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When Writing Quality and Language Keep You From Finishing a Draft (1 Viewer)

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sunaynaprasad

WF Veterans
I am working on my second draft for my current WIP, the fourth installment of my published book series. However, the writing quality and language hindered my desires to finish it.
Unlike many, I have to start my first drafts short and sloppily written, or else I will never get where I want to be. But I broke that rule without any thought when writing the first 2 chapters of this current project's draft. I started out strong, but now everything's getting weaker. I am even considering taking a break from this draft, even though I did not finish completing the story.
I have read numerous articles about turning off that inner editor, which I've tried to do, but often failed. It's probably because my writing has matured over time and I don't want to write (presumably) hundreds of drafts for years before getting ready for publication.
However, I feel that with the second draft, the story should still come before the writing quality. Am I right?
 

TheMightyAz

Staff member
Mentor
It's a bit of a conundrum isn't it. It's the reason I've set a year aside to sharpen my craft. At some point I'm going to be turning that inner editor off and just write the first draft, but right now I'm allowing myself to write alongside the inner editor. I've always done it to some extent but I've never laser focused on it like this. Sometimes a sentence causes me great consternation and then other times, it comes out the way I want it to automatically, but even when a sentence writes itself, I'll go back and examine it and ask myself 'why' it came out right (for me). I'm constantly punching above my weight to push myself beyond what I was before. I am a bit worried about next Feb though. I have to be honest about that. Will I be able to turn this inner editor off? Will I be able to immediately switch back to 'just writing' after taking a whole year of micromanaging my prose? That's a legitimate worry but once I've set myself a task, I stick with it, for better or for worse. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
For me, I find it so difficult just to keep the story flowing, that I don't focus too much on the editing aspect, or I'd never get it written. I do use Grammarly which picks up errors as you go. And lately, I've discovered that if there is a word you want to be careful not to overuse, like 'was', you can put it in the search function, and it shows up in yellow each time you write it. I use things like that that don't take me away from the story. My husband who is an ex-English professor, said it's impossible to compose and edit at the same time. You have to stop one process to do the other. So I choose story when writing the first draft.

However, I'm still not clear when people talk about multiple drafts, what that looks like. Are you still perfecting the story, or are you now looking for other weaknesses? What types of things would you pick up on the second draft?
 

TheMightyAz

Staff member
Mentor
For me, I find it so difficult just to keep the story flowing, that I don't focus too much on the editing aspect, or I'd never get it written. I do use Grammarly which picks up errors as you go. And lately, I've discovered that if there is a word you want to be careful not to overuse, like 'was', you can put it in the search function, and it shows up in yellow each time you write it. I use things like that that don't take me away from the story. My husband who is an ex-English professor, said it's impossible to compose and edit at the same time. You have to stop one process to do the other. So I choose story every time.

However, I'm still not clear when people talk about multiple drafts, what that looks like. Are you still perfecting the story, or are you now looking for other weaknesses? What types of things would you pick up on the second draft?
I actually ignore or turn off the grammar checker, even when I'm drilling down with my internal editor. I'd probably stick it on for the final edit and then pick and choose which I want to correct. Most people have different passes. I used to try and do everything in one pass but it felt like too much work. So now I'll have passes for dialogue, passes or word choice, passes for unnecessary words, passes for sentence structure, passes for pacing, passes for tone etc. Clive Barker usually has well over 50 passes. Dean Koontz edits has he writes. Stephen King is somewhere in between.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I actually ignore or turn off the grammar checker, even when I'm drilling down with my internal editor. I'd probably stick it on for the final edit and then pick and choose which I want to correct. Most people have different passes. I used to try and do everything in one pass but it felt like too much work. So now I'll have passes for dialogue, passes or word choice, passes for unnecessary words, passes for sentence structure, passes for pacing, passes for tone etc. Clive Barker usually has well over 50 passes. Dean Koontz edits has he writes. Stephen King is somewhere in between.
That sounds like a good method AZ, and in keeping with my husband's philosophy. I will likely use a similar process when I'm finished my first draft. But would you refer to each pass as a new draft? Like first, second, third, etc. The more I think about it, the more that makes sense, because you may wish to go back and refer to an earlier version, and based on the change, it would help you to remember which version.
 
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TheMightyAz

Staff member
Mentor
That sounds like a good method AZ, and in keeping with my husband's philosophy. I will likely use a similar process when I'm finished my first draft. But would you refer to each pass as a new draft? Like first, second, third, etc. The more I think about it, the more that makes sense, because you may wish to go back and refer to an earlier version, and based on the change, it would help you to remember which version to refer to.
It's why I had that thread asking about terminology. I'm not certain myself what each is called. A draft tends to be looking at it from a bigger perspective: does this paragraph need to be moved? Does this paragraph need to be deleted? Does this scene need slowing down or speeding up? What is this scene trying to say and does it say what I want it to say? Does it add or detract from the whole? Is this chapter necessary? Do I need another chapter here? Is my character fully rounded? Would my character do this? And so forth. Editing I would say is what I focus on most, which is what I described above. Proofing is obviously just grammar checking, which is why I turn the grammar checker on for my final passes.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
It's why I had that thread asking about terminology. I'm not certain myself what each is called. A draft tends to be looking at it from a bigger perspective: does this paragraph need to be moved? Does this paragraph need to be deleted? Does this scene need slowing down or speeding up? What is this scene trying to say and does it say what I want it to say? Does it add or detract from the whole? Is this chapter necessary? Do I need another chapter here? Is my character fully rounded? Would my character do this? And so forth. Editing I would say is what I focus on most, which is what I described above. Proofing is obviously just grammar checking, which is why I turn the grammar checker on for my final passes.
Yes, that does make sense. But to answer the OP question, for the second draft, should the story still come before the writing quality, I find that hard to answer, because to me "writing quality" encompasses everything. For example, how clever are the words, and do they portray the tone I am shooting for? Or does this dialogue give enough to create suspicion, while not being too overt? To me, that's both story and writing quality. We have had the same question in so many threads, and I always find it impossible to separate these two...lol!
 

TheMightyAz

Staff member
Mentor
Yes, that does make sense. But to answer the OP question, for the second draft, should the story still come before the writing quality, I find that hard to answer, because to me "writing quality" encompasses everything. For example, how clever are the words, and do they portray the tone I am shooting for? Or does this dialogue give enough to create suspicion, while not being too overt? To me, that's both story and writing quality. We have had the same question in so many threads, and I always find it impossible to separate these two...lol!
To be honest, I don't think there's a definitive answer. If there was, every writer would write the same. The only option is to muddle on and hope your vision eventually emerges. But you DO have to have a vision in my opinion. Again though, that's my opinion only and isn't a definitive solution. Some writers want the words to be invisible whilst others want the words to be seen. If you want your words to be seen then you'd better make sure everything is justified in some way and caters to the whole, including the story.
 

Cephus

Senior Member
The story always comes before everything. I'm getting close to finishing up my latest book, I'll hopefully be done by the end of the week but if it goes over a day or two next week, I'm fine with it. I am committed to getting it done, no matter what. I plowed through nearly 7500 words today and immediately after I finish, I'll jump right into editing my last book and then, into the next one. This is a process that never ends. I'm committed to doing it without fail. If it took me ten drafts to get the story I want, then I'll do ten drafts. It never takes that much because I've been doing it for so long, but the end goal is getting the story you want, no matter how long it takes. It's really up to your vision of what you want to write.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
To be honest, I don't think there's a definitive answer. If there was, every writer would write the same. The only option is to muddle on and hope your vision eventually emerges. But you DO have to have a vision in my opinion. Again though, that's my opinion only and isn't a definitive solution. Some writers want the words to be invisible whilst others want the words to be seen. If you want your words to be seen then you'd better make sure everything is justified in some way and caters to the whole, including the story.
Amen!
 

Ajoy

Senior Member
For me, I find it so difficult just to keep the story flowing, that I don't focus too much on the editing aspect, or I'd never get it written. I do use Grammarly which picks up errors as you go. And lately, I've discovered that if there is a word you want to be careful not to overuse, like 'was', you can put it in the search function, and it shows up in yellow each time you write it. I use things like that that don't take me away from the story. My husband who is an ex-English professor, said it's impossible to compose and edit at the same time. You have to stop one process to do the other. So I choose story when writing the first draft.

However, I'm still not clear when people talk about multiple drafts, what that looks like. Are you still perfecting the story, or are you now looking for other weaknesses? What types of things would you pick up on the second draft?
I had to do that too--not worry too closely about the actual writing on my first draft because the story was enough to juggle! :) My second draft focused more on restructuring parts of the plot, rewriting the beginning, adding scenes, changing pacing, etc. I improved the writing as I went through if it was relatively easy, but again, it was too much to juggle AND work on the writing craft. This third draft is now when I'm revising to make the writing as good as possible, and again it's a massive undertaking, some paragraphs (and sometimes even sentences) taking insane amounts of time and effort to make right. I'm also developing the characters in this draft because it fits well with the rest of the writing revisions. I know some can do it, but I don't ever see myself able to do both story and writing craft at once. I could see improving enough to not need those restructuring revisions for draft 2 (if I outline my plot in more detail ahead of time), but I think the story and the writing will always need to be separate for me.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
Let me preface this with the statement that we all approach our art differently, and our methods are NOT going to be the same. What works for me probably won't work for anyone else, but maybe you can take something of mine and modify it so it works for you.

I plot my book out in detail before I start writing (I've mentioned that before), but many may not get the extent of my plotting.
Long before I start in on the first draft, I start laying out the story in VERY general terms in a word doc (or occasionally drawn in a notebook). I know where the story starts and ends, along with the initial rise of the character, the fall, the darkest hour, the false hope, the final struggle, and the triumph - I know were everything is.
I copy that word doc and expand by adding chapters to link the sections together. More sections are added (and some deleted) until the chapter count is known, they often are given titles at this stage, and how everything is linked together.
I'm not even close to halfway done yet though.
I copy that word doc and create a page for each chapter and roughly write out what has to happen in chapter with an eye on the links to the previous and the next sections. I create about 15 bullet points for each chapter.
THEN I add bullet points in subsequent passes through the plot. First 30, then 40, and finally 45 (that's what fits on a page).
THEN I go back and comb the entirety of the doc, making sure things happen in the right order.
Lather, rinse, and repeat until the plot seems to work.
THEN I comb each chapter to put it in order - I even lay out conversations. I go though that document 8 to 10 times before I'm satisfied.

THEN I start the first draft (each chapter in a separate file), but before I start on a new chapter, I scan the plot and usually move things around.
As I write the chapter I gray-out the plot points (in the plot document) to know that it's been covered. Anything in the plot that was skipped I either eliminate as unnecessary, or consider for placement in a later chapter. Usually, the first draft turns out pretty clean and it goes kinda-sorta quickly.
After that, all I do is editing until the novel is ready to ship out.

Yes - I probably am OCD to some degree, but maybe some of this will work someone here.
 

TheMightyAz

Staff member
Mentor
Let me preface this with the statement that we all approach our art differently, and our methods are NOT going to be the same. What works for me probably won't work for anyone else, but maybe you can take something of mine and modify it so it works for you.

I plot my book out in detail before I start writing (I've mentioned that before), but many may not get the extent of my plotting.
Long before I start in on the first draft, I start laying out the story in VERY general terms in a word doc (or occasionally drawn in a notebook). I know where the story starts and ends, along with the initial rise of the character, the fall, the darkest hour, the false hope, the final struggle, and the triumph - I know were everything is.
I copy that word doc and expand by adding chapters to link the sections together. More sections are added (and some deleted) until the chapter count is known, they often are given titles at this stage, and how everything is linked together.
I'm not even close to halfway done yet though.
I copy that word doc and create a page for each chapter and roughly write out what has to happen in chapter with an eye on the links to the previous and the next sections. I create about 15 bullet points for each chapter.
THEN I add bullet points in subsequent passes through the plot. First 30, then 40, and finally 45 (that's what fits on a page).
THEN I go back and comb the entirety of the doc, making sure things happen in the right order.
Lather, rinse, and repeat until the plot seems to work.
THEN I comb each chapter to put it in order - I even lay out conversations. I go though that document 8 to 10 times before I'm satisfied.

THEN I start the first draft (each chapter in a separate file), but before I start on a new chapter, I scan the plot and usually move things around.
As I write the chapter I gray-out the plot points (in the plot document) to know that it's been covered. Anything in the plot that was skipped I either eliminate as unnecessary, or consider for placement in a later chapter. Usually, the first draft turns out pretty clean and it goes kinda-sorta quickly.
After that, all I do is editing until the novel is ready to ship out.

Yes - I probably am OCD to some degree, but maybe some of this will work someone here.
When you say word doc, what exactly do you mean? Just Word or is there something related to word I'm not aware of?
 
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