Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My thoughts on editing and critique partners

When I started writing my first book, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn't know how to format anything, how to indent every time my characters talked, how to do a page break at a chapter end. I wasn't even sure how to write a compelling, real character. And don't even get me started on setting. I can't describe things creatively to save my life!

So basically, I was pretty much clueless.

We won't talk about my second book, but my third, Not Your Average Fairy Tale, I finally figured something out. There were plot holes, grammar mistakes, too many commas and overused words. But I couldn't see them, since I'd written the darn thing. I knew I had to get a critique partner to look over my stuff. So, I started looking and I found Katie. Oh, Katie, how I love you. She read through my first couple chapters and let me know what I needed to work on. Even though I was so scared to even have her read it, I loved the feedback and advice she gave me. It made my book so much stronger. And I actually knew what to look for and what to watch out for. Since then I've gained quite a few crit partners and some readers. I love them all. Their advice is invaluable. Seriously. If you don't have a crit partner, get one! It changed my writing life.

I've finished four books now. Three and a half of them I edited while I wrote. Which I will never do again. It took me FOREVER. Going through every sentence while I wrote, making sure they sounded good enough to move on to the next chapter or page. My brain finally go to the point where I stressed myself out every time I sat down at the computer. I couldn't edit and write at the same time. (If you remember how many issues I had with my book Bound ... Half of it had to do with editing as I was writing and not knowing where to go with the story.) All the stress drained my creativity. Until I realized I had a writing brain and an editing brain and they couldn't work at the same time. :)

Anyway, my WIP has been totally different. I'm getting the whole story out. Not editing one bit. It has been so much better for me. I'm learning to love writing again. To love getting the words out there and not worrying about if they make sense or not right now. First drafts always need work. ALWAYS.

My editing process has also changed. With this book I'll have 2 or 3 betas read through my rough draft. Pick out plot holes, confusing things, whatever. Then I'll go back and fix things. Line edit. Look for things like overused words and get rid of those nasty phrases I tend to use over and over and over. (My characters like to sigh a lot. And do a fair amount of chuckling. And search each other's faces. FYI.) Then I'll send it to my agent, get his thoughts. Then revise and send it out to my readers and fix all the little things. Sound fun? Yes. Yes it does. I'm so excited for this book I can hardly stand it! :)

But I'm not worrying about all the little things right now. When I get the story I want written, then I'll go back and change what needs to be changed. I'll freak out about people reading my book and not liking it. Stress about how to describe a certain thing without sounding stupid. But for now, I'm just enjoying the story. Loving my characters, and having so much fun thinking of things to throw at them. :)

How do you guys write? Edit while you go along? Get the whole draft out first?

30 comments:

Read my books; lose ten pounds! said...

I have a good good friend who loves my books. I send her my books chapter by chapter and I get an email on what she thought after each one. It helps me keep going and finish the book and she makes my books so much better.

She isnt always kind either, which is super helpful!

Charlotte said...

Great post! Very interesting. I know exactly what you mean about overusing certain things- my characters shake and nod their heads at least once a page :). I'm not too bad at getting the balance of editing/writing. I'll generally write a chapter, read over it a couple of times, change anything that's glaringly obvious, and then make myself move on. Though I do know the desire to edit and re-edit and then re-edit some more. I'm very, very shy about showing my work to anyone. It took me about five complete drafts to show my first manuscript just to my mum, let alone anyone else. Generally the only people who see my work are family and close friends, and whilst they're willing to read it, they know as little about how to edit and improve a book as I do to write one, so I can definitely see the benefit of a crit partner who knows what they're doing. Anyway, sorry, that was a very long comment!

Ann said...

I have a tendency to edit as I go. I have been trying to just write and not go back over every sentence and edit it before moving on. I don't have a critique. partner...probably because I cannot reciprocate. Not good at the critiquing anyone.

Abby said...

I love your posts. They are always so helpful. I think part of my problem with my YA attempts is that I feel like I need to edit certain things and then I just think I need to start all the way over and then I totally re-plot and whoa! It's ridiculous. I am trying to let go of thinking it is going to be great after the first draft - forget about editing and then go back and fix things after its complete. So glad you shared this.

Reece said...

This is a wonderful post! I don't edit grammar or punctuation as I go, but I'm constantly editing my diction and syntax. I HATE it! I'll write a sentence, rearrange it, rewrite it, then sit for 45 minutes trying to come up with the perfect wording to get across my meaning. It's the most frustrating thing in the world, but I CAN'T STOP! Is there a 12-step process for people like me?

Angie Cothran said...

I have a writing brain and an editing brain too. But I never hold back when I'm doing a first draft I just go wild. I figure I can always edit latter, but sometimes I can't recapture that creative bug.

Who is your agent and when does your book come out? I'm so excited for you.

linda said...

I'm working on my first project so I'm still trying to figure out the best process for me. I think it'd be hard for me not to edit anything when I write. Not ready for a critique partner yet, but I think it'd be fun to swap critiques. :)

Cynthia Lee said...

Chantele, do you have any advice on getting a crit partner? I need one in a big way but have no idea where to find one.

Steph Sinkhorn said...

I definitely have to get the draft out first. I might do some brief editing while I'm drafting, but if I get bogged down, I'll never get back out again. So, draft first, then edits to fix overreaching plot/characterization/continuity issues, then betas.

Jess said...

Awesome post! I have to write the whole first draft before I start editing, otherwise I'll get frustrated with myself and say 'oh my gosh this story is so boring'.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I used to edit as I wrote. I'd finish a few pages then type them into the computer, editing every line. Now I just writer straight through. It's liberating!

Jessie Oliveros said...

Whole draft first with some minor editing to move forward and make it somewhat cohesive. I'm no good at the next step, though...the real editing. I don't like to send my roughest of roughs out to betas really until I've had another go through...whether it be a rewrite or edits. And that just takes forever. My method is really just awful.

Chantele Sedgwick said...

@Read my books; lose ten pounds! I send every single thing I write to both of my sisters. They tell me what is working and anything that doesn't make sense. I always have them screen everything I write. ;) It's nice when they are totally honest as well. I don't need everything sugarcoated, you know?
@CharlotteI used to write a chapter and go back over it a couple of times, but like I said, I have either editing brain or writing brain. I can't do both at the same time anymore. ;) And I like long comments! You're good! :D
@Ann I didn't use to be very good at critiquing. But, I'm learning as I go. I'm getting a lot better thanks to my own crit partners. :)
@Abby Thank you, Abby! The same thing doesn't work for everything, you know? Some people edit while they write, others do it different. As long as you do what works for you, you'll be fine! And I want to read your YA fantasy. I can't wait to see what you come up with!
@Reece Thanks, Reece! I'm glad you're back in the blogging world! :D And I had to do a 12 step process. It took me a long time to figure out I didn't need to edit while I wrote. It's still hard sometimes, but I make myself focus and resist the urge. Sometimes if I see a glaring error, I'll fix it, but most of the time I just keep writing. ;)
@Angie Cothran My agent is Dr. Uwe Stender at TriadaUS. I signed with him back in February. I'll let you know if I hear anything about my book! :)
@linda It was hard starting this book since I was so used to editing as I went along, but now I'm flying through the book and my stress level has gone down a ton. It works for me. ;) And editing while I wrote my other books worked for me then. Just depends on the book and your mood I guess! :D
@Cynthia Lee Two of my crit partners grew up near me, although we didn't know each other very well until now. My other ones, including betas, I met online. I just visited their blogs and stalked ... I mean, commented on their posts and stuff until they realized I wasn't going to leave them alone. He he. :) I've made some awesome friends that way. I'll think about your question and post about finding a crit partner next week! :D
@Steph Sinkhorn Agreed! I do go over it a few times before I send it out to Betas, but don't worry as much about typos and things. I usually fix them later. :)
@Jess Me too! If I edit while I write I get so bored! My creativity goes down the drain and I end up eating a gallon of ice cream instead. ;)
@L. Diane Wolfe It is, right? So liberating. :D
@Jessie Oliveros I do go back over my book when I finish the rough draft and do a read through. Just to make sure everything makes sense. At least to me. lol I think the way you edit is fine! Whatever works for you, works for you. You know?

Kelsey said...

I can't imagine life with my CP's now. Did I exist before I found them? I must have. It's all so hazy...

Sarah Pearson said...

With a first draft, I start at the beginning and don't stop until I get to the end. I can't do it any other way. It works brilliantly. Now, I just have to find a great way of editing...

I don't know if you've already heard of them but if you're writing a post about finding critique partners, there's a newish site called ladies who critique which might be worth checking out.

JEFritz said...

I tried editing as I went, but it slowed me down too much. I really need the whole first draft in front of me.

I'm glad you found a critique partner. Be sure not to let her go!

Phil said...

I like to plow through my first drafts without editing because it's better to have a complete product to edit. I can't believe you've written 4 books. Jealous!

Peggy Eddleman said...

My writing group meets weekly, and each week we submit a chapter to be critiqued. I love to get the critiques as I'm going, because a lot of times they find issues that help me avoid problems in future chapters. I don't edit as I go, though. I just file away the comments until the first draft is done.

Claire Lachance said...

I've spent a couple of months editing and it is really tough!

Nicole said...

I usually finish a draft before hitting the edits hard. Sometimes, I'll edit as I re-read if it's something that jumps out at me. Otherwise, I wait...it would drive me nuts to do line-edits everyday while writing. :)

Mel Fowler said...

Oh man I dont know what really is best. I am writing and editing at the same time and I am stuck in the first three chapters. I may just have to do what you say and write away, and edit later.

And, my first draft...I was clueless... I had no idea about things. :) Thanks for you post!

Gail Shepherd said...

Right on. I think figuring out the right mix of editing, self-editing, and beta readers takes some time, and may change from book to book.

Maggie said...

If I edit during writing, the creative process is sucked right out of me. I get stressed and end up hating my project. But if I just write (with very little looking back and reading) it flows well. Yes, when I re-read my rough draft I am disgusted at the pile of crud it is, but that's my start and then I work from there.

Stacy Henrie said...

My first book I edited while I went and it took a long time to finish. The others I've written and gone back to revise - I like that way MUCH better. Of course, I have to ignore the cries for perfection as I'm drafting, but it sure helps the creative flow to just get it down first.

Jenny S. Morris said...

I love Peggy's situation. I wish I had a group.

I edited during my process of writing my 2nd MS, but now that I'm editing that one from CP's comments, the other one I'm working on I'm just writing all the way through, no edits.

Chantele Sedgwick said...

@Kelsey I know, right? I don't know what I'd do without mine!
@Sarah Pearson Thank you so much for the critique site recommendation! I'll check it out!
@JEFritz Me too. Editing just slowed me down. It took me three books to figure that out. :)
@Phil Don't be too jealous. The first two books sucked rocks! ;)
@Peggy Eddleman I wish my writing group met weekly. Every two weeks is what we have going on right now. It is nice though. :)
@Claire Lachance Editing is super hard. I do like it, but it's SO time consuming.
@Nicole Great process you have. I do fix some things that jump out at me, but sometimes I just ignore it until later. :)
@Mel Fowler Try writing a chapter or two without editing. You might like it better! :)
@Gail Shepherd I agree. Mine usually changes as well. :)
@Maggie I agree. I ended up hating my second book because I edited as I went along. My others ones I got a little sick of, but didn't hate. I'm glad I changed tactics with my WIP. I still love this one. :)
@Stacy Henrie I like that way much better as well. Sometimes it's hard to keep writing and not fix things, but it's working out okay so far. :)
@Jenny S. Morris Isn't it awesome just writing without editing? I'm loving it so much better.

Jess said...

I definitely write while I edit, but I wish I didn't. I really does take for.ev.er... I'm really working on turning off my inner editor and just writing, but that inner editor is really stubborn. ;)

And I'm in your Fantasy 3 group from the Campaign, so I'm looking forward to getting to know you. I used to live in Utah, and I miss it like crazy!

Melanie Jacobson said...

I definitely started writing a billion percent faster when I quit editing as I went. But now, because I had 5000 words to goal and way more story I needed to tell, I stopped writing and went back to edit, intending only to pull out redundancies and maybe an unnecessary subplot, plus change up the pacing. But I'm getting distracted by line edits. Ugh. You'd think after five manuscripts I'd know my process. Nope. I still don't.

Katie Dodge said...

Oh my gravy, you are the best! I hope you know the feelings are mutual! :D

Chantele Sedgwick said...

@Jess My inner editor was VERY stubborn! ;) It's nice to meet you!! :D
@Melanie Jacobson I'm still learning my process as well. It depends on the book I think. Most of the time. :)
@Katie Dodge Whatever! You're the best! ;)