Writing has a lot to do with first choices. We write from the tips of our fingers, trying to get down all the words running in our heads. When we sit back and take a read through what’s on the paper or screen, we can start to second-guess those words. I’ve written enough first drafts – enough words – to know it’s okay to trust my first choices. They’re usually right. But, sometimes, they’re not.
After I’ve finished a story, I’ll let it sit a while. For a short story, maybe a few days; for a novel, sometimes as long as a year or more. When I go back and read it again, it’s easier to see which first choices were right and which ones were, well, not so right as I’d originally thought. That distance is important. It grants us a fresh eye and fresh mind. It also grants us greater honesty with our work. Hopefully, we’ve grown from that first draft, using other stories. The distance, honesty, and experience work together to help us see that draft in a new light. If we’re ready, and inclined, it puts us in a better place to cut, weave, and create a more perfect story than what used to be there.
All of this is just me saying that I’m back in editing mode again. I’ve pulled up Fearless and have started to go through it piece by piece, chapter by chapter, conflict by conflict, to make it a better story than it was, even if it’s never perfect. I loved the story then and I love it still. I’ll likely be doing some more off-the-cuff writing while I edit this time, though, because I learned from the From Hell edit that I get a little lost when I’m not creating anything new. But I’m ready for this next challenge. Let’s see how good my choices were the first time around.
To celebrate this new chapter in my own journey, I pounded out another short-ish free-write set in my “Finding Mister Wright” universe, where the Wrights and McAllisters talk about, fret over, and celebrate their own first (and second) choices.
“First Choices” (~2700 words/9 pages; PDF will open in a new window)
Have you made any first choices lately with your writing?
Is it weird that I plan out what to write for days, or even weeks, but when I sit down to write, it comes out somewhat different from what I planned, and then I’m fairly satisfied with it? It’s harder to edit stuff that’s hand-written, but all the build-up from planning to actually writing it keeps me pleased enough to just move on from there. If I’m bothered enough by the first draft, I just write a little note telling myself to try again, and then do the rewrite further down the page. Seeing that you actively go back and edit, I guess it’s time to pick up a new habit and start writing on a computer instead of in a notebook.
Cute short, by the way. I actually felt a little tug at my heartstrings when they talked about Paige moving out. 🙂
Sometimes, I’ll let short stories sit as long as novels, which is probably a bad thing. I don’t like editing because I feel like I’m reinforcing “truths” about myself. But everyone needs work.
I usually don’t have a plan when it comes to writing my stories. Like “thespooneytoaster,” I have a notebook where I write my drafts, but it’s so full of incomplete stories. I have story breaks all over the place. There’s no sense of direction. I guess I should start typing my stories, but the urge to edit while typing is too great. I’d be staring at a blank screen all day, questioning my purpose in this writing world. But, I need to push through and write away.
(P. S. Someone thought the whole “not being able to write” conundrum would make for a good novel.)
(I don’t think I could read a novel like that, unless it had a deeper hook.)
I think we naturally edit when we put pen to paper, or type to screen. I do, anyway. The tricky bit is learning to restrain the inner editor enough to actually keep pushing forward without getting too lost in the details while we’re writing or typing.
I didn’t think I’d like editing my drafts, either, George, but I’ve come to understand that it does help a story. The timeframe will be different for everybody. Maybe you are more comfortable with longer periods between writing and reading – that’s totally okay. I know I need to let my novel-length works sit for longer because I have a tendency to be sensitive to all the time and effort I put in to them. It may be that your short stories are just as precious to you. It’s really all about comfort and balance…which I think I need to talk about, next time.
Thanks for stopping by!
Thanks for reading, spooney! I’m glad a bit of that short comes through as intended. The Wrights-McAllisters are my go-to feelgood characters, these days – I really enjoy the family aspect of their stories – so I’m happy to hear when they can touch somebody else, too. <3
I've heard a lot of writers say they only use notebooks, so there's certainly no detriment to them. They're also much handier to write in in bed. 🙂 Your version of down-the-page editing is just another technique – it's not any less valid than typing on a computer. The only thing using Scrivener or Word allows is a neater screen…and, sometimes, not even that. I think you've got a good thing going. The important thing is to stay in touch with what you're writing, no matter how you do it. So, keep that notebook handy!
Thanks for reading, and taking time to let me know about your process. It's always great to hear how other writers do things. 🙂
(I think you’re right about the deeper hook. I thought about writing it as a mystery, but it’s been done. I thought about maybe the character doing a 180 and find something different. I don’t know; just toying around with the idea.)
I like to think of my short stories as my babies. I tend to them, nurture them as best I can. And at some point, I know I need to let them go. I can’t hold on to them forever. I guess like any other parent, I’m nervous as to how they will be received. I know I can’t control the audience’s reaction. All I can do is to put their best foot forward.
This is a really well timed blog topic. 😉 I’m laying down a first draft of the sequel to TGWIG. I forgot how much fun it is to be writing something new. The sequel to Six Train was really tough to draft. TGWIG’s sequel is the exact opposite and I’m having a blast with all the firsts. Naming new characters, creating new settings, figuring out what they will do and weaving delicious subplots in. There are areas I know need work, but I’m laying the bones out and I love where I’m going in this story. It’s nice to feel that way again.
Isn’t that fresh feeling of creation a great one, Kourtney? I’m so glad to hear your sequel work is flowing so smoothly for you! <3 We second-guess ourselves a lot – it's fun to be able to let loose.
Hmm, I’d like to tell Paige just how jealous a lot of boys were when I was admitted to UIUC’s College of Engineering just a couple weeks after applying! 😀 Of course, I’d applied to LAS, but I guess they decided my ACT scores suggested another career path… And then I ended up going elsewhere and ultimately switching majors to Anthropology. 🙂
So, who knows what Paige will end up doing? I know I’m looking forward to reading about it in your future stories. 🙂
Haha! XD Yes, JM, everyone’s got their own priorities and preconceptions, not all of them accurate. (Paige’s experience is based on an amalgam of students I’ve known, one of whom wanted to go to a school simply because she absolutely fell in love with the campus.) I know folks who went to/work/teach at all of these great schools…I even had a few get miffed because I didn’t choose their institution! 😀 It was great fun looking through all of the programs, too, especially from a character’s perspective.
I’m so glad to hear you enjoy these stories. They are not very serious and often simply fluffy, but I do love writing them. And, I feel like every bit of writing I do makes me better. Or, at least, keeps me from getting worse. 😉
Thanks for stopping by!
I freely admit that my first draft is usually what ends up being posted here, mainly because I’m usually just so excited to get it out there into the whirlwind for people to see. Of course, this has led to plenty of little grammar boo-boos and minor revisions, but that’s even better. One, because there’s always room for me to improve. Second, well, because I don’t know if I could do a full edit process. I’d probably end up re-writing parts of something more than just editing. New ideas flow in, tastes change and characters can develop long after the pages are first closed.
Another round of Fearless edits, you say? I’m intrigued to be sure. I love the storyline you’ve created for Ross and Amber and all their friends.
Awwww, Paige is growing up too fast! You certainly know how to do family, with all the excitement and pecking it can contain. I admit that these days, after re-reading a lot of your Finding Mister Wright work, it hits me on a whole new level
This is so important: “I loved the story then and I love it still.” Distance or no, you have to love it in order to see where you might have gone wrong and be okay with making the necessary changes. It might be a bit of reverse psychology — can’t see the flaws if you don’t love it enough. But I really believe if we truly want to make it the best we can, then we are more able to see the flaws. If we’re only feeling meh about the project, then we’re not going to see it objectively and make changes where none are needed.
So glad you’re back to working on it!
Rewrites are a totally legit part of the editing process, shade! While I don’t plan on changing Ross and Amber’s story any, I am already doing a lot of rewriting, in addition to cutting and tightening up; I did the same with From Hell earlier this year. That was a great learning process, and I’m excited to apply what I learned there to my older stories…and new ones, too!
Yeah, Paige has quickly become a young adult in her own right. I admit that I do enjoy going back to her younger days just as much as seeing her grow up, in part because in fiction is the only way I can backtrack like that! Glad to hear folks are enjoying these stories. 🙂
Thanks for stopping by!
You’re so right, Kate: if we don’t care about stories, or if we fall out of love with them, there’s much less impetus to make them better. That’s part of the reason why this 160K-word story has been so daunting to me: because I know there’s so much that needs to be done, and I’ve been afraid to tackle it. I finally think I’m ready, though. To be sure, I’ll be looking to all of my blogger buddies – and all of their books – for guidance and inspiration. 😉
Thanks for dropping in!