Monday, July 12, 2010

Edits, Edits, Who’s Got The Edits?


What is your editing process? As a writing team, ours is probably different from what you might do. Basically, Arwen starts a story – writing 1500 words. She happily sends it off to Cai then sits back waiting for the accolades to roll in. (Of course, it could be Cai who starts the story, in which case, just reverse all the names below. LOL)

Cai whips out her proverbial red pen and proceeds to edit the snot out of Arwen’s clichés and grammar mistakes. She then adds 2500 brilliant words and sends it back to Arwen just knowing that Arwen is going to delightedly accept the changes and breeze through her additions.

Arwen growls as she admits to 75% of Cai’s changes as being good, but fights back on 25%. Then Arwen hauls out her tarot deck to heavily correct Cai's plot gaps and character flaws. She then adds the best 500 words of her life and hits “send.”

Cai accepts 10% of Arwen's rejections on her original edits. Then she sighs and accepts 75% of Arwen's edits while massaging her temples and fighting back on 25%. She reads the minimal effort from Arwen and decides to wait a day or so before adding or editing any more. Adding another 2500 words after a few days, Cai sends the whole shebang back to Arwen and waits with bated breath for Arwen to read/edit and send it back again.

By the time we reach the end of the first draft, we've got a pretty good handle on what is working and what scenes need to be completely re-worked. All silliness aside, this is how we edit as we go without rewriting the same three pages ad infinitum. We find that this gives us a fairly clean first draft. Then we can spend time going back over the whole manuscript tightening character development and making sure our GMC (Goal, Motivation, Conflict) for each character is fully developed.

When we're both ready to call it “done,” our next step is to find a beta reader or two. We think we know where the weak spots are, so we ask our beta readers to concentrate on those areas, but also to point out anything else they come across in their reading that jars them out of the story for whatever reason. With their suggestions in mind, we read the story with fresh eyes and make whatever changes we feel will strengthen the story. In the end, that is what is the most important. What makes the story truly work.

Then and only then are we ready to send it off to an editor with a query letter attached. So what is YOUR process? Do you write, edit, write some more? Or do you write the entire manuscript then go back and edit each scene, each chapter, etc., Let us know, we’d love to hear your thoughts.

22 comments:

Natasha Moore said...

LOL! Great post!

As I write I usually print out each chapter after I've finished madly typing on the keyboard, and then do one run-through layering in things like description, reactions, etc. So by the time I get to the end I have a pretty clean first draft too.

I love reading how you write together. Sometimes I think it would be great to write with someone else. Sometimes I think it would drive me crazy! :)

Tarot By Arwen said...

Natasha, it is usually good but we do sometimes make one another cranky. Luckily we have over thirty years practice in how to deal with that when it happens.

Mona Risk said...

Arwen and Cai, first let me say I admire how you two can write together without killing each other. :)

When my muse is kicking, I try to write 1000 + or - a frew every day. The next day I read what I wrote, revise and edit then write the next 1000 words. When I finish the first chapter, I send it to my two wonderful CPs. Without them I probably would never have been published. I revise my first chapter and keep going the same way. I send them the partial once I finished three chapters and a synopsis.

Once I have a synopsis and an outline, writing flows as I know where I am going. At the end of each chapter I stop and check if the POV is with the protagonist who has the most to lose, if I have enough sensorial, sexual tension, and strong hook at the end of each scene. I try to send two or three chapters at a time to my CPs as I write the rest of the book.

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Arwen and Cai, Wow. I've always wondered how a team manages to write together. I don't think I could ever do it. For the first draft, I edit each chapter after I write it. Then I work with my CP's. After that, I submit to contests. And I make additional changes as I learn more about craft. Hopefully, one of these days, I'll earn a contract. :)

Vonnie Davis said...

Everytime I hear that one should just write the first draft without doing edits, I cringe. Sure, it sounds easy enough, but I like to fiddle too much. I need to agonize over word choice, play with "cut" and "paste", and tweak--oh, how I live to tweak! My personality needs, demands to know that a chapter is the best I can do before moving forward. I try to write 2500 words a day. But my tweaking often gets in the way. I read an article about improving POV, for example, then I'm compelled to go back to chapter one and go through my manuscript, line by line, making improvements with the knowlege I've just gleaned. Do I ever finish a manuscript. Yes, eventually...

Clarissa Southwick said...

All of the above? I usually review what I did the previous day before I start writing. But I also have to go back at the end and revise for plot holes, foreshadowing, or character development.

Thanks for sharing your process. I love to hear how other authors work.

Tarot By Arwen said...

Mona, critique partners are amazing, aren't they? I think of Cai and I as built in critique partners.

Tarot By Arwen said...

Dawn Marie, keep it up. You will get published. You just have to keep writing and keep polishing!

Tarot By Arwen said...

Vonnie, the idea of writing the rough draft as ... well... rough is just to get folks to realize that they need to finish the damned book. :)

Each of us has a method that works for us. As long as you are finishing, submitting and starting a new story...it's all good!

Tarot By Arwen said...

Clarissa, that's a great process! Thanks so much for sharing.

L. Rosario said...

Great post! Like some of the others who have already commented, I've often wondered what it would be like to write with a friend. It's an intriguing concept, to say the least. As for self-editing. I do it as I go. Maybe not everyday, but more often than not, I'm rereading what I wrote the day before, before I continue the story. Not only does it remind me of my intentions, it helps excite the creative juices, and it does cut down on editing later on.

Jill James said...

After doing Nanowrimo for a few years I have learned to just get the words down. I'll type a note in red about check this or that or add this or that and move on. Once I type The End I will go back and the first thing is to check all the red printing first.

Darah Lace said...

Hmm, you guys seem to have a great writing relationship. I'm not sure I could let go of my own ideas and it would take just the right person to curb my stubborn streak. Thanks for sharing your methods. It sounds fun!

Tarot By Arwen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tarot By Arwen said...

Jill, that's a great idea. I love the COMMENTS feature in Word. I'll slap a comment in that says, "Expand this" or "Weren't his fathers eaten by rabid tuna in chapter 2?"

Tarot By Arwen said...

Darah, we've been friends for over 30 years now. You get into a rhythm for sure!

J L said...

I write, tweak, write, tweak, write write write, tweak, then finish. Go back and re-read. Let it sit. Re-read again. Give to beta reader. Read once more. Call it done.

I can't imagine collaborating with someone -- it boggles my mind how well you two manage it!

Tarot By Arwen said...

JL, we do that but we trade off the tweaking! LOL

Cai said...

Thanks, everyone for stopping by and leaving a comment. Our process probably wouldn't work for a lot of people who want to collaborate, but as Arwen said, we've known one another for more than half our lives, so we can work through/around any problems in whatever MS we're working on. :)

Ginny said...

Being best friends, as the two of you have been for years, is the key. You two know each other inside and out. Wish I had one person to help me and I would help that one person. But I think others are afraid of my critiquing. I tend to do the overkill thing. Which can get me in trouble and has on occasion. So much easier when you have one person to rely on.

Joanne said...

Hi Ladies,
I write and edit. I love the editing process--it's how my story grows and grows. Trouble is, this process is definitely longer.

And, what is the COMMENTS feature in word?

Tarot By Arwen said...

Ginny, it can be a fine line. I can be a bit overbearing in my critiques as well. :)

Joanne, if you go to the REVIEW tab (in Word 2007), there is an "insert comment" feature. It will put a post-it type note on the right that you can jot notes on.