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kjs237



Joined: 22 May 2004
Posts: 76
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
Need advice from the board gang  Reply with quote  

My big problem right now is editing. I know I have to be willing to cull my work, and I am, but I'm not sure how to tell what needs to be cut. I'm always pretty sure everything totally sucks so, sometimes I feel like I'm not the best judge of what should stay and what should go.

How do the rest of you handle this?

Post Tue Aug 10, 2004 6:32 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail MSN Messenger
Hillary



Joined: 13 Apr 2004
Posts: 1767
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Give it to an unbiased party.

Not your mother, or your sister, or your husband, but someone you know will look you dead in the face and say "You've got issues here, here, and here, and I think you need to rewrite from point A - point X".

How to pick that person?

Someone who reads a lot. Someone who can express their opinions without making you want to die (they are, after all, giving you advice on your baby, and they need to have sensitivity to be able to understand the pain and frustration that goes into that). Someone who has a grammatical clue. I'm lucky because my best friend has a degree in English, and I know she's not going to pussy foot around me. If I didn't have her? I'd go to an online writing group to hear what perfect strangers have to say.

Post Tue Aug 10, 2004 7:03 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
graeme



Joined: 06 Aug 2004
Posts: 15
Location: scotland
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Agree with Hillary. Other people will invariably spot things you've missed. What do you write? Are you just starting out or have you written other stuff? PS: And don't ever say your writing totally sucks. Writing is fucking hard and you should be proud of yourself for even trying.
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Post Tue Aug 10, 2004 8:11 pm   View user's profile Send private message MSN Messenger
earthshoes



Joined: 17 Jun 2004
Posts: 213
Location: SW Missouri
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I am no good at proofing my own work so you have my sympathies. I've chosen to post short stories and poetry to a couple of fairly serious on-line workshops and they've helped enormously in terms of developing distance during the editing process. However, when it came to the book, I looked to the acquiantances that I made at those workshops. More than one of them very generously offered to take a look at my work. I chose someone whose opinion I respected and whose honesty I could count on and turned my manuscript over to him. I also made sure he was familiar with the genre and what my goals were. He was a huge help and, though I didn't agree with all of his suggestions, I appreciated his painfully honest assessment of the manuscript's strengths and weaknesses. (Painful for me, not him).

Although I didn't wind up trying it (I have four kids--I never get anything done all at once), another acquaintance--an experienced writer-- gave me this link. The method makes sense to me.
http://hollylisle.com/fm/Workshops/one-pass-revision.html


However, I am speaking from a largely unpublished standpoint. I'll be curious to see what Christopher has to say.
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Post Tue Aug 10, 2004 10:50 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail AIM Address Yahoo Messenger
kjs237



Joined: 22 May 2004
Posts: 76
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
Good advice  Reply with quote  

Earthshoes and Hillary, you are right. It's good to find an objective party. (Thanks Earthshoes for the workshop link Very Happy)Fortunately, I have a couple of folks to bounce ideas off of and they are always brutally honest which helps. They are avid readers and have more than a passing acquaintance with good grammar. I do take their suggestions seriously. Sometimes though, I feel that I need something more. A spiffy instruction manual would be great, but I'm sure that such a thing doesn't exist. My two best critics are both teachers and I respect their opinions but I still feel the need for some sort of objective measurement from outside my own circle to evaluate my work. I think the suggestion of submitting stuff to an on line groug is excellent and worth trying. Thanks! I may even get brave enough to submit something to the Fan Fiction seciton of this board for an objective view. But, I'm a big chicken. And, after reading stuff from both of you, it's kind of an intimidating prospect.

Graeme, I've been writing forever, mostly for other people. I am working on stuff for myself now, and it seems to be primarily comprised of quirky sci fi/horror fiction. You're right, of course. Writing is hard. I am my own worst critic. It's very encouraging to be reminded that it takes guts to put your stuff out there in the first place. Thanks!

Post Tue Aug 10, 2004 11:10 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail MSN Messenger
chris
Site Admin


Joined: 02 Mar 2004
Posts: 3833
Location: People Republic of Northern California
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If it's a short story, make a copy of the file. Name the copy -- "yourfilenamehere"SB (SB for Slash and Burn. _.

Now, go into it and delete every fucking word that absolutely doesn't have to be there. Anything that doesn't add to the story, take out. Any line of dialogue that doesn't reveal character or move the story, take out. Take out every single adverb. Now take out as many adjectives as you possibly can. Don't be shy, this is only a copy, right? No ego allowed. At every sentence, every word, ask yourself, "Does this add to the story, move the story, make the story? Can the story survive without it? If so, cut it."

YOU STILL HAVE YOUR UNCUT DRAFT! DON'T BE A WUSS!


Now, make sure that you haven't taken out all the transitions that might be necessary, and print that mama-jama out. Go into a different room. Read what you have. Does it make sense? That's your story. If not, make it make sense. If you can force someone to listen, read it to them. Does it sound okay? If not, add what you need to make it sound okay.

This is how you learn to write. You learn what you need to have to tell a story, and what you don't need. It's only an exercise, but it will teach you what you need to cut. Next time, don't write those parts. It will teach you how little you can get by on.

Now, after you've worked the S&B version for a while, looked at it for a while, tried to make it work, print up your orginal. Now read it. Better idea of what needs to be there?

If you're talking about the chapter of a novel, use the same method, just remember that the chapter doesn't have to be self-contained, so if some lines, sentences, paragraphs exist to set up later events, that's okay. Your purpose is a little different with a chapter.

Drive thru please.

Post Wed Aug 11, 2004 1:16 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
chris
Site Admin


Joined: 02 Mar 2004
Posts: 3833
Location: People Republic of Northern California
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I just checked out Holly Lisle's how to instructions.

She's got some points that sound like they work, although I'd think you'd catch many of them before a revision, still, some make sense. But in this section:


Is your scene full of weak words? How many times have you used is, was, or were? How many times have you used very? How many times have you fallen prey to passive voice? How many adjectives and adverbs can you find? Eliminate forms of the verb “to be” wherever you find them, rewriting the sentence with a stronger verb. “It was raining,” becomes “The rain slashed down, tearing up the gardens and ripping leaves from the trees.” “He was tall,” becomes “She looked up at him. And up. And up.”

She just taught you shitty writing 101. Yes, strong verbs with connotations will help your writing, but these examples, well, won't. If I saw "She looked up at him. And up. And up." I'd send the book sailing across the room in disgust. The first example, the tearing and the ripping, besides sounding, oh, redundant, is a buttload more words than "It was raining." I'd suggest, "It was raining, hard."

Holly is a sweet woman, and a successful writer, with way more books under her belt than I, but those examples should not be followed. "He was tall." and "It was raining." are actually better.

I would agree with Holly that it's better to edit on hard-copy and input your changes into the computer later. (I have always done this, and editors in NY always do this.) The exercise, above, in fact, is probably more effective done on hard copy, but I didn't want to scare you by sending you to the printer three times.

The rest of Holly's advice seems pretty sound. Especially the part about cutting the greetings in scenes, the sitting and thinking, etc. She's right on there. Showing too much is a common and easily fixed mistake.

Post Wed Aug 11, 2004 1:46 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Lauren



Joined: 07 Mar 2004
Posts: 1582
Location: Massachusetts
 Reply with quote  

Forward Motion is a pretty good writing site. Lazette Gifford, one of the other admins there, participated in National Novel Writing Month last year, and she was very helpful to the people on the nano forums as well. They're a really nice community.

Overall, I liked Holly Lisle's one-pass suggestions, but a couple of points (in addition to the ones Chris highlighted) irked me a little. She suggests that every scene must be a mini-story by itself and needs a conflict. I can't fully agree with that.

For the mini story, she says "If it’s missing elements (like dialogue, or setting, or tastes, smells, sights, sounds, and textures), figure out how you can add them." Not all scenes need every single one of those. Adding them in just to have a complete set could very well bog the book down. By all means, look and see if anything needs to be added, but if it doesn't move the plot forward (which she also says every scene should do, and I agree there), if it's just extraneous, don't do it!

In the next section, she says that every scene needs a conflict. I don't know that I agree with that; I guess it's all in how you define conflict. I'd just heed her previous statement of moving the plot forward and leave it at that. (But then again, I'm not the author of a gazillion books like she is, so take my advice with a grain of salt.)

I hate editing my own work. I know it's a necessary evil, but I reserve the right to hate doing it. There's no real method to the madness. I just go through and read it. When I come to a point where I think something doesn't sound right, I fix it. I try to read it like it's not mine, like someone else wrote it, and if I've done something I'd find atrocious in another person's work, I fix it. Right away.

Find someone you can turn it over to who will be honest with you, and let them have it. If they suggest changes you disagree with, that's fine. Leave it alone and then don't worry about it until your editor (who is about to publish that sucker) tells you it needs to change, because they probably have good reason to say so.
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Post Wed Aug 11, 2004 7:36 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website AIM Address ICQ Number
Boota



Joined: 09 Apr 2004
Posts: 830
Location: Kokomo, Indiana
 Reply with quote  

I'm lucky in that I have four people who I take my work to when I need some guidance.

My mom - she doesn't approve of my sense of humor, but she catches any mistakes I make in grammar or spelling. (My mom: "Did you have to name the dog Ratfuck?")

My friend, Michael - he has a good basis in English and grammar and he shares my sick sense of humor. He catches a lot of stuff that I miss. Especially continuity issues.

Michael's wife, Melody - he left my last hard copy lying around and she picked it up and started reading. She's just reads it for enjoyment and her opinion helps as much as anyone elses.

My drummer, Tom - he is overly critical of just about everything. If I can pass his litmus test, after the others have had their shot at it, then I am looking good.

On my first novel I took it to them because I was new and unsure of myself. Now I let them read it because they bug me until I do. Smile And I do have trouble editing my own stuff. Being familiar with it makes it too easy for me to overlook things that would leap out at me from a strange work.
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Post Wed Aug 11, 2004 1:10 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
John



Joined: 02 Mar 2004
Posts: 521
Location: Massachusetts
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Quote:
My drummer, Tom


I just picked up a second hand drummer, cheap, and was wondering what you use yours for. Mine is named Tim.

I've been using him mostly around the office to spice up my lame jokes with rimshots and also to provide a drumroll when I try to shoot my lunch garbage into the lunch room barrel.

It's worked out pretty well so far. I've been feeding him alpo from the can to try to keep his coat shiny. Wink
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Post Wed Aug 11, 2004 1:35 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website AIM Address
john palmer
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Re: Need advice from the board gang  Reply with quote  

kjs237 wrote:
My big problem right now is editing. I know I have to be willing to cull my work, and I am, but I'm not sure how to tell what needs to be cut. I'm always pretty sure everything totally sucks so, sometimes I feel like I'm not the best judge of what should stay and what should go.

How do the rest of you handle this?



I have written some short stories, a play, a novel, and am presently revising my second -- and have not had anything published (no fiction, at any rate), so I probably don't know anything, but I couldn't resist answering because the same question has haunted me...

First of all, leave some space. You have to switch modes. There was a linin Finding Forester that I rather liked, something like, "You write with your heart, but you revise with your head." An oversimplification, perhaps, but interesting. For me, telling the story, getting it out there, is the first job, then, in revision, the task is continually answering the question, "Does this woirk." I think that you have to get away from it for a little while to do that effectively.

Showing it to others can be useful, but remember: You wrote it -- trust yourself!


Cheers,

John Palmer

Post Wed Aug 11, 2004 7:49 pm   
Boota



Joined: 09 Apr 2004
Posts: 830
Location: Kokomo, Indiana
 Reply with quote  

John wrote:
Quote:
My drummer, Tom


I just picked up a second hand drummer, cheap, and was wondering what you use yours for. Mine is named Tim.

I've been using him mostly around the office to spice up my lame jokes with rimshots and also to provide a drumroll when I try to shoot my lunch garbage into the lunch room barrel.

It's worked out pretty well so far. I've been feeding him alpo from the can to try to keep his coat shiny. Wink


I use my drummer strictly for band work. Smile He is too contrary to accompany my jokes with a rimshot. I would wait for the rimshot and hear only, "That's not funny."
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Post Wed Aug 11, 2004 9:54 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
kjs237



Joined: 22 May 2004
Posts: 76
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
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Very Happy Thanks for all of the great ideas and good advice!

I tried the slash and burn method with one of my recent short stories and I was amazed at how many unnecessary words I could cut and still have logical progression and comprehension in the body of the story.

Thanks, this is exactly what I needed.

Chris, you're a good teacher. I'm not saying you should quit your day job or anything, but...

Post Fri Aug 13, 2004 8:51 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail MSN Messenger
john palmer
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chris wrote:
I

“He was tall,” becomes “She looked up at him. And up. And up.”

She just taught you shitty writing 101.


Change "him" to "it" and it sounds like something out of Jack and the Beanstock.


john palmer

Post Sun Aug 15, 2004 6:52 pm   
Hillary



Joined: 13 Apr 2004
Posts: 1767
Just on first pass  Reply with quote  

Got my draft down to 189 from 215 by just getting rid of the stupid shit. Lauren will have to hack the rest because I'm just not good at it. I've tried to take some parts out, but I think they're important to the story, and I'm wondering if I've just managed to write something that requires THAT much text. (Or if I'm just retarded and don't know what's what).

Blach.

Post Sun Aug 15, 2004 7:40 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
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