Thursday, June 28, 2007

Bits, Chunks, and Pieces (sounds like dog food)

There are few authors who are so blessed as to be able to sit down for eight hours a day and just write. Most of us grab what we can in bits and snatches, often between four or five other demands, and are lucky to get ten minutes at a time. It can be hard to bounce back and forth between writing and “real life” and then back to writing. We lose our place in the story, we forget what we were about to write when we were called away, and we forget what words we may have already used.

This is why it’s so important that when we read our WIP, we do it straight through. If I sit down on Tuesday and write two paragraphs, and then on Thursday, I write two paragraphs, I may not remember using the word “ardently” both times. But when I read it straight through, I’ll see “ardently” in both sets of paragraphs and I can remove one of them. (I’d actually remove both, because I’d never use “ardently,” but you do understand by now that my examples are always over the top, right?)

Last night I discovered a major chronology problem in my current WIP. The difficulty I’m facing is that I had originally written the book A, B, C, D, E, F, G. On the advice of persons who know better than myself, I moved D up to the front, got rid of A, and am piecing it all back together. So now I’m working on D, B, C, E, F, G. Because I yanked D out and stuck it in the front, I have to tweak E, because E was dependent on D, and with D in a different place, E now needs to stand on its own two feet. (Deep breath) So while I was blithely trotting along last night, editing, I realized that E needs serious help. But I wouldn’t have even noticed this major problem had I not immersed myself in it for over an hour.

The point I’m slowly getting to is this: when you’re editing, try to block out larger chunks of time. Maybe your spouse can hold the fort down with the kids for a few hours, or you can get up early or stay up late. If you edit in ten minute chunks, you’re going to miss a lot of the mistakes you made while you wrote in ten minute chunks.


Stephanie Black said...

Great blog, Tristi, even if bits, chunks, and pieces made me think of . . . well, it wasn't dog food!

For me, a rapid start-to-finish read-through is a vital part of editing. I get such a different view of the book when I read it as a whole, as opposed to moving slowly through it, drafting or editing. Pacing issues, timing issues and emotional consistency are some of the things that a quick read-through helps me spot.

Josi said...

Amen, I ALWAYS find problems in things that I truly thought were fine. But I move stuff around a lot. If I didn't do a read through, I'd be in trouble. Last time I started doing out loud read throughs and I noticed even more--even if I felt like an idiot.

Anna Maria Junus said...

And then it's really important to find someone else to read it for you. Someone who doesn't care about your feelings.

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