What do I do about Editing and Revision regarding Creative Writing?

I have been consistently writing creatively since 2017, so as of writing this it’s been 6 years. The helpful answer is that I find that once I’m already editing I actually enjoy it, even if I resist starting.

So the answer is to just start, and worry about liking it after.

The more difficult answer is that I have honestly just avoided as much as possible. What this has resulted in is over half a decade of getting really really good at outputting quality and compelling writing the 1st time around. Quality and compelling in relation to my current skill level, of course.

The proof of progress is in the fact that I rarely edited my University essays and managed to get pretty decent, above average marks in college.

What I did do, was send them off to a family member to be proofed and fixed up, and if I was feeling especially charitable I would run them through grammarly or prowritingaid.

First Drafts: Write Well, or Just Get it out and Edit Later? The Debate

What’s fascinating is that I recently found a write-up on making first drafts that put this all in context.

The claim of the piece, which was based on the advice of a famous science fiction writer who I can’t recall the name of but it might have been Heinlein, regarded the conventional first draft advice.

The popular advice that you should just rush out that crappy first draft and edit it into a masterwork later. That writing is rewriting.

The piece claimed that this is actually a great way to tank your writing quality. Uh oh. You see, it encourages and enables bad writing, so thst in the long run you don’t improve very much and in fact might get even worse. It’s like a marathon runner who decides to train his jog with bad form just so that he gets himself out on the track.

I do appreciate that this sort of advice is useful for people who are nervous or perfectionistic, and just need to sit down and write. Writing a crappy first few chapters is way better than not writing it all, and so that is make a break for you then definitely just sit down and go.

But if by chapter 5 you find yourself actually caring about the project you’re working on, feel free to start let your writing show that.

Personal Experience.

I actually watched this happen in real time, my first novel Alice and Finch was really good. So good that when I posted it online, random people I have never met reached out and told me how much they enjoyed it.

And this wasn’t on a community-oriented site like Wattpad or anything, it was on my own personal blog. This website, danieltriumph.com.

Then, when I began my second novel The Solune Prince, I took up this advice of writing a crappy first draft that I would then edit into perfection later. It got almost no attention. I even read it myself and saw that the first six chapters were incredibly boring.

How did this happen!

Well the answer is that with the first book, I knew was going to be released for my blog’s audience, chapter by chapter, live.

The second book was the same but the intent was completely different. This time I was writing primarily for myself to get that first draft out.

Notice my wording here, the first novel was written for my readers and turned out excellent. My second novel was written for myself, and turned out rather poorly.

This is a principle that you learn in spirituality if you look in the right places, that 1 must transform the will to receive for themselves alone into the will to receive for the sake of others. And if you try to do business, you’ll find out very fast that if you are not customer focused, then you’re not going to sell very much.

This hit me in a profound and subconscious manner. The first time around, I knew and was paying attention to the websites audience, however small it was. That meant that I actually cared about quality and engagement. I had a couple of simple techniques I used to sustain intrigue.

For those writers who are curious, I had tried my hand at using Edgar Allan Poe’s theory of the single effect, using scene swapping to facilitate tension, and opening chapters with hopefully intriguing defamiliarization.

The second book on the other hand, was simply oriented around vomiting out that first draft. And it ended up being so bad that I’m actually doing full rewrite.

The idea that I was gonna go back and edit it didn’t play out at all. Writing wise, I’m starting at zero. I may as well have just written a bad outline and saved myself hours and hours of time.

How does this Play Out

I think regardless of what you do with the actual editing side of things, is probably wise to try to put out really high quality worked the first time.

I’m not saying to take forever to write a paragraph, and to constantly go back to the editing mode, which switches you from creativity to analysis. That’s something you don’t want to do too much it confuses your brain, and might cause you to cross wires between your creative brain and your math brain.

For another opinion on this sort of approach, you can check out the prolific author Dean Wesley Smith where he talks on YouTube, at conferences, on his website, and in his very short book Writing into the Dark. Note that this isn’t an endorsement for Smith’s approach or his advice in general. I don’t use his method, but I do appreciate his experience and have harvested for myself the parts that I personally find useful.

There is a lot of hype around writing as fast as possible and using tools like dictation, which is fine, but readers certainly appreciate care and an effort as well. And slowing yourself down now should be made up for by the fact that you have to do less editing later.

What this means is that you write a little more carefully. Pay attention to grammar, and write with intention.

Thanks for reading,

Daniel Triumph.

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