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(Don’t) Edit While You Write – Relapsing and IWSG

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InsecureWritersSupportGroup2

Hi. My name’s Maggie and I love coffee. I also have trouble finishing stories I start.

So remember that six-years-in-the-making novel I was talking about last month? Well, in case you’re wondering, it’s still in the making. I did hit my 70k words and for a while, the outlook seemed positive. There were a few scenes left and my characters weren’t inclined to go off-course, which should make it an easy sprint to the finish line, right? But no. My ever so wonderful inner editor chose that time to kick in and to my detriment, refused to shut up.

This is precisely why I have trouble finishing. I know something’s wrong and I just can’t find it in me to continue. Sure, I can write a bunch of stuff I know won’t make it to the final cut, just to keep the words flowing.Β  But what’s the point, you cheating word padder? says that nasty inner editor.

So what did I do?

I stopped writing and went back to the start and EDITED.

Yes, I made the big taboo that has always kept me from moving forward. And for a while, it felt good. As I moved stuff around and fixed what had gone wrong, things began to make sense for me and my characters again. I consoled myself with the thought that the next round of edits won’t be so bad because I let the inner editor escape this time. But it doesn’t change the fact that I still haven’t FINISHED. I can go back and keep polishing the whole thing till it shines but what is the point if my story does not have an ending? No one cares about an unfinished novel, no matter how well-written.

March was supposed to be the time when I’m finished with this WIP and let it sit for a bit before I revisit it with fresh eyes. March was also supposed to be the time when I start on a new project. But if I don’t finish this one before moving on, who knows when I will pick it back up again? I can definitely sense the danger of regressing here. And so to my IWSG friends, I say:

Hi. My name’s Maggie and I love coffee. I also have trouble finishing stories I start. But word by word, with your support, I will make it to the finish line…

WIP Progress Report:Β  71,459 words –> 66,245 words (after inner editor)Β  –> 73,005 (current)

IWSG is a support group for writers and we do our group posting on the first Wednesday of each month. Check out our host Alex J. Cavanaugh, the Ninja Captain’s post here for more info and to sign up.


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49 thoughts on “(Don’t) Edit While You Write – Relapsing and IWSG

  1. As long as you keep going forwards, even if slowly, you will get there πŸ™‚

  2. You will make it to that finish line, I’m sure of it. I have tons of problems with my inner editor too, ugh.
    And I also love coffee!
    So glad to meet you through the IWSG. πŸ™‚

  3. Don’t beat yourself up. It’s true we shouldn’t waste time in editing (re-reading) loops, but if your gut is telling you something’s wrong with your story and going back helps you fix it, then what’s wrong with that?

    In my 3rd WIP (the one I’m about to publish), the confrontation scene with the villain didn’t work itself out until it was nearly time to write it. In fact, some of the details worked themselves out AS I wrote it! xD

    My advice (now that you’ve gone back over it) is to push ahead and see what you end up with. There’s nothing wrong with getting something down on paper and asking a trusted CP or two for a beta read, to help you figure things out. Sometimes all you need is a fresh, objective set of eyes. πŸ˜‰

    IWSG #268 (until Alex culls the list again or I goof and get myself deleted. :P)

    • Thanks for the tip on the CP to help me figure stuff out. I actually haven’t considered that. A friend of mine has seen a partial of my WIP but it’s the polished first few chapters. I didn’t think torturing someone with a “rough draft” is a good idea. Was I wrong? Hmmm …

      Apparently I’m behind you on the IWSG list. LOL.

  4. Yes, you do need to finish the novel in order to sub it, etc, but there are lots of different roads to take to get to that point. Some writers plow through that first draft without ever going back. Some work on a chapter at a time, not moving forward until it’s “perfect.” For me, it depends on the project and the creative flow etc. Don’t beat yourself up! You’ll find your way through. πŸ™‚

    • I think I’m mostly the 2nd type. I really have a hard time getting into the flow when there’s something’s wrong (and I can’t fix it), which is paralyzing I guess, since the “fix” won’t always be obvious immediately. I need to get into zone 1 more and JUST GET IT WRITTEN. πŸ™‚ Thanks for reading and commenting!

  5. my sequel is 7 years in the making, so don’t feel bad.

  6. Fixing it now makes sense to me. Get it back to the point you stopped and then keep going, no matter how much you want to go back again.

    • Thanks for that. It’s really great to hear a different perspective on this. Makes me feel that maybe I’m not doing it all wrong. πŸ™‚ I’m definitely moving forward again with this WIP.

  7. You can do it!
    I enjoy editing, but the first draft not so much. I’m always determined to get through it no matter what.

    • I hate first drafts too. I always have this idea that it should make sense and be passable to read and not this one jumbled mess, which of course, rarely happens. LOL. Thanks for the encouragement!

  8. My first book took me 9 years to write, so you’re ahead of me!! I went through the same process too. Now I take a couple of months to get that first draft complete (including outline). it’s the editing that takes up all my time, but it’s far easier to edit once I have a completed drat in front of me.

    • I’m definitely learning a lot this time around. I don’t know if I can finish a draft in a month or two but I do see how important it is to reach the end before you tackle those edits. There’s just some things you can’t fix till you see the whole picture. Thanks for sharing your process. πŸ™‚

  9. I go back and edit sometimes too while writing, but meh, I get it done eventually lol hate editing either way

  10. You will get there. I usually finish my novels really fast and spend months on editing after. I have been busy with the same book for 7 years, editing the whole thing after every round of submissions and critiques. Thank you for visiting my blog. I really hope you get to finish your novel.

  11. I’ve done this too, Maggie! Like you, I always think I’ll be making it better, but then get mired in the revisions. I have one book that took me 4 years (and 4+ complete rewrites) because of this problem.
    I can’t say I never edit while I go along. Sometimes I get stuck and I realize it’s because something’s not working and go back. If it’s something major, I do fix it then, otherwise it’s much harder after you finish. But I try to leave the little stuff alone.
    Keep going–it’s such an awesome feeling when you get to THE END!

    • If it’s something major, I do fix it then, otherwise it’s much harder after you finish. <<–Same here. I feel that the whole thing changes so maybe that's why I couldn't proceed. I should remember to just focus on this and leave the small ones alone. Thanks for sharing!

  12. I think everyone has their own pace and process. I used to edit as I went but I’ve changed as I write more. Use what works for you and March isn’t over yet.

  13. Okay, so inner editor has had her fun, time to tell her to take a hike and don’t come back until that finale is written!! It’s still very early March, so you’ve still got time to accomplish your March goal—get to it!

  14. Hi, Maggie (never knew your name before) You do exactly as I do!! I constantly go the beginning and rewrite and edit. I’ve been told never to edit until you finish the first draft, but I can’t help it. I think my brain stalls for a reason. Maybe it’s for that big ending that’s developing in our brains. But I did finish, and more than once. Not to say I continue to edit as I go along…You will finish! At 73,000 you’re sooo close…keep going…you can and will come to the finish line!

    • Yeah, I thought Caffe “Maggie”ato had a better ring to it, which then left me unidentifiable as a person’s name. LOL. Yes, the common advice is just to keep writing and not edit but I’m glad to see that it has worked out for you, despite going against it. This gives me hope. Thanks for continuing to cheer me on. πŸ™‚

  15. It’s hard not to edit as you go along, but if you want to finish a piece then you must plow on.

  16. Oh, Maggie, I feel for you. I’m stuck on my WIP too, near the end. In fact, I can almost taste it. So, considering you’re having the same problem, this is what I plan to do. I’m going to sit quietly every day and play the novel through my mind like a movie. I’m going to try several different scenarios until one credible one seeps in, one that I think might just work. Then I’ll sit down at the computer and let my characters loose. Generally, they surprise me. If that doesn’t work, I’ll go back to square one, the previous scene, read it, get to the end and start typing. Eventually something will work, right???

    • I like that idea! Maybe a good old-fashioned trial and error is just what the doc recommends. I actually have the last scenes played out already but I’m just having problems getting there because it seems disjointed (read: plot hole) how it got to there. Everything seems kind of contrived and if that bothers me, what more the (hopefully potential) readers? Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

  17. Hey there. I came by the other day on my phone and saw nowhere to comment. I just checked now and it is up the top…grr…and out of range when I use my phone. Sort of proves what I was saying in my post. I tried again as you’d been kind enough to come by and comment on my post.

    Now I forget what I was going to say yesterday! Ah, writing novels…I’ve written 5 and am just finally ready to send my last one off, then I’ll go and finish another. Trouble is, I was meant to be an editor, more than a writer I think and I can’t leave my manuscripts alone.

    (And now I see it’s a Word Press blog and won’t accept my email so chooses to use my facebook a/c…)

    Denise

    • Hi Denise, sorry to hear about your troubles with my blog. The comment button is always at the bottom in the web version but I guess the mobile version is different. Seems it’s below the article but before everyone else’s comment. That is a bit annoying and unfortunately, I really have no idea how to fix that. I went to dig around in settings and I don’t know why it’s asking you for facebook account, the only settings I have is name and email add and you’re good to go. FB or any other account requirement before you can make a comment is a killer for me too so can definitely sympathize. I hope I can find a fix for this. If anyone knows how, please let me know too. Thanks!

  18. When I get on a roll of writing it’s pretty great, but usually I’m slow and being a stickler for getting things write. Yes, I edit as I go much of the time.

    Lee
    An A to Z Co-Host
    Tossing It Out

  19. @ Susan, Nicki, and Nana: Thanks for the encouraging words! Definitely need to lock away that Inner Editor now and get down to it. Maybe I ought to promise her that she gets to butcher more stuff if only she’d allow me to finish. LOL.

  20. Yes you can, Maggie – word by word, with us cheering you on through the finish line and thereafter.

    Thanks for visit. It’s great to meet you in blogland.

    xoRobyn

  21. I also think that you will get there in time, though it’s easier said than done. Wishing you all the best!

  22. Perhaps the ending isn’t what/where you think it is… Just to throw more confusion into the pot. I sometimes find that if I’m struggling for the end, it’s because my characters are trying to tell me to head down a different path. Good luck!

  23. @Robyn, Julie and Annalisa: Thanks for the words of encouragement and stopping by. Definitely need to keep a positive attitude and an open mind. πŸ™‚

  24. Like many others here, I find it helpful to go back and edit if the story isn’t working. I think it’s less work to fix a major glitch or problem, and find a better direction, than steering in the wrong direction and then having to loop back to see what went wrong.

    • I couldn’t agree more but I’ve been trying to experiment with a different approach lately, as I’ve had troubles finishing in the past due to me being unable to find the fix where I went wrong. Can’t fix it = stop writing. It’s a nightmare. LOL. I’m thinking maybe I just need to figure out which approach to take on a project to project basis. Thanks for reading and your insight. Much appreciated!

  25. This post is straight out of my life. I feel for you! 5 years and counting, here.

  26. Pingback: Celebrate The Small Things – Endings and Beginnings | Just Get It Written

  27. Hi my name’s Sandra and I love tea! Thx for finding and liking my Spanish blog, you might like my writing blog too. πŸ™‚ SD
    http://www.sandradanby.com

  28. Oh Maggie, I feel for you. There are many ways to write a book, and many books that took a decade to write. Don’t be discouraged.

    I almost always edit before I’m done drafting – it’s important for me to get a grip on the voice and to see the potential in the story. I always have the most trouble finishing a draft when I’m almost at the end – some self-sabotaging thing takes over. Just keep writing whenever you can and you’ll get through it eventually. (I still have to edit a ton when I’m done drafting, and I often feel like I’m not up to the job. It’s very common – you have to put aside your fears and just keep at it, whatever your process.)

    If it helps at all, finishing became much easier for me once I began to outline my books before drafting. I used to write without any plan, then get 250 pages along and stop, finding myself lost and bored and stuck. Now I always have a plan (although I rarely stick to my outlined ending, it still helps). It helps me avoid writing a dozen chapters that have nothing to do with my story. Outlines are not for everyone, but having an end in sight can really help some of us get there.

    It’s labelling yourself as someone who can’t finish anything that will be your greatest obstacle. So another trick might be to work on a shorter piece of work now and then – a prose poem or short story, something that doesn’t take years to write. You might really like the form, and it’ll help you reshape your self-image as someone who can finish things. Good luck.

    • Thanks s much for taking the time to read and comment. I do work with general outlines but have missing pieces sometimes that I can’t figure out so maybe that’s also part of the problem. I’m done with the draft though and have already started with revisions. How long that lasts is a different matter altogether lol. I’ve heard about the trick with working with shorter pieces instead but I haven’t really been much into short stories. Maybe I’ll consider a novella instead since it seems to be more and more an accepted form of late. Thanks for visiting!

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