Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Zen and the Art of Editing

copyright 2011 Ron Adams

Ed McBain once said the only true creative aspect of novel writing is the first draft. The rest, is the hard work of editing and re-writing. I spent most of my summer off editing and rewriting my novel, Lake Effect, to prepare it for re-release with Charles River Press, and finally finished it this past week. There are experts who say to write your whole manuscript first, the whole first draft without looking back. Once you finish the final page, if you are like Stephen King, you put it away for a while to get some distance and perspective before taking the proverbial scalpel to it. And there are others who see a value to revising as you work, stopping every so often to edit on the fly. So which one do you go with? It depends on the writer and their own particular work style. Remember, first and foremost, the goal is a finished novel. 
The great thing about “finish first, edit later”, is that you finished. You can go back in and fix grammar, work on continuity and plot development as a whole rather than piece meal. If you had done the editing as you went along, you might still be stuck on page whatever,
struggling with the right phrase, the right quote, the right twist advance the plot. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it. Finish it first, fix it later.

But there is the camp that believes the process needs to be played out as you go along. It allows you to fine tune the plot, form new ideas for plot or character development, and you get to daily
reinforce exactly what is happening in your novel. When you get back to it the next day, you are tuned in to exactly what was going in, and can pick up the scent from the previous day’s work and build accordingly. Maybe you will even head off a few glitches in the plot before they happen, and that will make the final edits easier to handle. 
In the end though, regardless of which technique you use, the goal is to produce a novel the is satisfying to you and enjoyable for the readers. Personally, I have used both techniques, and feel comfortable in both. I would suggest trying both editing as you go and doing a final draft edit, and see which one works best for you.
PS: Published this post after two re-writes. Have fun kids!

1 comment:

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Hi, Ron. Well, I answered yesterday and now I don't see my comment, so here goes again! LOL. My style is, as you probably already know, to "write like the wind." I let the stories out, and come back a year or so later to work on them when I'm done. Sure, I'll do a little editing as I go - usually on the chapter I wrote the day before - but for the most part I keep the two processes entirely separate. But in the end, all that matters is that you produce a decent book, as you said.

Congrats on getting through your edits. I'm still rewriting Upstaged (my second LeGarde book) for a re-release next year. Almost there!