Revising and Editing: something to avoid

I’ve done many months of revising and editing – and they are not exactly the same – of my latest historical novel BEGINNINGS: Where A Life Begins! This is perhaps crazy but I thought I’d just make what seems to me to be one important point…  Revising and editing can create NEW errors and typo’s!  This I think I did … and that was a mistake!  Sometimes I think that half  … or certainly a substantial amount … of the time spent on revising and editing has been to correct additional little errors that have been caused by changing a word in the editing/revising process. For example, I might notice that I should have used a plural verb eg “have” rather than “has” because in fact there were two subjects …. but in the subsequent sentence, I had not changed the singular “it” to the plural “they” and modified the verb that follows.  537026_10151863541959885_645410101_n

How stupid and careless you might say.  But when you are in the process of doing it, it’s so easy not to see these “errors” because they weren’t errors to begin with; they were only errors after you made your slight revisions.  And there are many times and different circumstances when this can occur. Worse, you might have done your revising and editing and not notice that you’ve created new errors until you think you’ve finished!  Then, there’s a last-minute rush to re-edit just before you upload to Amazon or Smashwords or whatever…..

So what is the solution? Treat a revision as a “rewrite”. In revising/editing, take the same amount of time and care as …. or even more time and care than … you took in writing originally.  This would be particularly the case for those doing WiMoDoDoDooDoo or whatever they call it and racing to write as many words as possible in the shortest possible time.   And this brings me back to a point I raised in a  previous blog ….. More time … no! a lot of time … needs to be spent in revising and editing than in writing itself AND a lot of care needs to be taken.

Now if you can write fluid, clear, incisive and scintillating prose on your first attempt …. and you have my eternal admiration if you can … then you can ignore everything I’m saying.  Otherwise ….


Word waterboarding! Less may be more

Why is it that some people seem to have the idea that the more words they write the better.  What do you think? I don’t think it is necessarily better for them or for the reading public. Indeed, it may be positively unhealthy as there even seems to be writers worrying about word count addiction and word count obsession.

A few days ago, I got involved in a discussion in a thread on LinkedIn where someone was asking how many words each day people write, and this was followed by a swathe of comments, some seemingly bragging about daily word count as if somehow “stream of consciousness” writing ten hours each day spewing out thousands of words was the “way to go”.   Other commentators on the LinkedIn discussion thread even wanted to include in their writing tally, their blogs and how many letters and memos they write at work and their shopping lists (no, I think I’m exaggerating there).  There are also these daily word count writing contests on twitter which I can understand help to motivate people to “put pen to paper” (so to speak) and the NaMoWriMo competitions which seem to encourage people to write a novel in a month.

I can understand that in this era where most authors earn very little from each book, most can only make a living from writing if they have lots of books out.  So the more you have out there the better: the more likely readers are going to buy one or more of your books and the better known you become.  Also I agree that to learn how to write, you need to write, but I do have serious reservations about  these various arrangements, competitions and schemes as they seem to me to be saying that word count is the main thing in writing.  Of course, if someone can write five thousand words each day and barely have to edit or correct them and it’s brilliant writing then I take my hat off to them. But I don’t believe that most writers can do this.

Even though I’ve only written one and a half novels and a few one-act plays, I did have the dubious good fortune of writing a PhD thesis many years ago and since then I’ve supervised and examined varous theses.  I’ve also written twenty or so academic and professional text books (in law), and to me, one of the basic rules learned from the writing of theses, is that about one third of the time is spent researching and developing the works, the second third in writing and the last third in polishing (revising, editing etc etc).  Of course academic writing isn’t the same as writing good literature.   But it seems to me that this sort of division of time is at least what is required in writing fiction and non-fiction as often writers don’t even start with a solid knowledge of the topic they are writing about (unlike a doctoral candidate) and have to acquire much of that along the way.

I’ve always thought that great writing should be a bit like poetry: each word being considered, carefully chosen and carrying a wealth of meaning.  Quality not quantity:  in an earlier post, I’ve already tried to come to grips with what “great writing” is.

So I would rather know how much time a writer is spending in editing and revising than how many words he or she is writing each day.

…..some other blogs (there are lots more):