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> Glue And Scissors, Editing your work
Aaediwen 
Posted: 27-Mar-2005, 01:59 PM
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ZodiacHolly

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Ok, we've all been there eventually. Your mind wanders, so you write it down. You get a nice story idea on paper, but something seems to be missing. Or you've got more ideas in your head, but you don't know how they fit into the story. Do you add, do you remove?

What approaches do you take when making these decisions? My normal approach with poetry is to only change a word here and there unless there's something major missing, paying more attention to the meter of the piece than the content, since that was placed in the first or second draft. This story I'm working on though, has a different feel. I have ideas that happen during time gaps in the story. Adding them would help fill in the time, but I'm not sure how they would really move the story. This is making it difficult, now that I'm over a year into working on the story and just finished my second draft.

This is definately a challenging task. I'm not convinced the story is done, but I don't know what needs changing... What to cut, what to add...

Writer's Digest has been a help before, and I find myself looking there again now...


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Haldur 
Posted: 14-Apr-2005, 11:07 AM
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I find that just tucking the story away for a time (a day, two weeks, a year) and then returning back to it with feverish intent helps out a lot! This being said, I have a story in particular that I can go nowhere with at this point. I don't know if it's that I think it will never be completed or that I'm in a rut when it comes to writing. I have no idea. In fact, I've stopped worrying about it, here's why: I have about 20 drafts and I call them drafts because they're basically finished, but not. smile.gif

I think I have writer's block because everything I write seems like trite. What I've done here lately is go back to some of that material, keep the good, delete the not so good. So far it's worked very well because it not only lightens the load but it helps me to focus on one story at a time. I read it through, make my marks or whatever thanks to the backspace key, and then re-evaluate the piece one paragraph at a time. It can take some time, definitely not an overnight thing!

Good luck on your writing Aaediwen and welcome back from Erin!!!


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stoirmeil 
Posted: 26-Jul-2005, 11:31 AM
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This is a great topic, and a really practical one. Hope nobody minds if I bump it back up. I write some prose fiction (a good bit of it for younger readers) and a lot of non-fiction essay work (mostly my scholarly stuff in psychology -- a little criticism sometimes). I am not a poet. So that's the frame for these ideas.

I find (this is a little confessional, so I hope I don't sound like a neurotic wink.gif ) that I am scared to cut things once they come out, because I sometimes am surprised they came out at all, or in such detail. Not that I get blocked all that often -- fortunately I don't. But I guess I lack confidence in there always being more where that came from. . . Scots thrift, maybe.

So I will dupe files to operate on, while keeping original versions as they are. I find I can bring myself to be very ruthless once I know I have the original purple mess archived. I am very manic about labelling and dating versions, because of that. It used to be a lot harder when I was not using a computer, but now it's very automatic.

I like to "block" an idea into a plot line, or the argument structure if it's an essay, before actually writing (great believer in outlines and watching proportions of length and density), but sometimes the surface writing level starts to come spontaneously. I just let it flow, then drop it into a separate file and keep going with the task of the moment (which was blocking). In my paper and pencil life, or still now when I am out and and away from the computer, I use index cards with arrows and stars to show where something might be inserted later. (I always wrote like someone who should be word processing, so it came very naturally.) Never go out without a few pens and index cards.

There is a different quality, though, that I think needs to be taken into consideration, between hand writing and word processing. Typing is MUCH closer to the speed of my thinking. That's neither better nor worse, but different from hand writing. So sometimes I deliberately print out a draft and edit away from the computer, to get at the prose rhythms and sounds that tend to come out at that slower pace. (Once I wrote a little fairy tale just to test a new calligraphy pen, and the voice was almost unrecognizable as me! Something about the pace and motor involvement of forming the italic lettering. It was dry and a little dotty in tone, like a british aunty, which never came out of me spontaneously before or since. I really believe the writing instrument affects the writing.)

I'm kind of a kid about color-coding -- I love colored pens and papers and cards. Since the child in me is one of my bigger helpers in the process (she is clearly the cheerful optimist that never says "This is such crap I'm going to burn it"), I give her the colored toys. (We love stationery stores, and we usually spend too much money in them. smile.gif ) This is going to sound strange, but the access to a very young and direct version of myself also keeps me honest about word choices and what things to include (or cut) when describing emotional situations. I guess you could say the place where we keep snippets we're afraid to throw away is her messy toybox.

If I find I'm not in a new originating frame on any given day, I do housekeeping. I read the work aloud to myself, to check prose rhythm, vowel colors and sounds, and all that. I tend to write longer sentences than I need to, so I also play with different ways to cut things up. Always on a duped file, to get over the fear of losing things.

Lately I'm into playing with "sketching" stuff I don't really intend to use as is -- mostly character development, sometimes landscape or historical detail. Since I don't intend to use it as is -- not for popular consumption -- but it's only exercise, I very rarely get blocked. Sometimes good usable stuff comes out of that (dialogue, speech patterns).

The more I like what I'm doing, the more likely I am to print it out at stages, so I can drag drafts around with me and read them and mull over them. This gives me odd shots of confidence in non-writing contexts throughout the day, and lets me do my flip-flopping til it settles out (it's brilliant! It's crap! It's brilliant crap! No, it's plain crap. . . ) in a situation where I can't freeze cos I'm not really working.

If you tend to freeze up, you need to sneak up on yourself and "work" by not working in these little ways. It's a little like the idea that if sex is this big event with all kinds of preparation in a certain time and place, it produces more anxiety, but if it's little hints and looks and touches all day long, it takes away the performance anxiety.
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Aaediwen 
Posted: 26-Jul-2005, 06:09 PM
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ZodiacHolly

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Sounds like you do enjoy the whole process smile.gif I agree though. You never want to get rid of anything. I like the flexability of some word processing applications to save drafts and notes in line with the current text. Although I don't always trust saving the draft... smile.gif
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Haldur 
Posted: 26-Jul-2005, 07:03 PM
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Sometimes you've gotta kill your "babies" (not real ones with diapers, but in essence your "draft")

Sometimes, it hurts.
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stoirmeil 
Posted: 27-Jul-2005, 10:10 AM
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ZodiacBirch

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QUOTE (Haldur @ 26-Jul-2005, 09:03 PM)
Sometimes you've gotta kill your "babies" (not real ones with diapers, but in essence your "draft")

Sometimes, it hurts.

Mmmm. . . it might be symbolically necessary for an individual to do that deliberately. I can see where that might happen. For me, the ones that are going to die usually dry up and fall off the branch spontaneously, without my needing to pluck them off and fling them, and when they do I have no lingering regrets about composting them. Strictly a matter of personal comfort, I think.

(I would probably be a terrible keeper of apple trees. biggrin.gif )

I like the idea of an application that lets you run draft material and notes together with the current version -- in separate windows, huh? Have you done that? What is the name of the program?
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Meryat 
Posted: 27-Jul-2005, 10:24 AM
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When editting prose, I generally find the most useful thing to be leaving it alone for a sufficient amount of time that I can read what I wrote and not what I think I wrote. This helps in both finding things that are unnecessarily wordy or out of place and need to be changed or removed and in finding places where there is a gap where ideas are missing or could be added. (I suspect this is a fairly common mode of operation.)

I would actually suggest, if you happen to be using a fairly recent version of Microsoft Word, tracking changes to the document, saving each draft as its own file, and accepting all the changes left from the old draft when you start working on the new one. That way, you end up with all of the changes you've made at each stage marked. An alternate is to change the user name with each draft so that different changes are marked in different colors.

Poetry, on the other hand, I generally tweak all at once until it feels right, then leave it alone unless I come up with something later that's a vast improvement that still fits the original feel of the poem.
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Aaediwen 
Posted: 27-Jul-2005, 05:31 PM
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ZodiacHolly

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QUOTE (stoirmeil @ 27-Jul-2005, 12:10 PM)

I like the idea of an application that lets you run draft material and notes together with the current version -- in separate windows, huh? Have you done that? What is the name of the program?

See Meryat's note on achieving these results in Microsoft word. My word processor of choice is OpenOffice.org (www.openoffice.org).

The two programs share a lot in common, while OpenOffice is an open source 70 MB download versus the $600 3 CD package that is Microsoft Office.
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stoirmeil 
Posted: 28-Jul-2005, 08:59 AM
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ZodiacBirch

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What she's describing actually reminds me of the redline/blackline process I've used as a legal proofreader to track changes in a developing contract or lease. We were trained to do it by hand, but there have been programs developed to do it automatically.

This is really exciting, to share ideas with people who are actively writing. I've had a few new ideas since I came in here, and the idea of having people to bounce them off is inspiring in its own way too. (I've always either worked alone or with just one trusted sparring partner I knew in college. smile.gif )
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Aaediwen 
Posted: 28-Jul-2005, 05:04 PM
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ZodiacHolly

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I hear ya on that! I worked for years feeling like I was writing in a vaccum. I had no help, and what little support I got came from family. Although they supported the idea of me writing, I don't think they really understood it and almost certainly weren't the best source for constructive feedback.
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