. In rereading your story, you might realize, like I did, that the plot starts to deviate from the original plan. Some deviation may be good – it can mean that the story does not naturally flow the way you originally planned. But with deviation comes reworking of the plot, and with reworking comes cuts, including character cuts in some instances.

Splicing and dicing

A coworker of mine was recently in a television show. When it aired, she was shocked to see that several sentences were spliced and edited into one sentence. Unless you had been there during her interview, you would never have been able to guess where and how the cuts/edits were made. Well, guess what? Sometimes you have to do the same thing with your writing. And this is where things get really scary. I can deal with making cuts here and there, but when you start moving around large chunks of text, cutting some things, inserting half of a scene from chapter 12 into a part of a scene from chapter 2 and another part from chapter 7, the editing process can seem daunting and a bit frightening. I think this more than the cuts is where my editing block really stems from. Once you start changing the structure, you are really committing to the edits. You are committing to the changes in the story. And you are committing to the new plan you devised for the plot.

Overcoming editor’s block

Of course, editing doesn’t have to be scary. Here are two tricks to get you through the process:

  • Save every version – I have drafts 1.1 and 1.2 as well as 2.1 and I just started 2.2. Whenever I make any big changes, I save a new draft. This way if I change my mind, I can go back to a previous draft. This may seem like commitment phobia, but I see it as smart. You never know when you might decide that a scene or character or setting actually does work. Each rewrite changes the story, and something that didn’t work in one draft could end up working perfectly in a future draft.
  • Just dive in – Obvious, right? But this takes a lot of guts. You know what though? So does being a writer. And sadly, part of writing is editing, so if you are serious about your dream, then you have to take the plunge. You just may end up loving the end result. Need a little motivation? Check out this post by Alexis Grant on How to Find the Guts to Take a Leap.

Do you suffer from editor’s block? Do you have any tips on how to conquer it?

For more on editing, check out Andrea Mack’s blog post over at MiG Writers, Revision is All About Taking Risks.

Meditation is all about clearing the mind and focusing your thoughts. So does it have a place in a writer’s toolbox?

The other night I was having dinner with an acquaintance who spent the last 7 months traveling around the world. He was telling me about this 10-day meditation retreat he did in Tibet. And what he got from the retreat? He said it made him a better (faster) computer programmer because he learned how to focus his mind.

This got me thinking. When I sit down to write, I often find my mind wandering every which way. That’s the curse of our super connected, internet-crazed society. There’s so much going on you don’t know where to look. So would meditation help me to stay focused on my writing? Or would meditation actually be a hindrance?

When I write, I have to let my mind wander. That is part of the creative process. I wander in and out of the plot, pulling at bits that work and don’t work. But I also feel my mind drifting to things like what to make for dinner or how nice the sky looks today or what will happen next in that book I’m reading.

I’ve decided to try an experiment. For the next month, I will devote time every day to meditation. Originally I thought I would do it before falling asleep, but that’s when I do my best brainstorming. Instead I will do it after work – a nice way to calm me down. Of course, since I don’t really know how to meditate, this might be slow going and I may need more than a month. But a month seems pretty doable. Being as I am in the editing stage of my writing, the part I always dread, this might actually be the best time to give this experiment a try. What do you think? Do you use meditation to help your writing? Or do you think writers should have minds full of ideas circling all around competing for attention?

Ask yourself: does your scene require the super zoom lens or will a wide-angle do the trick?

I’m still on the subject of description, mostly because my WIP needs more of it to really come alive. Description is particularly important for my WIP because the main character has been sent to a new world. Everything is new and so she is really taking in her surroundings, trying to get a grasp on this new world and how she fits into it. But how do you determine when you need more description vs. when less is more?

To describe or not to describe…

I read a great post on kidlit.com the other day about mimetic writing. In her post, Mary looks at situations where lots of description are necessary and situations when excessive descriptions are less appropriate. Basically, if there is a situation where the characters would be likely to notice things, then by all means, throw in some description. But if they are in a high action scene, description would not only get in the way of the flow of the prose, but it would be out of character. Who stops in the middle of running for their life to notice the different types of trees or the chipped paint on a fence? Not many people.

The line that really caught my attention in her post was “If your character is paying really careful attention to someone or something, vague description just isn’t going to cut it.” This could not have described my MCs situation more. And that is when it hit me that I really needed to pump up the description to make the story more real, especially since it’s told in 1st person.

Now, there will be times when high action scenes could call for more description, just as their could be times when detail may be less relevant in a scene where a character is paying close attention to things. For example, if a character is running for their life, they may be paying attention to their surroundings to try to find a place to hide. Or if they are in a fight, they may be watching the movements of their advesary very carefully. Likewise, a character who is paying close attention to someone they are interested in may not be interested in describing everything the person is wearing. If it is the hair or eyes or hands that have attracted the person, they would not necessarily care about the type of shoes the person was wearing, or the smells in the cafetaria. Description for the sake of description is never a good call.

Description can add a lot to a story, but writers have to use common sense when adding it and ask: is this description necessary? Will it add to the story? Will it take away from the flow of the prose? Does it make sense? If your character is from the slums, would they recognize a designer handbag? Would the stuck up socialite care about the color of the bums hair? Not only can description help create your world, but if used smartly, it can also provide insight into your characters. Description can be a powerful tool when used correctly.

I am well into the editing stage and part of me hates everything, but a small part of me sees potential. There just might be something worthwhile in this manuscript.

In conjunction with my read-through, I am continuing to write every night. If there are scenes I think I missed, or areas that need to be elaborated on, I write them out in 500-1300 word chunks. They may not go into the final story, but by writing these, I am continuing to process the information, to see where I can go with my story. Plus it keeps me writing.

I owe the writing while editing in part to 750words.com. I wanted to complete their 1-month challenge, which I did. But it is also really nice to try things out on a clean piece of paper, to test scenes and ideas without having to commit to them. And, when I am ready to start doing my real edits, I will have some potential content to add into the story.

It is actually pretty refreshing, the amount of new material I am coming up with by writing while reading. I have discovered scenes I didn’t know existed. I am flushing out relationships I didn’t imagine. I am making the world all the more dynamic. And I love it.

I don’t know why I never thought of editing this way before, but so far, it is really working for me. I know that I don’t want to add too much more content to the manuscript. I am already right around my word limit, but by creating the new content within a second document, I have the freedom to keep or discard anything I want. Regardless of what I keep or toss, the insights I glean from the new scenes are something I will always have. The depth I am adding to the story will only improve it.

What do you think? Will writing new scenes while trying to read through my first draft distract me from my initial evaluation, or will it help me to produce a stronger story? Have you ever used this method?


As you may have read in last Tuesday’s post, The Light at the End of the Never Ending Tunnel, I was nearing completion of my first draft. Well guess what? I finished it. Yup, that’s right. I found the ending and stopped upon arrival. Of course, now comes the hard part – the Editing stage.

Editing – a Love/Hate Relationship

I’ve read a lot about the editing process in the blogs I follow. So I can guarantee you, I have not been looking forward to this stage. While I’ve been dying to finish draft one, I’ve been dreading the reward – editing. But in reading through blogs, I got a really good suggestion from several sources – read through your first draft as though you are reading a book. Do not start editing or adding content. Just read through it to see how it works as a real book.

Easier said than done, I know. And this is where my Kindle comes in.

After completing my draft, I set out to put my WIP onto my Kindle. This turned out to be extremely easy (click here for instructions). Basically, you get an email account for your kindle then you email the file to the account. For a very small fee (I paid $0.15), Amazon will convert your ‘book’ into an ebook. It then magically shows up on your Kindle when you connect to the internet.

The formatting is not ideal – my paragraphs are not indented, my headings are all wrong – but I can pick up my Kindle and read my words the same way I would read any other book. Plus, I cannot edit while on the kindle.

I am getting a little frustrated with the no editing thing. I read some sentences and cringe, or I see a typo or a place where I inserted the wrong character’s name. And the writing, oh the writing is so loose and I am just dying to tighten it up. But I also see the sense in this plan.

Why don’t I just get out the red pen and go to town?

Before waisting my time editing, I need to make sure the story actually works. I need to know how it is flowing, what things I abandoned halfway down the road without meaning to, or where I can add things that I decided halfway through to run with. By reading it all the way through, I am experiencing it the way a reader would experience it. And if you recall from my post last Tuesday, the reader is who you ultimately want to please.

So far, not so good

I know it is a rough draft, a point I keep reminding myself of, but so far, I’m not impressed. In fact, I’m a bit bored with my writing. Part of this could be that I already know how it will end, but part of it too is that I got lazy with word choice and my sentences are too wordy. But you know what, that’s alright. Because what I got down in the first draft was my story. The details are all there, waiting for me once I can get past the poorly constructed sentences. And once I see how the content works, I can go back and spend hours searching for the best word or the most clever sentence structure. But until then, I’m just not going to worry about it. I’m reading for content, and content only. The rest can all come into play in the next drafts. This read-through is all about making sure it works.


Without the bones of a good story, no amount of fancy writing will save your book. This is the reality of being a writer. And so I’m willing to suck it up, cringe at the writing I would never pay money to read, and focus on the content.

How do you edit? Do you pull the red pen out and start marking everything up, or do you take your time, immerse yourself in the story first, focusing on that main element, before going crazy with the edits?

I’m nearing the end of my first draft, and it’s everything I can do to just keep pushing through. I want to go back and read it. I want to start editing. I want to fix the plot holes I know are there. I want to make it polished and shiny and perfect. But I know I can’t do these things yet. I know I need to finish before anything else.

A change in perspective

My philosophy on this matter has changed dramatically in the past year. I used to think there was no point continuing on if you knew things needed to be fixed. But then I would get so caught up fixing that I never quite reached the end. I need to show myself that I can complete a first draft first and foremost. Once I know how it is supposed to end (I do have an idea, but everything plays out differently when you put it down on paper), I will know how to go back and spruce it up.

I’m right around 60,000 words right now. Not bad considering I started this one November 1. Ideally my WIP will come in around 90k. But I’m not stressing out. I know there are scenes I need to elaborate on, characters that need to be expanded upon. These things will give me some extra words. So instead of worrying about reaching my word count goal, I’m just worrying about getting to the end, about creating a story with the three essential parts: beginning, middle, and end.

How do you write your first drafts? Do you edit as you go? Do you try to write more words than you need or do you prefer to add instead of subtract in the editing process?

As it turns out, I am having a harder time giving up on my WIP than I thought I would. Even though I’m ready to put it aside and ignore all of its problems, I can’t let it rest. Instead of working out the details for my next project as I lie in bed at night, willing myself to sleep, my mind keeps wandering back to my WIP. How can I fix it? How can I make the story I know is in there work?

Story Arc

The other day I was browsing the blogosphere and I came across a post by Alexis Grant titled Learning by doing (or the importance of story arc).  This post got me thinking. It’s not that my story is a bad idea. I think the concept is there. The characters, with a little bit of editing, have the potential to be quite lovable. The problem lies within the story arc.

Now this is something I’ve sort of known. Every time I sit down to work on my WIP, I find myself stuck on the flow of action. But it isn’t the flow so much as it is my inability to pick my inciting incidents. I have thrown so much in there, the reader doesn’t know where to look.

In researching story arc after reading Alexis’ post, I came across this very familiar diagram. You may recognize it from middle school English classes. I know I used to sit and stare at it, wondering how this was going to help me to dissect Lord of the Flies or get the lead in Antigone. As a reader, it didn’t seem too useful. As a writer, though, it is quite useful.

If you are not much of a graphs person, the explanation of story structure that goes with the graph was pretty clear and concise. Between the graph and the explanation, I feel like I now have a pretty solid grasp about what makes a successful story arc.  And that brings me back to my WIP, which pretty much lacks a story arc.

And so, I am picking my WIP back up and working out the story arc. I’m sure there will be a lot of shifting and deleting, but if it leads to a book that people are excited about reading, isn’t it worth it in the end?