Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Be True to Your Writerly Self

On Twitter the other day, someone told me that I couldn't edit until I was finished writing, and while it's sound advice it actually kind of pissed me off. I know I've told a couple of writers to just try to finish the book before the start editing, and my reasoning was that they haven't finished one because they get caught up in the editing. Going back over passages over and over and changing their minds and the story so that it's never finished. This type of editing is not good, at least not to me.

But the thing about writers is we're all unique. Each and every one of us does things a little differently. Some people spend months hammering out their storyline with sticky notes and whiteboards. Others sit down at their computers, open a blank document, and begin typing furiously until, less than three months later, they have a first draft. And then there are some who toe the line, doing a little of this and a bit of that; but no two writers follow the exact same method. We each bring something of ourselves to the table, just like we do in our actual writing.

Now this person, I'm sure, didn't mean any offense when they told me I couldn't edit until I was finished writing. Only there's something about my writing that person didn't know: I wasn't just writing. I was editing.

You see, like all of you, I have my own method, and it's still growing and changing as I do. I thought about my TSA during school last semester, and I refused to work on it until I had free time. I jotted down notes, made comments on plot points, just little things (mostly during Biology, I'll be honest). And when I finally sat down to write it, it took me all of about three months to hammer the entire first draft out. My first draft, read like a third draft, something that's never happened to me before. So I know this method works for me. I let my idea simmer, so that when I wrote my first draft I already knew my story, which allowed me to focus more on the characters and the writing. It was awesome.

Now here's where my method branches off a little. When it came time for me to edit, do you know what I did? I opened a brand new word doc, and I started completely over. This draft is 100% new words. I don't copy and paste from the 1st draft at all. I may open it up, as I occasionally do, to double check some things, but this draft is both writing and editing. I'm changing the story and the characters with every new word I write. Making it better in so many ways.

My method, is not your method. In fact, my method may be the exact opposite of yours. But the point is, that we all have our own way of doing things, and we'll all write our books and make it to the finish line whenever we do. It's not a race. It's not a competition to see who can write a first draft fastest or best. Though I'll admit a little friendly competition can be nice. It's about the story. It's about us. We're writers. We're unique, and each and every one of us is made of awesome.

So when someone tries to tell you how to do your job, remember, they aren't you, and they couldn't possibly know what works best for you better than you do. Go, be awesome. : )

9 comments:

Brooke Johnson said...

you know, your method is what inspired me to do a rewrite of my MS. i think it was to the point in my story where i had revised my previous written words into their sunday best, but it still wasn't good enough. i have a feeling that rewriting may be my way to edit. i like to think of it as version 2.0. i know the story now. i know what's wrong with it. and most importantly, i know how to fix it. it's more than tweaking sentences.
my rewrite has turned into a beautiful creature since i began the rewrite. it's older and more focused. and it's near spot-on to what i originally wanted to write. i just think that before, i didn't know how to write it. but now that i have the words on the page with version 1.5.2, i can write it the right way. i'm just glad that i took the risk and started the story fresh. thanks amanda ;)

Amanda J. said...

Exactly! I like to think of the first draft as a really detailed outline haha, where as draft 2 is really getting to the story I want to tell.

I'm glad I could help, and that things are going well! :D

Heather said...

You make an excellent point. We're all unique and what works for one may not work for another. I love that you're empowering those who might have less than conventional methods. You go girl!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

As you said, we all have our styles. I might do a little editing as I go, but I save the big changes for when I'm finished.

Amparo Ortiz said...

Excellent post! I agree with you--we are all different, but that doesn't mean one is better than the other. If what works for you gets you through, so be it. I just wish more people would realize this :(

Marc said...

You know I didn't actually mean anything by my comment on Twitter. I didn't know it actually pissed you off. So I apologize for making you mad.

In my earlier drafts, I actually have done what you do and I've edited in different ways since then. What I've learned is that editing is a pain in the ass, no matter how you do it.

Amanda J. said...

Marc, you didn't piss me off. I got pissed off when I started thinking about everything and how some people try to make others conform to their own way of doing things. No harm, no foul. :)

Magan said...

Everyone seems to do things differantly and sometimes it works for them and sometimes it doesn't. I don't feel like you could ever tell someone how to edit or even use other people's query letters or editing techniques as examples. Sometimes we all take little snippets of ideas, but mostly we have to find our own niche.

Amanda J. said...

Exactly, we may try to take bits and pieces from others, but ultimately we make our own method and do things our own particular way.

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