avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters November 2, 2011 - 7:15am

This might have been a discussion already - sorry if so.

I noticed in the workshop several people are working on novels.  I wondered about how you approach your writing.  As in, did you write an entire first draft start to finish before editing, write a section and then go back and edit it, or edit while simultaneously creating?  Combination of?  Other? 

 

Marius Hjelseth's picture
Marius Hjelseth from the frozen Norwegian tundra is reading Gomorrah November 2, 2011 - 7:55am

I'm in the middle of the first draft right now. And it will be complete; start to finish. Whether this is a good or productive way of doing it, I'm unsure about, but it's the way I've chosen to do it. 

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters November 2, 2011 - 8:28am

I don't know either.  This is the way I wrote my novel.  Start to finish like a marathon.  Now that I've finished, I'm going back to page one and see what I actually have. 

Mike Mckay's picture
Mike Mckay is reading God's Ashtray November 2, 2011 - 9:28am

My method goes to always change and rewrite. The story I'm working on currently is broken down into three acts. First I wrote an in depth outline. Wrote the draft in 2 weeks. I've been editing it since November of 2009 now that I read it I always see something to change. The final draft is nearing and my technique for this is to force all of my focus towards a single area in the story, in this case one act. I hope to finish by the end of November.

It's been intense but it'll be worth it

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs November 2, 2011 - 10:04am

Outlining and character profiles, first draft and I do that whole edit while I write thing, further drafts (with the final one being pretty similar to the first one since I write slowly and because of the "editing thing"), sending it out to friends for feedback, most likely using that feedback to work on another draft, proofread the draft, then it's finished.

I don't get people to critique excerpts rather than the entire book because I think that would be useless, so I get friends to read the entire book to give feedback. And I don't write short stories anymore. Which is why I'm not participating in this site's writers workshop.

EMA's picture
EMA from UK is reading Fool's Alphabet by Sebastian Faulks November 2, 2011 - 12:33pm

I'm nearly at the end of my first draft and only made a few notes before starting it. My aim is to go from start to finish and then put it aside for a month or two before going back to redraft it. If I spent lots of time editing everything as I went, I'd never get around to finishing it and that's the easiest way to abandon an idea.

There's no right way though: it's a personal preference.

Nick Wilczynski's picture
Nick Wilczynski from Greensboro, NC is reading A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin November 2, 2011 - 2:57pm

I write scenes and build outlines to connect them to let me know where and what I need to add. I try to get three or four main scenes down, and use them as a starting point and built the rest of the story to connect them.

I think of it like watching mushrooms grow, it's very organic. And if you ever get stuck on a scene you have no excuse to quit writing. On my preliminary edits I often find scenes half-done and realize, oh, thats where this needs to go and how it needs to connect to the next scene and finish scenes I was stuck on 2 days ago without even thinking about it.

The outlines are a big help, but I mostly model them on plot charts rather than as traditional outline formats. I have a scene list where all of my scenes are numeralized and shortly described, they are put up on the plot chart by number and the conditions for their existence are determined. The connecting scenes exist to create those conditions.

Later in the editing process I graph out the scenes in excel according to various attributes and common themes in order to smooth the flow.

missesdash's picture
missesdash from Paris is reading The Informers November 2, 2011 - 5:03pm

Don't ever edit as you go along. You'll never finish. The first draft is shit, but it's framework. It's fine to skip around though and right scenes out of order.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs November 2, 2011 - 5:58pm

I hear this over and over again: writers shouldn't edit as they go along. And perhaps they shouldn't. But it's what works best for me. Everyone's writing process is different and should involve doing what is best for them rather than following the popular advice. Experiment. Try different things. Choose the method that works the best. 

If I don't edit as I go along, then yes, my first draft would be shit. But I lack the ability to turn a shitty first draft into a good second draft (I have tried numerous times). So instead I edit as I go along and it results in a good first draft, which I later turn into a better second draft.

And I don't know where this "you'll never finish" thing comes from. My fifth book is coming out this month. My sixth book is coming out next year. These are "finished books" that are published by small presses. In addition, I also have various unpublished novels and stories that I consider finished.

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break November 2, 2011 - 6:02pm

I edit as I go along.

My agent said the draft I turned in was one of the most polished he had ever seen, so I must be doing something right.

I also don't know where that "you'll never finish" thing comes from, but it's certainly not an editing problem.  That sounds like a shortcoming on the discipline side of things.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs November 2, 2011 - 6:39pm

It's all because of that goddam Hemingway quote that won't go away. He was an excellent prose stylist, but I find his books' content to be extemely boring.

My novel's outline is its framework, not its first draft. 

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading Wanderers by Chuck Wendig November 2, 2011 - 7:31pm

I think most of us need to find (or have found) a good balance between editing as you go, and just powering through. I also have a hard time turning an unedited first into a shiny second, but I often find myself doing so much editing and rewriting in the process that it starts to get difficult to keep the flow of the story going toward the middle/end.

I actually just put a novel back on the back burner for this very reason. I got so into rewrites that I lost where I was going, now I need distance, and the ability to spend a day reading it from the beginning to where I left off and pick it up again. I hate doing that. But...I hate seeing a halfway decent first draft turn into a shitty second draft because I lose my "voice" in the editing process. It kind of sucks to admit, but I don't think I have found a process that really works for me on longer projects.

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. November 2, 2011 - 8:33pm

I usually write a novel in a 6 week burst and then put it in a drawer and try not to think about it ever again.  I've tried editing the books I've written, but so far it hasn't worked.  It reminds me of a quote from Straight Man by Richard Russo (pg 231 in my copy)

Virtually everybody in the English department has a half-written novel
squirreled away in a desk drawer.  I know this to be a fact because
before they all started filing grievances against me, I was asked to
read them.  Sad little vessels all.  Scuffy the Tugboat, lost and
scared on the open sea.  All elegantly written, all with the same
artistic goal - to evidence a superior sensibility.  Maybe I'm
surprised about Billy because he hasn't asked me to read his.  I've
always liked Billy, and now I like him even more.  It's a hell of a
fine man who'll write a novel and keep it to himself.

I guess I want to be a hell of a fine man.

Mike Mckay's picture
Mike Mckay is reading God's Ashtray November 2, 2011 - 9:49pm

Feedback is key, too bad everyone I know is either too lazy or not interested its sad to see majority of people do not have absoultely any interest to do anything different. Facebook and Jersey Shore are more Important. If it's more than half a page "too long didnt read", So its really difficult for me to acquire any feedback on my work.

 

Man I really need to get into the workshop...

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs November 2, 2011 - 9:59pm

I bought a membership for a month so I could read Palahniuk's essays but I won't be participating in the workshop because I no longer write short stories and I don't think getting feedback on excerpts is very helpful. But it's really great to find the right people who are willing to read your entire book and give you helpful feedack and I'm lucky enough to have found a few. I guess if you're having trouble, this site might not be the worst place to find others. Look for writers with similar literary tastes and trade books with them for feedback.

(I'm assuming you're looking for feedback for a novel due to this thread's title. If you're just looking for story feedback, you're set.)

.'s picture
. November 2, 2011 - 11:52pm

I'm probably going to give up trying to finish my novel because their is certain elements that are too close to the plot of Dermaphoria. I just bought the book a couple days ago and am almost finished with it. What a coincidence. A terrible coincidence at that.

Dr. Gonzo's picture
Dr. Gonzo from Manchester, UK is reading Blood Meridian November 3, 2011 - 2:13am

I see my first draft as an outline. It's almost like I'm bookmarking scenes. Some will be strong and need less work, others won't do what they're supposed to and need rethinking. I throw everything at my first drafts, some of it sticks. I always edit later. The most I do is change the end of the last paragraph so it leads to the next in a more pleasing way and helps me move forward. As long as it helps me move forward, I'm happy. 

EMA's picture
EMA from UK is reading Fool's Alphabet by Sebastian Faulks November 3, 2011 - 3:42am

The idea that "you won't finish" is based on the fact that a lot of people don't finish novels because they get so caught up in getting the last page/chapter/paragraph to be as good as possible that they struggle to move forward. I know a few people who have that mind set and have given up on stuff with the intention of coming back to it later. Whether they'll ever finish I don't know.

But obviously that's not the case for all people and clearly there are people who find it easier to edit as they go. I personally would rather have a whole first draft finished and then be able to work on it than have a few good chapters and then get bogged down in one section. I assume when everyone says first drafts are shit, they mean large chunks of it. I know that a lot of my first draft needs rewriting, some parts even probably deleting, but there are parts that are ok and parts that are even good. I'm actually looking forward to rewriting and editing the second draft of my novel as I know there are things that need adding near the beginning due to what has happened and changed midway and towards the end.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs November 3, 2011 - 4:26am

Yeah, if you edit as you go along during the first draft and find yourself unable to finish the draft because of it, then you shouldn't be editing as you go along. My outlines are "shit" prose-wise. I allow myself to write poorly while focusing all my attention on the content. Before I used outlines for books, the content suffered because I focused on both the content as well and the prose style at the same time, and that weakened the content. Sometimes I don't realize that changes  such as adding, deleting, or rewriting scenes will improve the book until I'm working on  the first draft rather than the outline, so I'll make those changes while I'm working on the second draft. But it's a hell of a lot easier if I can figure out if a scene isn't working while I'm writing the outline so I don't have to waste my time writing the scene in non-shitty prose during the first draft.

Dean Blake's picture
Dean Blake from Australia is reading generationend.com November 3, 2011 - 4:57am

Hi averydoll, how long did it take for you to write your novel manuscript?

When I started, I just wrote from start to finish and hoped something would make sense out of it. As I got older, however, I realised that my stories make much more sense (to me) if I start draftting out a chapter by chapter plan in point form. This allows me to see my work as a whole before diving into the nitty gritty prose.

 

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters November 3, 2011 - 5:07am

It took about a month to do the rough draft which ended up somewhere around 84k.

I didn't use an outline or anything.  I just had a scene in my head and i wrote it down, then just kept writing what happened next.  At some point I realized it was going to be a book.  I keep a journal and make notes there and jot down any inspiration that hits me (sometimes in the grocery store), but other than that I just wrote like a mad woman.  Until i realized that was the end.

Now that I have all that raw crap, I'm going back in and tossing away the junk and polishing what's left.  Or trying to! 

enough's picture
enough from Indiana is reading Warmed and Bound November 3, 2011 - 8:10am

For anyone to say they dont edit as they go along, I call Bullshit! Writers are constantly editing their work, whether it be in their minds, or on paper. Lets not be naive.

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. November 3, 2011 - 8:35am

There's a difference between writing with skill and editing a manuscript.  Let's not be naive.

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break November 3, 2011 - 8:37am

You knew she wasn't 18.  Let's not be naive.

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters November 3, 2011 - 8:54am

Yeah, I mean, I'll sit and think of the best way to word a sentence at that moment, but I don't call that an edit.  If those were my edits, then I'd be in trouble.  I'd have a million terrible novels haunting my dreams.   

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. November 3, 2011 - 9:34am

Her obviously fake ID said she was 21.  And people can wear braces on their teeth at any time in their life.  

enough's picture
enough from Indiana is reading Warmed and Bound November 3, 2011 - 9:56am

Wow, some people are touchy. Wake up on the wrong side of the bed much?

Maybe I should have used a synonym for "edit" obviously.  Rework, revise, revamp or redraft?

Writers are constantly revising their work, whether it be in their minds or on paper.

Writers are constantly revamping their work, whether it be in their minds or on paper.

Writers are constantly redrafting their work, whether it be in their minds or on paper.

 

There's a difference between writing with skill and editing a manuscript

I edit as I go along.

My agent said the draft I turned in was one of the most polished he had ever seen, so I must be doing something right.

 

But as a published author, are you writing with skill or editing your manuscript as you go? Give me a fucking break. Without editing you would not know how to write with skill in my opinion. You are doing a mental edit of words in your mind before you put them on paper, which inturn is writing with skill and brings us back around to editing.  I guess one really has to watch what they say in here. Oh, and the words with which they use to say it. Edit.....that would be editing, not writing with skill though. Like I said....Give me a fucking break.

 

 

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs November 3, 2011 - 10:44am

Yes, of course there's a big difference between editing a manuscript and editing as you write. Editing as you write isn't the same thing as writing with skill. You can write with skill while ignoring your inner editor's voice. If you edit as you write, you are constantly rewriting sentences until they are close to perfect as you write your first draft. If you do not write this way, you just keep banging away at the keyboard and never press the back space key (unless it's to correct a typo) until you're finished. You never really rewrite a sentence until you get to the second draft. You can write a book this way and still "write with skill." Averydoll's method of writing where he/she wrote 84k in a month and the way they described their writing process is far from editing as they write (and this writing process may very well be categorized as "writing with skill").

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters November 3, 2011 - 10:42am

(and this writing process may very well be categorized as "writing with skill").

More often it's called writing without (when it refers to me), but I appreciate the positive assumption! 

 

Typewriter Demigod's picture
Typewriter Demigod from London is reading "White Noise" by DeLilo, "Moby-Dick" by Hermann Mellivile and "Uylsses" by Joyce November 3, 2011 - 11:31am

I do the silly approach: charge at the novel, hammer and tongs until I get tired and stop or the story is done, often editing it along the way, with other people's thoughts, since I'm an egotistical douche who can't face seeing holes in his prowess. It works well. What comes out the other end often smells weirdly of blood and tears.

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. November 3, 2011 - 11:33am

Wow, some people are touchy. Wake up on the wrong side of the bed much?

Oh, I was trying to be funny.  I confuse humor with being an asshole a lot of the time.

misskokamon's picture
misskokamon from San Francisco is reading The Moonlit Mind November 3, 2011 - 11:47am

I do a lot of work before diving in to the actual process of writing. I open up Scrivener (my program of choice) and start off with character sheets, building what I know of each of my characters.

Then I set to work on whatever locations I already know I'd like to use, be they fictional or real life. I make notes of temperature norms for the season the story takes place in and import a map. If its fictional, I base the location off places I've been. 

Any themes I'd like to weave in I also import. My current work in progress has several things going on, numerology and Greek mythology bits, and I import my notes and web pages on the subject for safe keeping in my Scrivener binder. 

During this time I'm thinking, making notes, and thinking some more: what trouble can I get my characters in? before starting the project I already know what characters I'll be using and the main point of the story, but all the inbetween bits I stew in my brain for a bit.

I don't really outline, but I write a detailed synopsis of where I'm going. I don't usually write the whole story in synopsis format at once, but I do try to stay a few chapters ahead of myself. I don't always stick with the notes I've taken, but I usually stay pretty close to them. 

An example of how my synopsis looks like:

The story begins with Cael entering the ROOFTOP of the NEW SKIES building. He tries the door to the roof every once in awhile, but until that day, it’s been locked. He blames the unlocked door on a negligent faculty member and takes full advantage of the chance for solitude.
The roof is home to a flock of pigeons. Cael finds pigeons to be disgusting, brainless creatures, and decides to chase them off. Once most of them fly off, he observes his surroundings. There is an abandoned sofa, probably one that “many a kid” like him “confessed the sins of their hearts” on. It sits under the sloping roof of the stair room and looks a little undesirable to sit on. He finds a crusty, balled up hoodie crumpled behind it, but doesn’t touch it. Had other kids come up before him?
The sun is low in the sky and the city is already going dark, but when Cael strains to see into the heavens he sees no stars. Annoyed with the light pollution of the city, he walks to the edge of the building and peers down into the streets. People bustle about in business suits and party clothes and all manner of dress.

That equals about a page and a half of proper writing when I get down to it. I don't really know if synopsis is the right word, but it's the word I use. I tell myself the story as if I read the book already and I'm explaining it part by part to a friend. I find new characters spring up when I do this, twists I never thought of before, and places where I can weave in a theme. I can anticipate any blocks I might come across this way. 

I haven't finished a novel yet, but my plan is to edit the novel the way I see fit, then share the second draft with a writing group and honest friends to get their reactions and their advice. Once that advice is collected, I'll figure out where I'd like to go.  I'll know if it needs further editing or a complete rewrite by then. Then I'll share it again and do the next round of edits. When no big issues come up from my readers, I'll try my hand at finding an agent and hope for the best. 

Oh, and on the topic of editing, I edit as I go along too and I don't like that I do it. I feel it makes my work inconsistent and it slows me down. I'm trying NaNoWriMo this month to break from MissEditor completely, then I'll probably do what James Scott Bell does. He reads what he wrote the day before, makes the edits he wants to make, then moves on to writing. When he's done with the manuscript he'll go into full editing mode.  I wish I could do that... I end up reading the entire chapter every time and editing and rewriting and editing until I've been on the same chapter for a month and still haven't finished! 

simon morris's picture
simon morris from Originally, Philadelphia, PA; presently Miami Beach, FL is reading This Body of Death, by Elizabeth George November 3, 2011 - 1:27pm

Editing is not a process that can be imitated. You have to find the method that fits with your personality.

There are some traps that you need to be aware of when making choices. One of the major ones is that if you wait until you have poured out 80,000 words, if you find a "misteak" in a major issue, you will then have to sort out a hundred of them to fix it. If you fix it after each chapter, you will not have the same error in the next chapter becasue you will have learned not to make it again before you write.

I went through that with a writer for whom I edited a short story. I found an error in a feature he gave the protagonist that was physically impossible and made his story lack truthfulness. Had this been a book instead of a short story, this error would have appeared a hundred times and finding it would have been a panic now or later situation because there was no trigger word for use in search function.

Many writers write too much passive content. By rooting it out in the beginning, you set off alarms and do not write it in subsequent chapters. Fixing 600 passive sentences will simply waste time when correcting 6 in the first chapter will make you aware of your tendencies and will avoid them or at least minimize them.

Being a writer isn't about following editing rules. It is about using common sense when allocating time. Unless you live in an iron lung, you have a lot of other thngs you could be doing rarther than trying to find errors in 425 paged of text that hasn't been edited at all.

Having had 3 books published and having the manuscripts subjected to a team of professional editors after I got it "perfect" taught me that no matter how good it is, they will find things they want changed. However if it is a sloppy mess, they will not even read it.

Even in the forum here, I resent it when a writer expects us to do all the line enditing for her. I will not do it. If the piece looks like she didn't vet it to the best of her ability, I move on to the next story. If I want to read shit, I will look in a toilet.

The world of professional writing is a tough world but it isn't competitive. There is enough room for every good piece to be published. The only competition is to polish a piece until is shines. That takes the use of readers who will point out what your ego will not let you see.

The trick: The best writers use the best readers to critique their ms. They select them over time by trial and error.

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters November 3, 2011 - 1:33pm

. I found an error in a feature he gave the protagonist that was physically impossible and made his story lack truthfulness.

Can I ask what it was?  I'm intrigued.