DANGER: Over-Editing Ahead. Take Alternate Route.

Writers have a tendency to obsess.  Wait, let me be clearer: writers have a tendency to really obsess.  Wait, what did I mean by that?  Should I have phrased that differently?  Maybe I could have said, "writers will really obsess over their work" and that would have been a more powerful statement.  Maybe "obsess" isn't the best word.

See what I mean?  It's endless and often times pointless.  Gasp!

I think the obsessing stems from a breakdown of what's on the page and what's in your head.  In your mind you have this epic sprawling tale of love and woe but the epicness is just, for whatever reason, not coming across when written down.

For me, it was kind of mind-blowing when I realized that the reason this was happening was because my ability level was not quite high enough.  There's a quote by Dr. Shinichi Suzuki that I really like:  "Knowledge is not skill.  Knowledge plus 10,000 repetitions is skill."

Sure we all know how to write.  But it takes practice to know how to convey the story in your head to the written word.  You literally have to just keep writing action scenes in order to figure out how to write an action scene that meets your expectations.  And in the process you're probably going to write a lot of really cruddy scenes.  And then maybe one spectacular one that you try to recreate only to realize that you basically just wrote the same thing twice.

Rewriting the same scene over and over again will accomplish nothing.  Write the scene as best you can, make sure it's grammatically well put together and then move on.  In other words, create the best story you can at this moment in time.  It is unreasonable to demand more than that.  You must allow yourself time and repetitions for your craft to naturally grow.  In order for growth to happen you have to approach the challenges from different angles.

Comments

  1. This is the attitude I take with my short stories - I write them as best I can at the time and try not to obsess. Now, the earliest stories seem really bad and even ones written 6 months ago are mediocre. I hope that means I will continue to improve and finally produce stories I can recognise as good for years after I've written them.

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    1. It's actually motivating for me. I have no desire to go back and change past works. They're like landmarks for me to show how far I've come which is kind of cool =)

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  2. I treat my short stories just like I treat my novels. If I feel they can be improved upon I go back and re-write them.

    Not all, there are some that have and need that necessary rawness to them. But even short stories need to be finessed; it seems to be cheating the plot and the characters otherwise.

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    1. See once I finish a story, that's it for me. I publish it, dust my hands and start the next one. Otherwise it means there are 3 or 4 totally different versions of the story out there which would feel weird to me as both a reader and writer.

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    2. What are your thoughts on using an editor? Do you think it is needed, or is simply having someone with knowledge of writing to proofread all that is needed?

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    3. It's not enough to just have someone with a knowledge of writing. You need someone who's anal enough to notice grammar mistakes and details.

      I do think that it's necessary for a fresh set of eyes. I admit that I do self-edit some of my work just because I write short stories and my production rate is way faster than someone who writes novels.

      But I do make a point to put a percentage of my work through the critique process. Honestly, I feel like it's the only way to really grow as a writer. You need an editor to make you realize reoccurring grammar mistakes (if I split another infinitive my editor may jump off a bridge). You also need beta readers to make you realize areas of your writing that are consistently weak.

      Even though every story is different you'll start to notice trends. For example, my beta readers often commented on how they wished there was more description. So that's something that I have learned to keep an eye out for when I self-edit. Same with the split infinitives.

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