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Lucie Witt

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Posted on Jan 22, 2016 in Resources for Writers | 10 comments



**peeks out from the editing cave**

It feels like I’ve been editing this current book forever (forever ever) (forever ever). The act of creating a book is so short compared to the act of editing it.

The first draft is a fiery, hot summer fling. Editing is marriage, where you’re constantly finding ways to make it work. In editing, like marriage, you have to face all kinds of issues big and small.

I am not one of those three, four draft people. I need a dozen at least (should probably note the marriage metaphor ends here). They bigger the draft number, the more tedious the revisions.

How my first drafts go:

“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”
― Shannon Hale

First draft I get the words down. I skip whole scenes. I write scenes I know suck ass just so I can get my story from point A to point B. [I talk to myself in brackets, like this, inserting brilliant observations such as characters have super funny banter here and then there’s a big huge fight].

At the end of the process I have a big, ugly lump of clay in front of me. Maybe, if I’m lucky, somewhere inside is a salvageable story.

So my first round of edits is building. Adding. Rearranging. Rewriting. Big, sweeping changes and additions. Finding all those damn brackets and actually writing out the details I skipped the first time. This is macro editing.

Now the ball of clay looks a little less like a formless blob and a little more like it could be … something. Still not clear.

This stage can be several drafts. When the clay finally starts to become a recognizable, and maybe even potentially pleasing shape, I know I’m ready for the next round of edits.

The next round goes like this:

“When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.”
—Stephen King

I’ve built up the clay just to realize now I have something too big, too messy. So I scale back. Sometimes I’m still adding as well. Cut, add, cut, add. Repeat.

What the second part of editing is like:

Screen Shot 2016-01-17 at 10.29.33 PM

This is draft ten-ish.

What the pages I’m editing today look like:

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 9.01.23 PM

When all of this is done, the blob of clay has been replaced with a decent looking vase.

I have no idea what to call this stage. I just know it drags on forever. It’s the part where I’m most likely to lose steam and decide, you know what, fuck this book, I didn’t really want to finish it anyways. It feels like editing purgatory. Editatory? Purgiting?

By the time I get to the final drafts, editing takes yet another form. I study every word, sentence, and paragraph. Small grammar and word choice changes are made. This is micro editing (I can’t bring myself to call this copy editing, because I know talented copy editors, and I don’t rise to this level). It looks like this:

“I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.

-Oscar Wilde

This is where the vase gets the detailing that makes it unique. Where it goes through the fiery kiln and comes out all shiny and perfect on the other side.

Funny how one word can mean so many different things.

** back into editing cave**

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  1. Oh. My. Word. I was laughing SO laughing at this!

    Hey, everyone’s got their own individual process. I wish I could write like you just described all the time. I think I did it once – and strangely, it was the ONE (and likely only) time I wrote a book in five months – wrote it and edited it. I haven’t done that since…but I don’t “think” it was crap b/c I was working with a freelance editor (she worked for HarperCollins) and without me knowing it, she sent it to an agency in London – and they read it and loved it. But. I had an agent – she was only trying to match them up with a US agency. Long story short – it was a magical thing. And will likely never be pulled out of the black hat again!

    Anywho, I’m not sure what to call what I do, but something like write, write, write (this could = 50 words or 500) and then fix, fix, fix – at least until I think it’s not so shitty, before I move on. That’s the way of it now.

    I enjoyed reading about your process!

    • Donnaeve,

      I’m glad you liked reading about how I edit – this is one of the things I can endlessly talk about with other writers. Kinda like seeing pictures of people’s work spaces – it’s cool to get a peek into someone else’s creative process.

  2. Boy, do I identify with this. I’m sorry to laugh at your pain, but I did need the laugh and are you good at expressing your angst. Good luck with the edit!

    I’ve been chunk writing The Rain Crow. It’s all very rough first draft at this point. I see a scene and jot it down. I sort of have an idea of what goes where.

    However, I decided this week I needed to go back to the beginning and put things in order. Now I keep shuffling scenes and chapters around. I’ve written five openings. I’m driving myself nuts and I haven’t even gotten to the first draft yet.

    YES! This is why writers begin to hate math. I was tracking word count every day. It got too depressing. I had to stop.

    • Julie,

      I’m glad my editing thoughts could make at least a few people smile. We have to laugh through the pain, right???

      I was also tracking my word count for this book, but it got too depressing watching it go DOWN, and too irritating trying to account for words cut and words added in the same day. I think the last cell in my excel sheet is not a number, but an expletive.

      Good luck with The Rain Crow!

  3. Lucie, Oh my loving God, I feel this so much. I laughed and cried so hard. I am in an R&R right now. And this after more revisions than I can count. When I first spewed out the first draft that became my WUS, I must have written and revised the first chapter over 1000 times. Now I am down to that last bone deep cut, and it is like pulling teeth.

    I am trying to cut word count. I am told 125,000 is the magic number. For me, it will have to sit around 131,000 I think. Editing is a special kind of limbo, isn’t it? Good luck. We’ll have to share a nice round of Kentucky Bourbon when we’re done.

    • E.M.,

      I think they might run out of bourbon by the time we are both done with our R&Rs. O’m glad my editing venting could make some other people, laugh, though!

  4. Hi Lucie! visiting from the JR blog 🙂 I liked the comparison to flings vs a marriage… very true. I do wish I was as organized in my editing process as you. I try the ‘snowflake method’ (or ‘vase method’?) but my brain just flits about and doesn’t go in order (or more broad -> more detailed, either). As it is I revise about 10,000 times.

    • Hey, Lennon!

      I’m glad you stopped by. I have to get around and visit some more blogs. It’s hard for me to see myself as organized since my editing seems to drag on forever. I wish I could find a way to do less drafts, but this kind of layer by layer seems to be the only thing that works for me.

  5. Hi, Lucie! My attention was grabbed [eek! passive voice!] by the fact you edit on paper with pencil (at least it seems that way by the pictures). I don’t think I’ve ever tried editing any of my novels like that. I usually go through drafts, incorporating notes from beta readers digitally. However, for all my academic papers, I printed them out and edited by hand. Curious that. I’ll have to give hand-editing my fiction a try, maybe with the short story I’m currently working on. See how that goes.

    Great post, and a lovely blog you have here! 🙂

  6. Hi Colin, thank you for stopping by 🙂

    I do a lot of editing on screen, but always (ALWAYS) get to a point where I have to see the story on paper to move forward. This usually involves a draft like the one you see in the photo. Then I’ll do the majority of the rest of editing on my computer before printing a hard copy to edit one more time at the end.

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