Monday, April 15, 2013

"If you don't like something, change it..."

"If you don't like something change it; if you can't change it, change the way you think about it."
~Mary Engelbreit

As writers we all know the jewels are in the editing, and what is editing - but change. When we write, we want to capture the scene, the mood, the senses and move the story forward. But, sometimes we repeat phrases or words because the story is flowing onto the page and the muse is hot. Hopefully.

My philosophy is to let it flow! You can always change it later. Get the bones set on the page, hopefully with a bit of meat, then flesh it out more later. (I know I just mixed my metaphors, but...I can edit it later.)

When I first started taking my craft seriously and spending every waking moment writing (outside of the day job, of course), I longed to be able to pen something perfect the first time. Once in awhile writers get lucky and the phrase turns to a nice golden brown and poof! It's fabulous the first time. But only "once in awhile." Most of the thousands of words we write in that first draft suffer from passivity, repetitiveness (there I go again) and two dimensions only.

I think I read somewhere that Hemingway would edit one page more than twenty times before he would move onto the next one. That happened to me with the first chapter of "Feisty Family Values." In essence, I was stuck. So, after weeks of worrying over those first pages I decided to move on with the story. Good thing, or it would never have gotten written.

With "Patchwork Family" I wrote in chronological order and when I got it all down to a fairly satisfying conclusion, it was time to edit. Over. And Over. And Over again. And no doubt the publisher will find something else that should be tweaked here and there, so it's not done changing yet.

Sometimes the story doesn't go the way you first anticipated. I've gotten totally derailed and ended up with a different genre, focusing on the secondary character, and basically had to start over. Those detours can be interesting and help you build your "world" and "characters", but they are not always what the story is or should be about.

I recommend you keep the snippets you remove, they might work somewhere else. And if the story totally changes, keep the earlier version, just add something to the title that reminds you why it's still in the folder and not on the publishers desk. You might want to mine it for other jewels on your next story.

These days "change 'r us" and we have to learn to go with it. It's hard, I know. We get into a routine or expect a certain outcome and if it doesn't happen that way, well, let's just say - enjoy the journey. Those detours might just give you the inspiration you need to write your best story yet!


Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Bonnie,

Honestly, I love writing. It makes me feel really good to be creative. The revision is the hard part. And everything I write seems to need it.
I do agree with you though, we should be uncritical as we write and just let the work flow. Plenty of time for change and corrections.

June Shaw said...

I agree that we should get it down, and yes, parts we remove might be used later.

Ellen Larson said...

Happy to hear you urging multiple revisions. As a substantive fiction editor, I know I'm facing a long haul when a client says they've been through their book three times and think it's ready to go. BTW, self-editing is not something that is easy to do or obvious. You have to learn how to do it, and the hardest part is getting distance from your own story.

BDTharp said...

Thanks for the comments Jacqui & June. Sometimes editing is harder than other times. Enjoy the journey ladies!

BDTharp said...

Ellen, you are so right. It is hard to self-edit and get distance. We are so close to our stories, they are our babies, nobody wants to think that their baby is ugly and needs work. But they do!

Mary F. Schoenecker said...

Edit, revise and re-write.Yes, yes and yes. The writer's life is not complete without that threesome. Thanks for sharing.

BDTharp said...

Hi Mary. The big "3" we must remember - edit, revise, rewrite. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

Susan Oleksiw said...

A good reminder that we need to get the story down before we can work on it. Done is better than perfect--at least in getting a first draft. Good post.

Carole Price said...

My husband is a great editor (after my critique group has seen it), but five drafts later I finally sent it off to Five Star a week ago with hope and prayers they will offer me another contract for the second book in my Shakespeare in the Vineyard series. When I finished editing, I wanted to run away and never look at it again.

BDTharp said...

Thanks, Susan.

Carole, you're so lucky to have an editor in your family. Good luck with the second book.