Endless editing conundrum

I’ve thought of another argument against showing your WIP to your writing group: it instills a desire to spend time fine-tuning chapters that shouldn’t really be fine-tuned until the entire draft is written.

I mean, what’s the point in wasting all that time fine-tuning material that you’ll probably need to revise later anyway? But, the thing is, if you’re going to show your work to other writers, you don’t really want to show them the clunky phrasing and lame dialogue and excessive exposition that might spew forth during the first draft. It’s a pride thing.

My problem is that I really like the fine-tuning; I revel in it. Some writers prefer the blank canvass, the forging ahead into the unknown; but I rather enjoy editing, the process of making the story sing (or trying to). So it’s very easy for me to get sucked in to the endless tweaking.

And so that’s what I’ve been doing for the past week and a bit. Making revisions to the opening short chapter I had critiqued recently, and then following through with revisions to the rest of the opening sequence, with the ultimate aim of having the whole lot critiqued.

I think it’s OK to do this to some extent, to make sure that the opening is solid and establishing strong foundations for the rest of the story, but there’s a limit to how much tweaking at this stage of the manuscript is worthwhile.

So do you listen to your heart or your head in this case? It’s a conundrum . . .

(Just to be clear – I’m actually mostly for the process of getting your WIP critiqued, as discussed in the previous post.)

7 comments

  1. I think it’s a balancing act – but consider the value of a really good writers group. It would be a pity to miss out on important structural, expository, descriptive, character – essentially ADVANCED feedback – if there were all these loose threads distracting the critics. Especially on issues that you are quite capable of refining on your own.

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    1. ‘Being an editor’ can mean several different things – and, yes, I’ve considered it, even practised it to some extent in a professional non-fiction capacity. But I actually think the fine-tuning I’m referring to here comes under ‘being a writer’.

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  2. Oh, I know that trap all too well! I tend to be the spew it all down, making notes in the margin if need be, and only revise/correct when the whole thing is done. Precisely because otherwise I will never get past that opening chapter. I know some writers who strike a middle ground of starting each writing session with editing the previous two or three days’ work, so it’s a rolling edit as they go. One day I might experiment with that.

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    1. I sit more comfortably in the rolling edit camp, but it can be hard to get out of the editing phase sometimes, particularly with openings. Sometimes I set myself the challenge of not doing that, but then I invariably have to go back and edit anyway and it’s a bigger job.

      There is definite merit in spewing out a complete first draft with no edits, and I aspire to be able to do that, but no way would I show it to anyone!

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