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View Full Version : The Never-Ending Editing Cycle



Freckles
11-03-2006, 07:42 PM
Maybe this is just be fears and doubts coming out, but I feel like nothing I write is ever 'quite there' where I want it to be. Sometimes, I don't even know what that finished stage should look like, but it's just a feeling.

Does anyone else feel like that?

aadams73
11-03-2006, 07:45 PM
All the freaking time :D

I'm in a perpetual state of doubt when I'm editing. Relax, you're normal. All the fear and self doubt will keep you sharp.

(those who think their work is perfect tend to be the sloppiest)

johnzakour
11-03-2006, 08:45 PM
Yeah, it's totally normal. Whenever I read my older books I can’t stop myself from constantly editing myself in my mind. (So now I try not to read any of my own material once it is published.)

bookgeek
11-03-2006, 08:47 PM
:hooray:
Yay! I'm not the only one!

Simon Woodhouse
11-03-2006, 09:35 PM
I've spoken about this very thing in this week's video blog on my website.

From now on (if possible), unless I'm looking at something I've written specifically to edit it, I'm going to try to not read my own work unless it's in print. By then it'll be too late to change what's written, and I'll be able to get away from the constant desire to want to 'improve' it.

Tracey
11-03-2006, 11:11 PM
So this is normal behavior for a writer. Boy am I relieved. So self doubt and constant worrying... Why do I write again? :)

Seriously though, we all go through it, you just can't let it bring you down.

CaroGirl
11-03-2006, 11:24 PM
Isn't it just our flawed human nature to always want to be better than we are (for most of us)? I hope so, because I feel the same way. Nothing I write is ever good enough.

wordmonkey
11-04-2006, 12:17 AM
Any work of art (and I mean that in its loosest creative meaning) is never done. Never finished.

You just reach a stage where it's done enough.

johnzakour
11-04-2006, 12:37 AM
The tricky question is knowing when to let go and let the book be. I still haven't learned the answer to that question. As of now I let the book go on the day it's due to be sent to the publisher (give or take a day or two). Still even then, when reading my own books I tend to treat them as if they are in constant galley state and I can change them whenever I like. I'm slowly learning to accept that once they are printed I can change them.

johnzakour
11-04-2006, 12:41 AM
Oops that should read CAN'T change them.

Tracy
11-04-2006, 01:44 PM
What's that old quote, "Novels are never finished, only abandoned"? I couldn't find the source for it, but I think there's a lot of truth in it nonetheless. It'll NEVER be perfect, and if you insist on it being perfect you risk wasting years on it and never getting it out into the world. It has to be excellent, that goes without saying, but forget perfection. There's always more you can do to polish it, but the law of diminishing returns definitely applies.

Melanie Nilles
11-04-2006, 10:23 PM
What's that old quote, "Novels are never finished, only abandoned"? I couldn't find the source for it, but I think there's a lot of truth in it nonetheless. It'll NEVER be perfect, and if you insist on it being perfect you risk wasting years on it and never getting it out into the world. It has to be excellent, that goes without saying, but forget perfection. There's always more you can do to polish it, but the law of diminishing returns definitely applies.

Not only that, but you begin to get tired of the story, no matter how passionately you feel about it in your head. There is a point where you have to say, "It's good." And maybe, if it's not published right away, you can go back later and enjoy it fresh again. THEN you can do some more editing, if you see a need. But with you writing always improving, more than likely you will spot at least small things. At least, I always do.

Melanie

engmajor2005
11-04-2006, 11:23 PM
If you ever get to point where you have editing and revised a work until it is, without a doubt, flawless in every way, then your writing career is over so far as I see it. You can't go past perfect, and being a writer is about always having somewhere to go.

Gigi Sahi
11-05-2006, 05:51 AM
...being a writer is about always having somewhere to go.

Hey, engmajor2005, I LIKE THAT!

I think if I ever reach the point where my writing's perfect, then's the time to hang it up.

For me, the editing process ends when I simply can't bear to read my story again.

janetbellinger
11-05-2006, 06:12 AM
yep

Freckles
11-06-2006, 03:17 AM
Glad to hear other struggle with this. I'm always feeling like it's taking me forever to send queries and subs out because I want to edit it "one more time."

Freckles
11-06-2006, 03:18 AM
Is there some medicine for this? ;)

Éclairer
11-06-2006, 03:48 AM
Is there some medicine for this? ;)

Having an unofficial editor (I have my sister) helps me when it comes to the perpetual need to perfect. I constantly find myself unable to move from one scene to the next because I am bogged down by the potential for change. However, I hand my scenes over to my sister immediately after I write them (no, it's not a fantastic idea and yes, it has contributed to a slight neurosis) but if she reads it and says it's good, then I move on. If she has suggested changes, I make them. Then she reads it, and then I move on. I trust her. Implicitly. She has killer instincts. Anyway, if you could find someone at your ready disposal who's instincts you trust, it might not be a bad idea.

It can cramp your style though. To have someone always poking their nose in your creativity. I put up a fight.

In fact, this might be terrible advice. :e2tongue:

But yes, I know how you feel.

engmajor2005
11-06-2006, 07:33 AM
Is there some medicine for this? ;)

Sure is. We could write like my History professor graded papers. He sat down with the stack of papers and a six pack. He started drinking and grading, and by number six a blank piece of paper looked good to him. "I see what's he *hiccup* trying to say."

The writer's approach: finish your draft, then start editing and start drinking. Eventually, anything will look acceptable so long as it's words on paper.

By the way, I've tried this. I think...I was pretty wasted that night. I remember opening my laptop and pressing the power button and that's about it.

kbax
11-06-2006, 08:10 AM
Someone--not a writer, interestingly enough--once told me she thought writing must be like having and raising a child.

You give birth to this beautiful creation. It's a painful and wonderful experience. As it grows, you discover that yes, it has its flaws--but who doesn't? You try to make it the best possible thing you can make it, shaping it and molding it as time goes by. You always love it, no matter how much it sometimes frustrates you.

Then someday, you have to just...let it go. You have no choice. You've done all you can do, and--no matter what the flaws--you take pride in your creation.

When she told me that, I thought about the summer before I left for college. It seemed like my mom suddenly had all these things to tell me that were VERY. IMPORTANT. I realized, eventually, that she was getting ready to let me go...and just wanted to get those last bits of parenting in before she did.

Just like, before you send that MS off to an agent, you think, "Wait! Maybe I should run through it...one more time...."

P.S. As much as I think the metaphor fits, I do not advise spending eighteen years editing the same work.

engmajor2005
11-06-2006, 10:34 PM
Someone--not a writer, interestingly enough--once told me she thought writing must be like having and raising a child.

You give birth to this beautiful creation. It's a painful and wonderful experience. As it grows, you discover that yes, it has its flaws--but who doesn't? You try to make it the best possible thing you can make it, shaping it and molding it as time goes by. You always love it, no matter how much it sometimes frustrates you.

Then someday, you have to just...let it go. You have no choice. You've done all you can do, and--no matter what the flaws--you take pride in your creation.

When she told me that, I thought about the summer before I left for college. It seemed like my mom suddenly had all these things to tell me that were VERY. IMPORTANT. I realized, eventually, that she was getting ready to let me go...and just wanted to get those last bits of parenting in before she did.

Just like, before you send that MS off to an agent, you think, "Wait! Maybe I should run through it...one more time...."

P.S. As much as I think the metaphor fits, I do not advise spending eighteen years editing the same work.

It's comforting to see that somebody else has made that comparison. I've often seen raising a child as a metaphor for the writing process, especially novels.

Cat Scratch
11-07-2006, 01:17 AM
Yes, I feel this way exactly. I finally got what I thought was a fairly-finished draft on a play, and then received six (single-spaced!) pages of notes from a producer. I'm too daunted to read them, quite frankly, because the first note suggested renaming a character because the name "sounds middle-eastern." Um...so?

When they accepted the play for production they mentioned maybe small amendments, which I'm always fine with, particularly for a play, but six pages? Good god.