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Drafts & Editing (2 Viewers)

KatPC

Senior Member
At the beginning of this year I finished my first draft of my 80k novel. Its my first attempt in writing, but during my second draft, I obviously found a lot of mistakes, plot holes, bad grammar, poorly constructed paragraphs ... in short many errors. During the first draft write, a lot of research suggested; just get the whole thing down, it doesn't matter about the mistakes, just finish the damn thing!

I did just this and as a result upon my second draft, I added a lot of necessary details, deleted multiple paragraphs, moved chapters, delayed introduction of characters, as the flow did not seem correct. I could spend weeks on one chapter and still not be fully satisfied. Is this a correct approach to editing? Months passed and the story became so ingrained that I felt I was 'too close' to it, and the process of amendments felt like I was altering too much, the story lost its initial grab thus stopped and began to write some short stories instead.

Having wrote a few shorts, a writing friend gave me some excellent critiques in one. I was initially taken back by the sheer scale of 'errors' I made but after going through 2 further drafts, I couldn't say I was 'delighted' with it. I recently read it again and still saw mistakes, but sadly that 'fuzzy' feeling I had when creating it was lost, that joy in creation changed to one of spotting every mistake. (I understand I will have to make a few more rounds of edits for this short to be in its 'best shape').

I admit that my writing isn't very strong, but would like to ask of peoples' practices in editing and any suggestions to improve my processes at the moment. How many drafts do you go through for a short story? Or novel? Do you set yourself, say 1 week to edit a short story, finish and then move on whether you are happy or not?

Thank you.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
I did seven sets of revisions on my first novel, but the only "plot revision" was to take out three sections of backstory. The others were passes to look for specific technical issues (excess modifiers, my particular overworked word for that manuscript (could), and a few things like that. I do very little plot revision after the first draft. In my latest novel, I moved a bit of action up from the middle of the first chapter toward the start, and that was it. In the novel I wrote last year, I added two scenes, both to give the MC extra agency when he was a bit in the background. One came early, and one came near the end.

However, I'd done a LOT of writing before my first novel. You do have to get a sense for the flow and pacing. In your case, I recommend you bear down and fix the story to your satisfaction. What you might want to do is start with a front to back readthrough of the story, and if things seem out of place, make notes about them. Then go back and move, delete, or add material until you're satisfied the story flows well and makes sense to the reader. If you don't do that, you'll wonder if you can when you begin something new. When you do, I believe you'll find out it wasn't so hard after all. Just be organized. Don't chase every little thing. If something seems big, fix that.
 
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bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
That does sound like a normal approach, with all the challenges that go with it. I'm always a little hesitant to let myself be over-edited and over-advised though, for that exact reason - that I would lose the 'me' part of the story the heart of it. In terms of numbers of drafts, for a short story, it will be about three or so. For a novel, I couldn't even say. Dozens. I stopped keeping track long ago. I just made sure to back up and copy whenever I made significant changes. There's lots of MyNovel-ver1-new_17.newnew.final.finalAug2017_f-latest_theactualthing_old.v16.docx :)
 

JBF

Staff member
Global Moderator
For novels...no idea. One of these days I'll have to finish one and find out.

Shorts usually don't get rewritten, because if I'm not tolerably comfortable with one it doesn't get posted. There might be a few tweaks based on reader feedback - but when it goes up it's probably about the 98% mark.

Flash is something else altogether. My experience with those is fairly low (usually either bits for the LM competitions or one-off scenes I dash off just to have on paper) so I'm not all that confident in the format. Those probably get picked at the hardest. I've spent more time editing and reshuffling my 650 words for this month than just about any piece in recent memory.
 

Lawless

Senior Member
How many drafts do you go through for a short story? Or novel? Do you set yourself, say 1 week to edit a short story, finish and then move on whether you are happy or not?

Quite frankly, I've never understood that "first draft - second draft" thing, or how can people have a writing phase and then an editing phase.

Then again, I've never submitted a novel manuscript to be actually printed and published as a book. I've had a couple of non-fiction books published, but I can no longer remember how many drafts I made or how long I took to revise the manuscripts.

However, I can tell you what my editing routine with translations looks like.

Generally, I do the raw translation and 4 re-readings, each on a separate day. That way, I'm able to look at it with the (more or less) fresh eyes. (Which is why I hate assignments that have to be finished in a day or two, no matter how short and easy they may be.) I have found that 4 re-readings is an optimal compromise between speed and quality.

When I translate an entire book, I revise my raw translation only twice, because if I had to read a book-sized manuscript 4 times in a row, I'd be much too bored to be able to pay proper attention, and the publishers always want the translation completed very quickly, and the translation I submit will be read by the content editor and the language editor anyway.

When I give something to people to test-read, I just give it to them when it feels readable. I don't have any fixed process. And when I have given it to someone to read, then I might do some changes two days later and give the modified draft to someone else to read a week later etc.

Whatever I publish on the Internet, I re-read occasionally and whenever I feel I can improve something, I do it as soon as convenient.
 

KatPC

Senior Member
Thank you for all your replies, I'm guessing with different writing levels, types of work, it leads to different ways to operate. You all seem to have a very firm grasp of your field with good routines. Out of interest, how long do you spend on a short piece of writing? For revision or translation, editing? Say 2k word document. Would you spend a few days totally on this piece or would you have other writing projects on the go?
 

JBF

Staff member
Global Moderator
Thank you for all your replies, I'm guessing with different writing levels, types of work, it leads to different ways to operate. You all seem to have a very firm grasp of your field with good routines. Out of interest, how long do you spend on a short piece of writing? For revision or translation, editing? Say 2k word document. Would you spend a few days totally on this piece or would you have other writing projects on the go?

Ballpark estimate...the last piece I did that ran 2000 took about an hour and a half to write. Probably about that same amount to edit, give or take, and another fifteen minutes or so to adjust for reader feedback (mostly missed words and questionable punctuation).
 

LCLee

Financial Supporter
My first novel was hell. I had the character arc and the plot twist, but the nagging SPaG almost killed me. I self-published, and the reviewers mentioned it needed another round of editing. I pulled it back and had it professionally edited. As I made the recommended changes, I found more stuff in every chapter. All in all, it took about 15 revisions to complete, and now it is clean enough that a reviewer noted it as error free. My second novel, with the help of ProWritingAid and a beta reader, was down to four or five edits.
A lot of people that want to write a book don't realize the first one could take a few years to complete.
 

KatPC

Senior Member
Wow thank you @LCLee that was very insightful and something I will plan for.

This will probably lead to much scorn, but I personally dislike editing in writing. I love to create, let the mind run wild, fabricate stories twisted from reality, but always, the next day, after completion, I look back and ... a lot never came out the way I wanted. I find parts are good, others are not, knowing what I wanted to convey but failing miserably.

I have many problems. Time is limited, working full time, having 2 kids, doesn't allow you to have your 'own' time, thus I wonder whether I will ever make it as a writer. I am a writer, not a good one, not one I can confidently let my work out for all to see.

Thank you for your post! It has given me much clarity in my goals. Thank you
 

Ralph Rotten

Staff member
Mentor
At the beginning of this year I finished my first draft of my 80k novel. Its my first attempt in writing, but during my second draft, I obviously found a lot of mistakes, plot holes, bad grammar, poorly constructed paragraphs ... in short many errors. During the first draft write, a lot of research suggested; just get the whole thing down, it doesn't matter about the mistakes, just finish the damn thing!

I did just this and as a result upon my second draft, I added a lot of necessary details, deleted multiple paragraphs, moved chapters, delayed introduction of characters, as the flow did not seem correct. I could spend weeks on one chapter and still not be fully satisfied. Is this a correct approach to editing? Months passed and the story became so ingrained that I felt I was 'too close' to it, and the process of amendments felt like I was altering too much, the story lost its initial grab thus stopped and began to write some short stories instead.

Having wrote a few shorts, a writing friend gave me some excellent critiques in one. I was initially taken back by the sheer scale of 'errors' I made but after going through 2 further drafts, I couldn't say I was 'delighted' with it. I recently read it again and still saw mistakes, but sadly that 'fuzzy' feeling I had when creating it was lost, that joy in creation changed to one of spotting every mistake. (I understand I will have to make a few more rounds of edits for this short to be in its 'best shape').

I admit that my writing isn't very strong, but would like to ask of peoples' practices in editing and any suggestions to improve my processes at the moment. How many drafts do you go through for a short story? Or novel? Do you set yourself, say 1 week to edit a short story, finish and then move on whether you are happy or not?

Thank you.

I have never been a fan of the theory " just get the whole thing down, it doesn't matter about the mistakes, just finish the damn thing!"
This is really only good advice for very new writers. But once you are writing things for professional publication, it is best to write it properly the first time.
Else, editing turns into a complete nightmare.
See, when you write it badly, editing is essentially like trying to fit an 8 cylinder engine in a Yugo. By the time you get done editing that thing...it looks like Frankenstein's monster.
Try to write it properly from the start, and editing will not be so painful. Editing is not magic.
 

KatPC

Senior Member
I have never been a fan of the theory " just get the whole thing down, it doesn't matter about the mistakes, just finish the damn thing!"
This is really only good advice for very new writers. But once you are writing things for professional publication, it is best to write it properly the first time.
I think Sir that you have hit the nail on it's head. I have muddled my way through many first drafts only to wake up the next day thinking: 'What is this?' I also understand to improve to a higher level means mimicking their practices. But writing is a journey and I have been following a lot of advice sprouted around the world wide web, some have been great, others not so, but it is all part of the journey.

Else, editing turns into a complete nightmare.
See, when you write it badly, editing is essentially like trying to fit an 8 cylinder engine in a Yugo. By the time you get done editing that thing...it looks like Frankenstein's monster.
Try to write it properly from the start, and editing will not be so painful. Editing is not magic.
Absolutely right again.
When I completed the first draft of my novel, I was elated. The joy of finishing, completing with set plans and framework so the book had structure and not a total pantser mess, indeed became the beautiful mess I created. Chapters didn't flow, not how I intended, scenes didn't seem to interlock, grammar mistakes, plot holes, paragraphs upon paragraphs of yesterday's late night cobbled together sentences to end the chapter were sticking out in big black bold, and editing draft 2 has become the shame of what I had put down. But this is beautiful mess, as I said above. The story is there, the characters are fully fledged, developed, personalities and traits stored in a hard drive ready to open on a click of a button in the head. It needs some TLC, and I will work on it. Armed with many good practices that others here have cared to share, I will go again, back to that wonderful world and hopefully, not too far, others can share my story too.
 
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