Lesson learned

Me, last night
Me, last night

If you write as well, you’ll know that editing is a necessary evil. It’s pure drudgery, reading your story over and over until you hate it, finding mistakes, fixing it, polishing it. It turns a terrible story into a great one, but it’s no fun doing it.

That’s the stage I’m in at the moment. It’s the first draft, so mistakes are plentiful. It’s like staring at the top of the mountain from the foothills.

You know what’s really helpful when you’re in the middle of a long editing session? KNOCKING OUT THE POWER CABLE.

I think astronauts in space heard my shriek of frustration.

Now, I’m a big proponent of turning regular saving into muscle memory. Finished a paragraph? Hit enter, hit save. Thinking about how to phrase something? Any pause means hit save.

But for some reason, I just don’t have the same inbuilt response when editing. So, by the time I coddled the computer back to life, I realised I was several pages behind where I was previously.

Fine. I started over again immediately, putting in the edits while they were still fresh in my mind. I’m pretty sure I got most of them in. It cost me about two hours all up, so it was annoying, but not the end of the world. By the time I was done I was ready to do something else for a bit, so I hit save and closed the window.

What do I see sitting behind it? Recover previous file.

In hindsight, this seems pretty obvious. But in my panic not to forget all the changes I made, I dove straight in to re-editing without checking if the computer had saved my butt. Which it had. But I hadn’t seen it. Cue another hour of making sure the new edits matched the old. Some of them did. Some of them didn’t.

So. We have a couple of lessons to learn here.

1. SAVE. Particularly if you’re in a part of the process that’s no fun. But save all the time anyway. It’s surprisingly hard to pull out the same thought twice.

2. DON’T PANIC. Check if any of your fail-safes have worked, before going straight into overdrive. Could save a lot of pain.

What’s some golden rules you’ve found when writing?

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29 thoughts on “Lesson learned

  1. I write with pen and paper until there are too many cross-outs and carets to read it, and then I copy it into the computer and then print out a copy on paper to make more corrections. The word processing programs always seem to make everything worse. I prefer to see everything at once most of the time. But the tangle doesn’t always work. Actually nothing works right. And there are the scrap notes of notions that were going to quickly fade. I’m always fading. Oh well.

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    1. I find I type so much faster than I write these days, I’d never get it all down in time! Although, it probably works quite well for poetry, does it give you more time to think things through?

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      1. Actually I find the opposite, I can get my thoughts down in script much faster and can jump all over quickly to make changes with my thoughts as they come and I jot down key words in the margins or wherever I can find blank space to catch a related thought before it disappears. I want to get down my thoughts quickly before I forget them. I want the thought to flow directly into the grain of the paper without having to think about how I’m doing it — how I’m moving the pen — I don’t usually make typos when I’m writing with a pen and there’s no need for “ing”: I often put a line a dot and a curl at the end and ed is just line d and stuff like that. At the moment, I’m writing a novel but I’m doing it the same way. If I don’t know how to spell something I just put an “S” above the word and come back to it later. I don’t want to stop to look it up. A cross out and substitute is very fast and I can change my mind instantly with a “stet”(never mind). Oh yeah, I should get to that later — I make a note and continue. My fingers and hand don’t have special keys. And I can draw arrows etc.

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  2. My girlfriend works as a freelance editor for the educational publishing industry. While I could ask her what it is that she does to stay sane, I believe any honest answer she gave would involve the liberal application of red wine. Everything is easier with purple teeth.

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  3. Oh….. painful! I have a problem with not dating each edit, so I never know what file I’m REALLY working with. I was busy formatting my soon-to-be-released and I noticed a sentence that I was SURE had been edited out… but when you have 3 files that say “final”, how are you supposed to choose? 😛 Save the file with the proper date started. Hahah.

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  4. I am fairly new at writing, I love it. But I have a hard time remembering to save all my work. So I usually write in Google Docs. It saves automatically. Every time you hit a key it saves. I love google docs. It’s made things easier and it is easy to access.

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      1. No way, don’t let them try and change your mind! Besides, I’m a big believer in doing what works for you. Some people still use type writers. I couldn’t, but it works for them.

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  5. I have to report that having not found a tool that really suits me for editing and playing with my draft, after the discussion here I am trialling Scriviner…so thank you Libby for starting the debate! Only just worked through the tutorial but am liking what I am seeing.

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  6. Having read about plotting or looser planning I went for the latter approach, my characters have driven the story, which has been an interesting journey, however it has changed my original love story premise into a romantic thriller. So I started off with two characters in the first person but one of these has become slightly less prominant and now I think they need to be in third so that is giving me extra editing!! Bum! Converging Lives are converging in my head too! lol

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  7. Ahhh!!! I hate editing, I’m probably the most laziest person in the world….well when it comes to editing. I put punctuations probably where they shouldn’t go. I pause when I probably shouldn’t pause, and I put a comma literally where ever I deem fit! I shouldve really took some notes in English class ;D

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    1. I find I get into a rut with certain words – I can tell when I was writing which parts, because the overused word will change to something else! As long as you’re aware of the problem though, can go back and fix it 😉

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  8. And this is why I now only use Scrivener, it autosaves for me all the time after 1 second of inactivity so I don’t have to worry about saving. And then it also does a backup. I love Scrivener.

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      1. I will never go back to another writing program. there’s a free trial, I can’t remember how long it lasts for though. I bought it after the first day of the trial.
        I also found this program called Scapple. It’s for doing mind nodes and connecting all the dots. I’m still playing with it, but I like it. Maybe just enough to shell out the $15 bucks for it, too.

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      2. No problem! I just learned about Scrapple myself. It’s helped out with some plotting so far. I think I’m going to use it to replot my April NaNo project so I can finish it.

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