Thursday, December 11, 2014

C. J. Cherryh on First Drafts

by Jill Williamson

I've said many times, I love writing fast, messy first drafts. Now that I'm in the throes of edits, I see just how terrible my story is... right now. But editing is my favorite, because I can take the skeleton of my story and breathe new life into it. This takes time, though. And the more time, the better.

What's your editing process? How do you begin? Share in the comments.




22 comments:

  1. Actually, I don't like editing at all. I much, much, much prefer writing the actual book - I'm the kind of writer who always wants to start new things, so if/when I finish something all I want to do is start something else! Of course, editing is more relaxing, and I can see why some people prefer it, but I don't.

    I recently started editing my latest book - I normally go through it two times, once changing loads and rephrasing a lot of things (this obviously takes some times) and then, on a re-check. After that, I like printing it out and let my friends/dad read it and get criticism on it.

    It's fun, but I definitely prefer writing. Any others out there?

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  2. I like both writing and editing. But I usually write a fast first draft so I can just get the story down.

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  3. In previous manuscripts I've completed, I take a breather for a week or so (and hunt for agents during this week), then start by editing the main stuff: plot and characters. After that, I go after little nitpicky things like phrases and sentence structure. :) It's always worked for me, so I'm happy with it.

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  4. I prefer the actual writing to the editing, but I enjoy both. Usually, I try to write my first drafts pretty quickly (often as NaNo novels), and then the editing process takes a while longer than the actual writing did. I've never edited a novel past the second draft, but usually for short stories, once I've written the second draft, I send it to my parents to get their thoughts.

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  5. I actually edit as I write, so my rough drafts aren't usually the "garbage" everyone else ends up with. They're a lot cleaner, and typically have less plot holes than you'd expect from a rough draft.

    The only downfall is that they take me muuuch longer to write. XD NaNoWriMo nearly killed me because I couldn't edit as much as I wanted to. ;)

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  6. I edit plot and character, things like that, as I write. It slows me down some but my drafts become a lot more manageable. From there I can be nitpicky with the grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure - oh, me and my sentence structure - as much as I like following a break.

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  7. When I write messy first drafts, I end up having to rewrite the whole thing during the edit process. I can't just add new scenes, cut others, and edit the rest. It's a total rewrite. I'm wondering - is this true for other writers?

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    1. Tara, I think for me it depends on if I have something that can be edited. I have a book I co-wrote with my best friend. The first time we wrote it, we were in 8th grade and knew nothing about writing. We had a lot of fun, but the writing was junk. When we went back to revise it in 9th grade, we realized we had to start all over. That second re-write lasted from 9th grade all the way through college (life kept getting in the way). Partway through that re-write, we realized that we were at 500 pages and not even done with what we thought was going to be our book. Along the way, our book had somehow grown into a trilogy. Last year, we scrapped it (again) and started over (again). Re-write number 3 took a year, but we finally have something that we can polish up.

      I guess it also depends on your writing preference. I've learned in the last year that I like writing really fast, really messy drafts (part of my problem on re-write number 2 above). If I like the bones of the story, then I have no trouble cutting, pasting, and adding new scenes. In the last book I wrote and editing, I added 15,000 words in new scenes (though my manuscript only grew about 8,000 words since I cut a bunch elsewhere). My best friend has to write slowly and meticulously because she has to go back and rewrite big chunks if she doesn't get it right the first time.

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  8. It's funny how different all of our preferences are! ^_^
    I like writing fast first drafts too, and get excited seeing the story come to life in editing. To resist going back and editing my story into despair, I leave little notes in brackets: . Or something like that. I know a while ago Jill (I think it was Jill) said she left a big GIRAFFE in place of something she needed to add/change. =)
    -Jacinta

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    1. I do the same thing--leaving notes in brackets. :) Helps me later on!

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    2. Stephanie leaves the GIRAFFES. I leave comments. ;-)

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    3. I tried doing comments, but I don't like how it creates extra space on the right side of my document for the bubbles. Just a weird writing thing :) Same as how I like writing in single-space rather than double.

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  9. I'm a sloowwww writer! But I write pretty clean first drafts, so by the time I go back for a second time, it's just cleaning things up. Oh, and I hate writing first drafts, but love the editing part :)

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  10. I'm in the second draft of my contemporary, and I was wondering, is it normal for the second draft to be messy, too? I'm working on getting the story right, but it's not perfect yet, and the actual writing isn't the best. Is that okay?

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    1. I knew a girl in high school who had a novella she polished over the course of 36 drafts. Drafts are fun - you get to pick and choose what to devlop when you feel like it. I think having drafts that improve little by little keeps things fun, you know? Like you're seeing all your progress.

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    2. We're writers. There is no normal. LOL But, sure, Emily. If you're still working on organizing the story, it will be messy for a while. Nothing wrong with that. We're all different. We each have to find a process that works best for us.

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    3. Oh my goodness, Kelsey, that girl must have been committed! That's awesome she was able to do that, although I hope I never have to have that many drafts! ;) And yeah, I do agree that it's nice to see your progress through different drafts.

      Okay, thanks, Jill! That's what I figured, but I just wanted to know your opinion. :)

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  11. I haven't actually ever gotten to an "editing" stage on a manuscript -- For my first novel, the first draft was so off structurally that I needed a complete rewrite and I eventually shelved it (though I have an inkling of a much different idea for it :D ), and for NaNo I wrote 50k and then the novel decided it was going to drastically change its setting, so it looks like I'll be doing another rewrite, though some good scenes will sort of stay.

    Actually, I'm contemplating trying the edit-as-you-go method, which is, come to think of it, how I write short stories. It might turn out badly, but given the tendency of my first drafts to turn out unsalvagable, it could hardly be much worse, and hey, since I'm under no deadlines for any of this it's a good time to play around, right?

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    1. Sure! And like I said, everyone is different. You need to try different things until you find what works best for you.

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  12. I normally edit as I go, but with NaNo I was forced to just forget about editing for awhile. My NaNo novel isn't done yet, so once I finish that I guess I'll just have to learn how I like editing because I have never actually finished a novel that I was able to really do a huge editing process on... hopefully this will be my first!

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