Last night, I was in a group chat with some writer friends (two of the ones mentioned in my inaugural blog). All three of us are doing the NaNoWriMo November challenge. For those of you unfamiliar with NaNo, it’s a platform for writers to help them set a goal and work toward it. Then, each day, we enter how many words we accomplished. This month’s goal is to hit 50,000.
Everyone in NaNo writes in different genres, but my writer friends and I all write some sort of romance. Some start fresh with a new project and some build on one that’s already started. That’s me – using one I started before I began to edit my series. Or maybe I even started it before I’d finished the last book in the series. Who knows? Especially since after a while, with all the changes, additions, deletions, modifications, et. al., everything tends to blur together anyway.
Couple that with old age, and well, you know.
But I digress.
In chat last night, the ladies commended me for the progress I was making on my NaNo project. I reminded them those were edited words and that when I caught up to where the story has stopped, the words will slow down considerably (which will likely be this week – yikes).
Anyway, at that point we began discussing editing. Both my writer friends indicated editing was often harder for them than actually writing the first draft. One said she added a lot of words in her revisions while the other tended to pare hers down. They also mentioned grammar, mechanical, and tense issues that also needed correcting after the first draft.
Now, I’m not saying I don’t have some of those same issues because I do. But instead of just writing now and fixing later, I tend to write, read, fix, read, fix, and write some more as I go along. Probably why it takes forever to get words on the page (like this morning, 855 new words on another WIP, but it took me four hours). And tomorrow before I write a new word, I’ll reread what I wrote today, edit and revise, and then start the next scene.
I think this method of writing harks all the way back to junior high school and diagramming sentences. Yes, I was the one who loved it (thanks Mrs. Keebler). But it wasn’t until high school that I learned how to put it all together into a semblance of words that actually made sense (special thanks to Ms. Buckland, Mrs. Kable, and Mrs. Snyder for teaching me what I needed to know and instilling within me the love I have for writing). In tenth grade, I can still remember turning in my first annotated bibliography with pride and was so excited to get it back to see how I’d done.
Was it perfect? Heck no. But grade and the comments were positive enough that I couldn’t wait to write something else.
I also think my revising while writing comes from the fact that back in the day, all our work had to be typed on an actual typewriter. There was no backspace, delete, or insert keys. If the mistakes were more than a misspelled word here or there, we often had to start the page over. Our rough drafts were handwritten and edited on paper before we even thought about typing it out on our portable Smith-Coronas.
Today, I read an article about editing that said we should never use the backspace key in our original draft. We should just keep writing and clean everything up in the edits. With my OCD, if I even tried to do that, I’d lose my freaking mind especially since I can’t tell you how many times I’ve already used that glorious backspace key in this blog alone.
By coupling all of the above with the fact that I teach high schoolers by day and have to write many things on the fly, I think this is just the way my brain is wired. I simply can’t leave the misspelled word in the sentence if I see it while typing. If I think of a better way to phrase something, I just can’t wait until editing to insert it. For one, I’d forget it, and two, well you know, the OCD thing. And sometimes, I just need to make sure it all makes sense and flows together nicely before I can move forth.
Basically, do it now while it’s fresh in my mind. Later, when the first draft is finished, the manuscript can be tightened up and revised further. But I simply can’t wait till it’s finished to even begin that process.
But that’s what makes us unique as writers. Just like the genre we feel most comfortable writing, whether we’re plotsers or pantsers, or even if we write in long-hand, on a computer, or use speak to text, our editing and revising has to be what works for us.
Like my grandmother, the Isabelle portion of my pseudonym, always said, “It wouldn’t do for us all to like the same thing.” Right again, Grandma. Right again.