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10:26 am: Wright's Writing Corner: The Joys of Editing


Mephisto and his Staff


I am in the throws of finishing the polishing of Prospero Regained, the third and last book in the Prospero’s Daughter series. I have finished the whole thing, except for one new scene that I need to write to add to the epic battle near the end.

 

So, what, you may ask, is the process of polishing?

 

Some months ago, I had read the book aloud to my brother and noted down various changes: repeated words I wanted to change, awkward phrasing, paragraphs that just did not make sense (there was only one of those), places where continuity of plot needed work—either because something was out of place or because I could add a line or scene that would emphasize some plot point. I was busy at work on another project at the time, so I would print out a chapter, read it to Law (my brother), and then stick it in the car under a thingy that had room to stick stuff under.

 

Normally, you might think this process would go awry, but it did not. When the time came, everything was in that one pile, and I was able to enter all the changes into the manuscript. (Well, those where I could read my own handwriting, anyway—writing notes on the fly while trying not to interrupt a reading does not lend itself to legibility. )

 

Possibly because I started using a computer in the days when files could only be so long, I work in chapters. I have each chapter in a separate file and only compile them at the end, once the work is done. (I have a method for making sure that all the chapters get into the final manuscript, but apparently it’s not foolproof, because Chapter Eight got left out of Prospero In Hell. Luckily, a friend discovered it before it actually went to press. My editor and I both missed it.) I did this polishing chapter by chapter, too. I would sit down, open the chapter, enter the changes I made while reading to my brother, and then read the whole thing over carefully, polishing additional things, adding small changes, etc, until the prose shone—at least to the best of my ability.

 

And I LOVED it.

 

I love the polishing. I love mulling over a scene, trying new wording, moving a paragraph here or there to get a better effect, perhaps sticking in a new brief scene. To me, this is the best part of writing. The part that is fun.

 

The other part, getting ideas onto the paper, I do not care for as much. I find it difficult. I’m always either mentally blank or rushing too fast because I am trying to write down a whole bunch of ideas at once before I go mentally blank again.

 

So the past few months have been great fun in the writing department.

 

But now there is just this one last scene to go. Then, it will be onto a new project. While I am never keen to start writing as opposed to editing, I will be so glad to put the Prospero book behind me—at least until the time comes to edit it for publication. I have been working on this series since 1992 and I will be really happy when the time comes that I don’t have to think about it again!

 

It has been great fun, though!


Comments

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From:marycatelli
Date:January 27th, 2010 04:53 pm (UTC)
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Printing out and revising in long hand does marvels.
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From:arhyalon
Date:January 27th, 2010 07:07 pm (UTC)
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That's a lot like my "read out loud."
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From:bojojoti
Date:January 28th, 2010 06:41 am (UTC)
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Will this mean the end of Miranda's adventures?
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From:arhyalon
Date:January 28th, 2010 12:58 pm (UTC)
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God, I hope so!

I originally started this novel as "something to toss off"...then, I rewrote it and rewrote it and rewrote it, etc. I've spent so much of my life on it! I'd really like to put it behind me and get onto other things.

I did write a brief outline when I first finished the series for three more books, so if they were to become wildly successful and someone hit me with a bag of money, I could continue, but I'm really hoping not.

I think the series ends at a nice stopping point at the end of the first three books. ;-)
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From:cdenmier
Date:January 28th, 2010 07:31 pm (UTC)

Editing...yuck!

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Oh, I hate editing sections of my fiction writing. When I was working as a reporter it was pretty easy (and, like you indicate, actually fun) to rearrange paragraphs, swap out quotes, tweak transitions, etc. But I find my eyes blurring when I tackle the editing of a chapter. It's as though there is too much information for me to keep in the front of my mind at one time (if I were a computer, I suppose the diagnosis would be "too little RAM"). I keep losing track of what I'm doing; I lose sense of the flow and start making choppy revisions.

Do you ever encounter that type of feeling? Any tips for overcoming it?
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From:arhyalon
Date:January 28th, 2010 07:46 pm (UTC)

Re: Editing...yuck!

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That is a pretty good description of how I feel on the writing side, when I'm trying to hold everything I want to say in my head and can't seem to do so.

On the editing side, I take an idea, a plot point, character point, etc, and mull over it. Letting the places where it occurs in the story come to me --this is best done while skating or in the shower or some time when one is partially busy and just kind of mulling--and things that need work just kind of pop-up.

I did have a hard time when I was working on the Prospero series when I had a really hard time keeping it all in my head--there being a minor plotline for nearly every Prospero. Then, I had to sit down with pen and paper and kind of plot out a flow chart of sorts.

Nowadays, however, I tend to just take one thread of plot at a time...that seems to work.

I think the key is to approach one aspect of the story at a time, not to try to do it all. Our readers will read it all at once, but they will not be able to tell whether you put that description or character point in the first time you wrote the scene or on the nth revision. (I think of the process of going back and adding stuff as "weaveing" Taking dropped threads and weaving 'em back in.)

Don't know if that makes sense, much less helps, but...
[User Picture]
From:cdenmier
Date:January 28th, 2010 09:18 pm (UTC)

Re: Editing...yuck!

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I like the image of weaving. Sometimes I view it more like surgery--I'm a pack rat by nature and whenever I take something out I have the strong urge to put it back into the text somewhere...when sometimes it should just be thrown out. Probably contributes to the feeling of juggling too many pieces.

The scenes that come out the best -- at least in writing them the first time through -- are the ones that are as you say: simple plot points or descriptions that I've held in front of my mind's eye like a painting...mulling on them, reflecting, capturing every aspect and then pouring out the words. I'll try the same calm approach to editing and see if it helps!
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