Monday, May 21, 2012

Word-Spew or Edit-As-You-Go?

I just finished a second draft of book 3 in my trilogy. For any of you watching out there, yep, I know I was just talking about finishing a rewrite of book 2 almost exactly a month ago. I already had about 20k of usable words on bk3 from earlier in the year, but suffice to say, it has been an insane month bringing it to 66k word count. 0_o

Well, an insane FEW months to be honest, and I feel an infinite amount of relief at having solid drafts of both books done. I recently read a post by Robin Lafevers on Writer Unboxed where she talks about how being a writer is different from say, being a carver, because wood or marble carvers at least get to start with a block of wood or marble. She writes: But here’s the thing: we writers don’t have so much as a block of marble or lump of clay or even paints with which to create. Writers are required to produce the material from which they will then craft the book.

Yep, that's the kicker. I go back and forth on whether it's best to get out a crappy first draft just to get that lump of wood to start with, or to take it slower and edit as I go. I did the word-spew method when I wrote a sort-of first draft for book 3, and it bit me in the butt (only about 20k of I'd initially written was usable, the other 30k ended up needing to be rewritten). I think writing without stopping and editing as I go just makes for a ton more work. But I've still kept doing it, I think because I was so scared of not being able to get out a first draft. Trying to write a book is a terrifying and daunting thing. Getting words on a page and then piling up a bunch of pages together feels like a win.

Part of me thinks: tons of writers talk about having to write a book several times before it's right. Maybe that's just how it has to be. But the rest of me wants to ball my hands into fists and slam them on the table while screaming, "I don't WANNA!" I want to get it right the first time! I realize, of course, that this is an impossible goal. At the same time, with my next novel, I'm going to take it slow and edit as I go. In the end, maybe it's the same amount of rewriting of scenes happening--it just feels a lot less daunting when dealing with small bits at a time instead of writing furiously for a month and then look at the steaming 60k pile of dung you have written and then trying to reshape it, i.e. rewrite it from scratch. Inevitably, some events from earlier will change during the editing process, or there was an idea that wasn't well-thought out but I just charged ahead anyway without figuring it, or there will just be scenes that don't fit together well. All of that means loathed rewrites.

I edited as I went with this draft of book 3. I wrote in the mornings and then edited at night, seven days a week. Some nights I still didn't do as much editing as was needed, so I'm doing a big edit pass on the whole novel before I turn it into my editor at the end of the month. Still, this draft is far more usable and edit-able than my word-spew drafts.

I'm hoping this is a lesson learned for me. At the same time, I recognize that it's just what works for me and that other writers tackle it very differently.

What's your writing process? Word-spew or edit as you go?


  1. I do a bit of both. I edit as I go for style but usually have to do a few big rewrites as well. I used to edit video and I feel the same way as Robin does about clay. It's easier to work with actual material than to make the material up.

  2. I try to do this, but due to my perfectionism, there's danger of over-editing, and fixating on one seemingly un-fixable section. I've learned to make small edits as I go, and if I find story and logic flaws, I try to work those in as I draft. Well done for finishing your second draft!