I confess…I can’t NOT edit as I write.
That’s right. I used a double negative, on purpose.
Decades of typing and self-edit backspace/re-type actions have rendered me unable to leave the uglies on the page and move forward. I’m not talking about the typos and missing commas, the usual flubs.
During NaNoWriMo¹ one year, one suggestion was to not even correct bad sentences, but simply continue on and write them another way, leaving the bad sentence there to pad word count. I couldn’t do it. It made me feel so uncomfortable that it actually slowed down my productivity.
If my brain supplies a better verb, a stronger metaphor, a more accurate descriptor, I’ve got to insert it right then. Otherwise, I worry about forgetting that better word and lose my overall objective for the piece I’m writing. I can’t leave XXX as a placeholder and fix it during edits after the story has been told. My mind fixates on that XXX. I have to go figure out what XXX is. Is it the hero’s car, the heroine’s favorite drink, the name of a business? For me, every detail such as that factors into the story.
If the hero drives a mint condition vintage Mustang, he’s likely a very different guy than one who drives a battered old ranch truck. Every piece of information about him gives me (and the reader) a more accurate picture of his essence.
Is the heroine’s favorite drink a pomegranate martini or two fingers of scotch, neat? Is the business name whimsical, like say, The Panty Shanty, or is it stuffy, as in Berdorf, Mauer and Smith? You see what I mean? Details matter.
Recently, I read an article by Valerie Comer on her blog, How To Write A Story where she talked about plotting methods. Pantsers and plotters are terms bandied about frequently, but this piece dealt with five methods of how the writer gets words on the page:
- Headlighter and
Well, hello! In ten years of writing, I hadn’t heard about those last two methods of plotting. When others talked about dirty first drafts with an outline or vomiting on the page, the descriptions made me cringe. I figured I was mostly a pantser, but not exactly, so probably a Tweener.
The way I write, I’m constantly correcting and editing as I go. Sure, we all do that to some extent, correcting typos and such, but I rephrase, question the length of sentences and watch to make sure I’ve not started six sentences in a row with the same pronoun (or used some superfluous word, like “really,” 1000 times).
For me, putting a book together is like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. A 5000 piece jigsaw puzzle. There are many elements and they all must fit together to create the whole. When I sit down to write, I re-read the last scene or even a couple of chapters so that what I create after it flows well with what is already there. During the read, I’m looking to make sure everything is still working, that my characters sound like themselves, that I haven’t gone off on a tangent or forgotten the intent of a scene while writing it. I correct and tweak a word, a sentence, or punctuation here and there.
Valerie said this about Polishing:
It’s doubtless the slowest method of getting to the end of a first draft but, in theory, subsequent drafts are quick and relatively painfree.
Finally. I feel like I just clicked the last piece of that jigsaw into place and now I have a whole picture.
If you’re a writer, do you know what method of plotting you use? Have you heard of five methods, or just the first three?
If you’re a reader, do you even care about what method a writer uses to get to the end product–a book for you to read? Does it interest you to learn about the process?