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I've been quite active on here recently, mainly because the alternative is actually sitting down and editing my manuscript a process I dislike a lot. Writing is fun, fluid, dynamic and engaging, editing is tedious, self-critical, occasionally destructive and uninspiring..

Therefore I procrastinate whereby even cleaning the toilet, washing the car in the rain, or taking a call from an energy provider who wants me to switch, become overwhelmingly appealing. 

Reading some of the posts on here leads me to believe that many share my reluctance. Some will procrastinate over the big picture stuff like editing, characterization, or story construction - others over which verb to use or where to put a comma. (such small detail procrastinators will take 5 times as long to finish a manuscript but will spend 10 times less editing it!)

One great thing about editing - which is probably the only reason I end up doing it - is when I spot an opportunity to introduce a new character or a new scene. Then it's back to the tedium or more often than not Jericho Townhouse!!

Anyone have any tips on how to focus on the endless editing process? 


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  • One option - derived from the rewrite method I am using on my work - would be to take a scene at a time, analyse it, understand what it is trying to do, its purpose within the story, thensummarise that: very short sentences outlining the beats - actions, what is being said (or what is being implied through subtext), etc. Then, put the old version aside an rewrite just that scene to the plan.

    This way, your editing is largely the free-writing you like, but because you're doing it to a plan, you'll basically come up with something closer to what you want to say. And, hopefully, tighter.

    Of course, it might not work for you…

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    • When I get down to serious editing, I actually don't edit the manuscript.  I rewrite it.  Kind of like Rick's version above only taken to the extreme.  Since I use Microsoft 365, I open the original document and a fresh blank.  I slap the finished to the right pane, the blank to the left and I start all over.  I read from the original and type it into the blank document.  Only now, I can see all the little mistakes I've made (my big hangups that drive me nuts are thing/think, and adding an 'e' at the end of 'th' words).  This lets me see the story that I wrote from the perspective of knowing the exact ending, the exact journey to get there, and the exact character changes that go on.  Not only can I tighten up my dialogue, description, and text, I can add more foreshadowing and other tools that will enrich the story.  And instead of reading and typing and backspacing and slapping myself in the head, I just write the story anew, with a great template to guide me.

      I don't know if that will help but it helps me a lot.

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      • This is really interesting for me, Danny. I find myself in kind of the opposite position to you. The editing bit fills me with a mad kind of joy. It makes me rub my hands together and grin maniacally. Conversely, getting the first draft out of my head (where it's obviously perfect) and onto the page (where it's obviously a load of crap) is more painful for me. I don't hate it, but it's not my favourite part. 

        What I do is every certain amount of first draft vomit I manage to spew forth, I reward myself with one editing pass of the previous chapter. (Not more or I'd get stuck there in the fun of editing). Can you do the opposite and reward yourself with some fresh writing after you edit every however many words? Might work if you have a second project on the go, for example?

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        • Me too!

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          • I really like this idea! Thank you. :)

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            • LOL Marianne - that's wonderful - we should collaborate you love what I hate and I love what you hate - my marriage is like that at times lol!

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            • I really dislike editing 1st person to 3rd, or visa versa, but I really don't do that much editing anymore, just spell checking, and grammar. Like Oscar Wilde said, I spent most of the day putting in a comma, and the rest of it taking it out. 

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              • Hi Danny.

                I have harped on this subject before. Editing is a lot easier if you write, let's say a chapter at a time, in Prowritingaid.com  or a similar tool. It won't correct description issues or lack of character development, but it will ensure you have a clean document re grammer, punctuation, sticky sentences, passive writing, repeats, diction, cliches and much other stuff. When you finish your writing, just export to word, format as you wish, then start your editing. Soooo much easy to see issues when your document is already clean.

                If you wish, write 500 words, export, then another 500. If you do this, the service is free. I can't describe how much it has helped me. 

                Once you finish, say 3000 words for the first chapter, then sit and read the whole thing. You will be surprised how easy it as and many of your issues will disappear.

                I created a file for you with a screenprint of what Prowritingaid said about the blurb I wrote and you guys helped me with. The aid made four suggests, all of which I accepted as improving the text.

                I hope this helps, Rob

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                • Thanks Robert I'll certainly give this a try.

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                  • I've recently purchased this. It really works for me. As you say, it doesn't help with the heart and soul of the story but saves time and brainpower on the technicalities.

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                  • What always amazes me if just how much crap there is in my brain n the first place. The worrying thing is it never appears to diminish.

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                    • I don't like to leave a chapter until it totally works and I've made the prose as good as I can get it. I know I'll be able to improve it further later but I can't face the thought of 90,000 words needing renovation from the ground up all waiting for me at the end. I also take the view that the harder I push as I go, the more I'll learn and the better my writing.

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                      • There's probably some sort of middle ground.  I tend to do a bit of tension of previous chapters to kick start my writing and then get down to the new stuff.

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                        • That should of course be revision.  A pox on all predictive text.

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                        • I've got to the stage that I'm a bit like, Paul, I edit the previous chapter as I'm re-writing the second draft (I don't edit in my first draft because I write that quickly knowing full well the language will be garbage and am only checking for structure and plot). My last editing nightmare took me 4 years and I'm not doing that again - that book still needs work! My current WIP is going more smoothly and cleanly and I feel more confident that when I get to the end it will not be a terrible mess

                          Procrastination - this is me procrastinating but to be fair I am still firmly in my writerly world so I'm ok with that ;)

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                          • I frequently feel as though I'm going around in circles. Each day's work saved with the date in a new file. Then wrack my brains to try and find the part I cut a couple of weeks earlier and realise it wasn't such a bright idea. As to Danny's question, 'Anyone have any tips on how to focus on the endless editing process'   Make it worse by having a couple of G&Ts or wine. Tends to inspire some creative solutions. But remember to write them down!!

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