Sometimes it is difficult to know.
What starts out as a simple search and destroy for typos can suddenly become a revision of a clumsy scene which can soon morph into an entire rewrite of an act of a novel. I think the problem here comes from not being able to focus on only one aspect of the writing at a time.
For me, I like to start with the big stuff and work my way down to the small. While I’ll correct typing errors as I see them and move punctuation that is truly being offensive, editing the nitty-gritty is kind of the last ditch run through, mostly because if I revise or rewrite I know I’m just going to put more errors into the text.
So I begin with the rewrites. I may stay in the rewriting stage for the rest of forever with some manuscripts. Rewrites, for me, are the massive changes. The adding characters, taking them out, changing direction entirely, cutting scenes, adding scenes, moving scenes. All of the things that give you a huge headache when it comes to checking for continuity errors and will usually have you rewriting chapter after chapter to accommodate the change you made way back in the beginning.
Then I revise. These are the more surgical changes. Adding an emphasis here, changing the wording of that exchange of dialogue there, altering a description in that chapter. Sometimes these have carry on effects but normally it is just tightening up the overall story that has already been rewritten (many times) and checked for continuity.
Then, should I have made it this far and not put the project aside, comes the editing.
Still, despite wanting to work from one layer down to the next, down to the next, I end up jumping back and forth between the three.
How does your process for revisions work?
I’m not using it and I haven’t referred to it – but a plan exists. Surely that counts for something.
In case you are wondering what I am talking about, it is the old to plan or not to plan argument in writing. As always, I outline, know where I want to go, and then dutifully ignore any of it and write whatever anyway. From the number of unfinished projects I have stacking up, this may not be the most effective method, but it works for me. I don’t want to lock myself in if I’m not feeling the characters lead me in a certain direction. And I don’t want to be endlessly worried that they haven’t progressed as neatly from point a to point b as I would have liked.
I love to write. I love words. If I can eventually tidy them up enough to make a story, great. If not, I’ll have enjoyed the writing anyway and maybe at some future time I’ll return to the story and figure it all out.
That’s kind of what’s happened at the moment.
I came across a fairly old story (in fact I don’t remember when I started it). I didn’t even have it on my computer any more. I only had the paper copy I printed out. It wasn’t finished and as I was reading it I realised I really wanted to know where this story ended. Only I didn’t remember.
Fortunately I also printed out the plan and included it in the file.
Unfortunately having just read the first act of the story, I realised why I abandoned it. The plan didn’t make any sense. There were entire sub-plots that were clearly leading to X but just didn’t appear in the plan at all. The main character was clearly not motivated by D but by P and those two characters over there were as likely to be conspiring as a spider with a fly. I’d had a plan but the way I’d written that first act just made the plan entirely irrelevant. The story was better than the original plan and the characters a great deal more interesting but it made the second act almost impossible to write without an entire overhaul of the over all goal of the story.
So now I need to figure out where the story should be going and how I’m going to get it there and maybe, just maybe, I’ll get it written. I’m not going to commit myself to it but I have a strong feeling that I’m going to spend quite a number of sleepless nights thinking about it in the near future.
It is an old argument; should we write on the computer or write by hand? Honestly it comes down to whatever works for you. My first manuscript was nearly entirely written by hand in the first draft and was typed out several years later and has since undergone a massive restructuring but some of the original lines have stuck all the way through, which is nice. I haven’t tried to duplicate the effort since it is much easier to edit if I just type it out to begin with. Here are my 5 reasons to type rather than handwrite.
1. I can type much faster than I can write. Much, much faster than I can write and I can almost always read the results.
2. I can type without looking at anything in particular so I can shut my eyes and go for it. I cannot write by hand with my eyes shut. This helps me to focus on the story I am writing and to visualise the scene I’m trying to describe or the character I’m currently introducing.
3. It is harder to lose information. Not impossible – we all know computers crash, break and fail massively, but it is harder to lose things. I have at least three copies of most data and I make sure I regularly back everything up so I’m not too worried about losing entire drafts. I have misplaced notebooks and entire print outs of drafts though. That is quite annoying. Plus my cat eats paper (not joking) and it is really hard to edit a manuscript with a cat trying to eat the page you are reading.
4. Spell check. No, you should not rely entirely on spell check as it has quite a few issues but it does catch the out right silly errors that you make while typing quickly with your eyes shut. Spell check is definitely a friend.
5. As I said in the introduction – editing. So much easier to make changes and adjustments on the screen then in a note book. By the time you cross this, circle that, draw arrows indicating where that should go, and you get to your twentieth footnote, the notebook becomes unreadable.
These are my 5 reasons as to why I type instead of hand write (for the most part). What are yours? Or do you still hand write?