Okay, this question was inspired by a current WIP. I haven't got the whole thing on paper yet, but I feel this conflicting need to get it all out and bash on the beginning some more which I'm not at all satisfied with, and part of me thinks that I don't even know when or how the story should begin and I'll only find out where and what that logical beginning is by writing the rest.
While working on something be it a story or novel, when do you think it best to revise?
Are you the "get it all out and on paper and then go back and clean up the mess" type?
Or do you stop and go back and rewrite whenever you realize you need to fix or change something to make the tale work?
Or are there certain instances when you operate in either fashion? -What are they and how much revision do you do before you press on?
With short fiction, I believe that it is important to get the story out on paper before you begin revising. How can you revise the beginning of a story that you aren't sure how it finishes. Some writers will say, Oh I know how it ends, I just haven't gotten there yet. Well you probably knew how it started too but now you're thinking about revising that, aren't you?
With novels I say revise only when you are blocked or disenchanted with a story. I find rereading/revising earlier chapters is a good way to get back in the mix of what story you are trying to tell. Otherwise, again, get the story out on paper, then revise. If you don't then, like Rhaythe said, you'll never finish.
I've done it both ways, and I believe getting it all out first is important. Here's why. First of all, I'm an intuitive writer. I have a rough idea of where I'm going but I don't really until I'm in a character's shoes plodding through a scene. The consequence: I end up with a lot of extra scenes. But I don't know that they are extra until I finish the story, because I don't quite know what the story is yet.
The problem with revising as you go, in my experience, is that it makes you unduly attached to a particular scene or chapter. This makes it that much harder to do large, structural changes or edits. You can't seen the story clearly because you've spent more time and energy on some places polishing them up than in others.
So, I'm now completely in favor of hashing it all out first, as quickly as you can, then going back and editing, revising, redrafting, whatever.
Everyone's going to be different and a lot depends on your writing style. If you're like Annepin and me (ie an intuitive writer) then editing midstream is probably useless. I write thousands of words I end up cutting in the end because they no longer fit with the way the story went or don't move the story well enough. It means I write fast but editing is a much longer process.
I know IB is someone who "polishes" as he writes. This means he writes a lot slower than I do, but does much less editing in the end.
I suspect though true editing is best done at the end.
I'm struggling with that very same dynamic in the short story I'm writing now. I think I just need to write the end though and then make adjustments just to say I've finished the silly thing. The only problem is I'm an involuntary perfectionist and I hate to see stuff that I don't consider my best just lying around =/
Revising is actually a lot of different things, and some need to be done before others can be started. If you read the blogs of published novelists who're at work (always useful), you'll find that there's a general habit of making multiple revision passes for fixing different types of problem. I certainly haven't got to the stage of being able to do that yet; I think it requires a very disciplined, organised mindset to be able to say "on this read through, I will be looking at characterisation issues" or "on this read, I need to check plot consistency" or "this is the read through for sentence rhythm and structure".
We all revise, to an extent, as we write, but in general I suspect it's better to make notes as to what you realise needs changing, rather than actually do the changes, as they may in turn be invalidated by things you discover you're doing further on.
Well, I generally I write the whole thing out (short story or novel) and then go back and revise, or I'll never get the thing finished.
For my first novel, that's what I did: wrote it all out as fast as I could and then did 4 'revision' drafts where I corrected different issues in different passes. Second draft is usually cleaning up spelling and grammar and adding descriptions (which are very brief in the first draft). The third draft, I usually read the whole thing out loud to make sure it reads smoothly and the dialogue seems natural. And so on.
That said, I've broken this creed on my second novel. I got half the way through, then had to set it aside due to outside stuff I had to do. Something keep nagging me about the novel, and I realized I hadn't used one of my 'bad' characters to the degree I could have. I've just finished revising the first half of the novel--doing all my second draft stuff at the same time as I'm changing everything around the bad character (who plays a major part in these chapters).
So do whatever works for you, but watch out for getting stuck in revision instead of finishing the story.
[This message has been edited by DebbieKW (edited September 12, 2008).]
There are two reasons to revise, One is to adjust wording And the other is to rebuild what you wrote to fit what you are doing now. If the revising urge is the former, keep writing to the end. If it is the second, then revise, as it might change even what you are doing now.
I am the kind of writer who writes to the end, get the story written. I believe that Anybody who knows the language well can edit a story to publication quality, but only the author can tell the story.
Two times. (1) As you go along, making immediate changes. (Much easier in this era of computers and word processing.) Then, (2) after a length of time has passed, so things have cooled down in your mind and you can look at it with either (a) fresh perspective or (b) an extremely critical eye.
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I'm a slow newbie working on a long-term project (little time, big story). That said, my approach:
When I realize I have a problem (currently its repetitive sentence structures), I want to pay attention, maybe do some polishing to change the bad habit. I don't want to stay at my current skill level, and the end is not in sight.
If the story needs to be changed, I go to that section and record notes about what to change. I have an outline too, where I summarize what's written, what needs to change, and looking ahead. That way I don't have to re-write (because it could change yet again); I am free to forge ahead, knowing I can fix it later. These changes are not cutting major scenes and adding new ones; so far I'm just changing existing scenes or inserting minor ones.
I have not yet had to make a huge change in direction. That's the payoff of outlining (and of not being very far along).
The problem I have is that I can get attached to the way that I wrote something the first time, and I can be slow to change it. But I think I'm still learning to identify good scenes from ones I'm attached to, so I agree with most other posters here that it's good to just get the whole story out. Even if the revising process is then more painful.
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There is a lot of sensible advice here. Based on my personal experience, I'd suggest you just keep writing, otherwise you will end up like me: reworking and retouching and fiddling to the extent that the novel I'm writing now isn't the same one I started writing. And I can tell you, you do not want to end up like me!
I think rewriting might work if you are a particularly fast writer. If you think of a change, can rewrite the necessary part quickly and get back to where you were, it wouldn't cause you to lose momentum quite so much. I know I'm not a fast writer - not any more - so I've been forcing myself to keep going without looking back. If I think of something I want to revise, I've been trying to keep a note of it and move on so I can revise when I'm finished.
Sometimes the inner editor needs to be gagged and tied to a chair for a while...
[This message has been edited by marchpane (edited September 12, 2008).]
I actually do both. I take a while kicking an idea around until it grows (unless it's in a flash competition or something), so that I make small explorations into different paths. Since I'm an artist, I think of it as making a rough sketch. This is mostly done in my head and in notebooks. By the time I start writing, I have a pretty good idea where I'm going. I tighten the sketch up while I'm writing (what kings_falcon refers to as writing in a "polished" form). I believe in choosing words carefully, trying to maximize their efficiency, and try to do that in my work. Robin Hobb said she "agonizes over each sentence, each word", and I do, too. When I start writing at my usual time, I'll look over yeasterday's work to bring myself up to speed. Sometimes I'll clean a word or sentence up (or choose a stronger verb), but for the most part, it's with the intent to put myself "in the mood" or immerse into character. I won't preach that it's right, but I have less attachment to a sentence or phrase this way--and I HAD to change my attitude toward it.
Tchernabyelo, as usual made a brilliant observation:
quote: ...in general I suspect it's better to make notes as to what you realise needs changing, rather than actually do the changes, as they may in turn be invalidated by things you discover you're doing further on.
Keeping a "bible" by the computer's side is essential for this, among other reasons. I constantly find myself researching as I write, and sometimes a discovery will change everything. This is when I ask the thread's main question; Start again or keep going? The answer, for me, depends on how into the story I am and how important that idea/detail is. Given this little illuminating tidbit, it may change how I think...or at least how I use my writing bible.
OSC writes his novels 1 chapter at a time. He works on one until it's finished, then he fixes it up until it's done and then he moves on. He says he does that because when you revise, you often change the story and why would you waste your time writting dozens of chapters that are going to be tossed out anyway?
But I can't do that. I have so much of the story that I want to get down on paper and I often lose interest if I spend too much time fixing things as I go. I do break the story up into sections though (usually several chapters) and as I write them, I make sure that even when the writing itself may need to be brushed up, the story itself is right before I move on. It's helped me save a whole lot of time by making sure I'm not tossing out everything I spent hours of time writting already. That really sucks.
quote: OSC writes his novels 1 chapter at a time. He works on one until it's finished, then he fixes it up until it's done and then he moves on. He says he does that because when you revise, you often change the story and why would you waste your time writting dozens of chapters that are going to be tossed out anyway?
He and Dave Woverton have discussed the importance of a good outline before beginning. They concur with:
"The more thought out the outline, the less changes you'll have to make in a story."
In effect, you can jot down the entire story this way, and then clarify it into an entire novel.
I say get to the end. Don't loose your grasp on the story. I send off my stuff 2 chaps a week and don't even look at revisions unless my editor has a specific question. I go back over the last chapter I've written every day when I start writing, and over the last five about once a week, but not looking for errors.
I think that having and editing buddy/fellow writer that you can send your w/p off to as you go is good, then you don't have to stop the flow, but if you're working on theirs as they go, and they are working on yours, you won't break your work apart and you'll get some of the preliminary edits in.