Roseanna White is the author of two Biblical love stories and LOVE FINDS YOU IN ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND (December 2011) and makes her home in the mountains of Western Maryland with her husband, two small children, and the colony of dust bunnies living under her couch. After graduating from St. John's College in Annapolis, MD, she and her husband founded the Christian Review of Books, where she is the editor. She is a member of ACFW, HisWriters, Biblical Fiction Writers, and HEWN Marketing.
And she's somehow fitting us into her schedule. Here's Roseanna:
As has been said many a time on Go Teen Writers, there are different types of writers, who handle editing in different types of ways. Many just get the words down in the first draft, then go back in the second draft and do all the weaving, all the fine-tuning, all the word-smithing.
Me, I can’t work that way. I can’t go to the next scene until the one I’m on feels solid. I reread what I’ve written the day before nearly every time I open my document. I tweak, I edit. Then I plunge into new writing.
When Stephanie asked me to share how this process works, my first reaction was, “Oh, fun! Of course!” Then, of course, as I sit down to write this I realize I have no method, or at least not one that’s easily taught. But for you guys, I’ll try. ;-)
In a class I recently took by my agent, the fabulous Karen Ball, she said something that stuck with me: that editing and writing use two totally different parts of the brain, and so have very little to do with one another. This struck me because, well, I blend the two. But as I gave it more thought, I realized that her observation actually helps me define my process.
When I sit down and begin a story, it usually takes me a chapter or two to get into my characters’ heads enough to get their voice. To decide what cadence the prose should take. To decide what images I’m going to be drawing on throughout the story over and again. These things usually crop up organically in the first few chapters, then I make an effort to keep them going in new, fresh ways throughout the book.
Once I’ve gotten my first three chapters written, I stop and go back through. By that time I’ve got a better idea of who these people are I’m writing about, and I can smooth out inconsistencies, remove some superfluous backstory, and otherwise do a check to make sure all my language is smooth and how I want it. I usually send out proposals at this point, so it’s crucial that the first three chapters shine. Once they do, I press onward.
In general, I write a clean first draft. There are obviously typos and mistakes, but I’m what I’d term a go-and-stop writer. I write, write, write, then stop. And here’s where my brain shifts gears. I go back, spot-check, make sure I haven’t slipped into redundant wording. I smooth phrases, sentences, delete what I don’t need, add where I do. While I’m doing that, the next part is simmering in that other section of my mind. Editing clears some of the cobwebs, and then I’m ready to jump back to writing.
I also have a decent memory for what I’ve already written, so little flags pop up in my mind when I write something that doesn’t agree (or agrees too much) with what I’ve already written. I can’t deal with flags in my brain, so whenever I reach a good stopping point, I’ll go back and check on them, resolve issues as necessary.
When I hit a roadblock (which always happens at some point, usually after a writing marathon), I go back to the beginning and read it all again. At that point I usually catch a few threads that went loose, or things that I reiterated too many times. This read-through usually involves a lot of jumping around as I add or delete. It’s when I check for consistency or insert some motivation. And usually after reading it (which only takes me a day or so), I’m ready to keep going.
Occasionally I’ll have something I know needs addressed but I save it until the end—like in my current manuscript, I know I need to add something else with a fellow named Percy, but I haven’t figured out what yet. When I do, though, it’ll be a simple matter of inserting a few lines into the right scene. I’ve also decided I’m going to have to change a character’s name, but I intend to do that all at once, at the end, as well.
Otherwise I’m still just rereading portions as I begin each day, smoothing, tweaking, editing. Then I write. Then I stop, edit. Write. Rinse and repeat.
When I hear folks talk about the draft process, and how many drafts they usually have of a book, I always think they’ve got it down. That they know what they’re doing, and that it ought to be the right way to do it. Yet that’s not how I work, and I seriously doubt it ever will be. I have a very hard time pushing on if I don’t like what I’ve got. Occasionally I can do it, and then just know that chapter four (it’s ALWAYS chapter four, LOL) needs work. Which it will get during my next break from writing. ;-) But in general, I need that go-and-stop to keep my brain functioning as it needs to, to have the time to mull while I polish.
The benefit of doing it this way is that I end up with chapters I don’t mind sending out more-or-less as I finish them. To my critique partners, my agent, and even an editor every now and again. I like to get feedback as I go, because then I can make small, manageable tweaks as changes are recommended. Alter a character that is hated (and shouldn’t be). Take care of things that bother my readers. Now, that way is obviously not for everybody, but for those of us who try the draft method and fail at it, don’t think you’re alone! The very thought of a serious rewrite makes me groan—but small, as-you-go revisions I find energizing.
By the time I finish a manuscript, I’ve done what I term “a draft and a half.” Portions have been rewritten (my ending usually two or three times, LOL). I’ve edited and polished. I do one final read-through (preferably after that time away that Stephanie has recommended before), then send it wherever it’s going. For me, this is what works best. Which editing method do you find yourself gravitating toward?