"what's your editing process?" // how i go through drafts

7:00 AM


You were all just dying to know how I go about editing/revising/going through multiple drafts, I know you were.


Recently I did a livestream on Instagram (which was super fun, and something I'd like to do again), and a friend used that time to ask me what my editing process was like. Do I rewrite drafts totally? Do I just make edits in the same document? What do I do from draft 1 to draft 100000? How do I make my story suck less and what does that process look like?

Today I will illustrate that for you.
shawn spencer is a great illustration of how i approach this thing
Unfortunately, I can't leave it at that, because you'll want an actual post with actual explanations of things. ugh. so much work.
 

This can best be described as a natural disaster. And also my favorite part. I've usually had the idea in my head for a while, and I don't try to plan, I don't try to outline it, I just let that first draft happen. I just write the words. Sometimes they're off-topic words. 99% of the time they're messy words. But words happen. I break my wrists. I live off of caffeine. Basically I turn into a writing machine with no thought for the consequences and I let myself totally fall in love with the story and write all the words and all that good stuff. 

And then I stop. 

And I have 70-90k words. 

Awful horrible messy words that belong in a trash fire. But words. The story isn't as glamorous from a distance, but I don't really study it that much. I close out of the document, go outside for the first time in a month, binge-watch a show to catch up, shower, let my friends know I'm not dead, and chill for a little bit. Preferably with books. Because more words definitely solves the overload. 


With fear, trembling, more caffeine, and a Spotify playlist full of pump-up tunes, I cautiously approach Google Docs. It's time for


Also known as my least favorite draft.

This is where I'm at now, and this one is always the hardest. I have to take a long hard look at the story and the first draft I fell in love with and realize that...it sucks. There's never any plot. The characters I adore are flat and boring. Did I mention there's no plot? Half the novel is notes to myself or ranting about how I don't want to be writing right now. It's torture. I don't even read through it, usually. I take a quick skim through to update myself, and then I get straight to work. 

Are there people who edit the first draft straightaway? Are there people who don't close out of it in horror and open up a fresh document instead? Are you one of those people? Tell me, and tell me your ways and the nature of your insanity, because I don't freaking understand that at all. My first drafts are trash. Garbage. Beautiful garbage, that I usually don't regret, but garbage. And they need total overhauls. 

I close out of the first draft, take a scroll through the Pinterest board for inspiration, and open up a new document. This time I write a little more slowly, a little more carefully, working out plot points before I write them, trying to push the scenes and concepts and idea of the story that I hit upon in the first draft into something, you know, coherent. It definitely isn't perfect, and it usually takes me the longest out of any draft, because I'm restructuring everything and making it new. Characters usually still aren't the way I want them. when are they ever? This is just me processing what went down in draft 1, figuring out what works and what doesn't, trying to condense all that into an actual story with some kind of plot so I can work with it a little better. 

Easy stuff like that. 
i am never closer to leslie knope than when i'm in this stage of drafting
And then... 

AKA "drafts 3-who-even-knows-anymore because Aimee is now too busy weeping to do anything coherent." 

This is the stage of taking draft 2, the actual story, and MAKING IT INTO SOMETHING THAT DOESN'T SUCK. The only thing I have done this with is Pariah. I think we made it through that stage in one piece, but just barely. 

Right now, I'm still pretty much doing full re-writes. Some scenes or chapters will be kept, but mostly I finish a draft, squint at it, throw out everything but the few bits I decide to keep, and rewrite it. It's not the most efficient system and it needs more work as I go, but hey, that's what happened so that's my experience so far. Lots of weeding through the crap and throwing out a little bit less each time (hopefully) and cutting the story down into what it's supposed to be. 

I still don't know how I made it past that stage. 


Self-explanatory. 

Inevitably my own writing and re-writing and constant dissatisfaction with this story not living up to its potential leads to an inevitable breakdown due to caffeine abuse, carpal tunnel, and high expectations, and I close out all the documents for like three weeks and give up. 

This story sucks.

I am never coming back to this story. Ever ever ever. This story is horrible. How could I ever think it was decent. I'm blocked forever, because it's not any good, clearly, and the characters can't carry it, and there's no way this could ever work, and the plot doesn't make sense because it never did and never will, and it's a big ginormous failure and I'm done with it and I'm never coming back to it ever again amen.
and in that moment i am matt murdock always
I put on sweatpants, eat a carton of ice cream, and watch the entirety of The Office again while weeping into my pillow while I ignore the story and still add stuff to the Pinterest board.


Basically here I am post-neverevergettingbacktogether Taylor Swift. 

We are totally getting back together. The Pinterest board is too enticing and I miss those characters, yo. They're tugging on my sleeves demanding I come back to them RIGHT NOW so they don't distract me forever. 
"COME BACK TO MEEEE"
I have rediscovered some scrap of love for the story and, because I hate myself, I accept the suckiness and dive right back in. With Pariah this was successful. Who knows about the future of other stories. I made it with sheer determination and stubborness and also people on Twitter yelling at me to let me read it more. (This is also the stage where I acquire beta readers, and they encourage me and rip my soul out with a spoon at the same time. Love you guys.)

At this point...I'm not exactly totally rewriting. it's lots of tinkering and experimenting and editing with what I have...until one day, maybe I'll get this right. 

Maybe. 

It's a tricky process. 



Lots of rewriting goes into my editing/revision process. It's a lot of experimenting and throwing words out there and sometimes giving up taking breaks so I can refresh myself and binge watch collect inspiration.

Lots of suffering. 

Lots of naps. 

how do you go about edits and revisions? does it take you nearly as long? do you rewrite or mostly just edit what you already have? tell me all.

7 comments

  1. Oh man, I don't know how you even do this. As I just recently(ish) got back into writing after ignoring it for a long time, figuring out how to survive editing has been fun, especially since I'm a complete failure when it comes to consistent writing habits. I'll write half of a draft, forget about it, come back to it a month later, scrap it, and rewrite it. Oh well, you just have to keep going, right? Anyway, kudos to you for getting so far with Pariah! That's super hard, and you're awesome.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Are you going to hate me if I tell you my process is a lot more simple than yours? I've only completed one novel, but with that one, I wrote the entire thing by hand and then when I typed it on the computer (chapter by chapter) I made little tiny edits like word choices. Then, when I was finished, I took a long break. Then I edited the first draft for grammar, sentence structure, word choice, and all that. Then I took all the feedback I'd received from my readers, double checked it one more time, and sent it to a publisher (whom I have not heard back from). But as simple as this may sound, I still hate editing *angry face*

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I meant I took the feedback and rewrote some scenes and fixed plot points and such

      Delete
  3. My drafts #1 and #2 are basically IDENTICAL to yours. So obviously we are doing it right *flips hair majestically* My first drafts are beyond trash. I mean, there's a few scenes and lines I love, but otherwise draft #2 involves rewriting every. single. word. 😭😂 And then after draft #2, I go for betas because the story generally now has a backbone. Then I draft #3 is more like editing. Honestly it's not so bad after draft #2 (which is hell, we've established) for me because either I never get there (HAHAHAH) or else I have a really clear idea of what needs to be worked on. Aaanyway. I love your outline of your process. THIS IS GLORIOUS. SO MUCH EXISTENTIAL WRITER CRISES FOR WE WRITER BEANS.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I loved reading this. A LOT. I haven't really edited in full scale yet (looking SOO forward to it), but I've presumed that it's not the most fun part of writing. >_< OH WELL. It was so cool to see how you do it! THAT MIGHT BE HOW MINE ENDS UP TOO, TBH. This first draft is looking pretty crazy.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I LOVED READING THIS! I'm finally working on a novel that I think is going to get past a first draft, and I'm really excited about it:) It was so cool to see how you do this!

    ReplyDelete
  6. It's always nice to hear about other people's editing woes so we writers know we're not alone. xD No matter how you go through revisions, I think we can all agree it's awful. Horrible. Absolutely, horrendously, soul-crushing. And yet we do it anyways. (Why? Cause we're gluttons for pain.)

    My first drafts take freaking forEVER to write, because I'm a nit-picky author who can't make it past one sentence if it isn't positively glowing with prose. Ugh. I need to cure myself of this habit, because it's not healthy. But since I write so slowly and meticulously with most projects, it doesn't usually need a gigantic overhaul by the end (or so I think). It's less major plot revisions and more line edits. But this isn't true at all for my NaNoWriMo books, because WHAT EVEN HAPPENS IN THOSE THIRTY DAYS. HELL, THAT'S WHAT.

    Best of luck to you with your editing!

    ReplyDelete

hey. hey. talk to me. i'm a fan of comments and flailing with you. go for it.