I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

Staying with the rock legend theme that seems to be going on this week for me, I’d like to take a minute (just sit right there) and tell you about my editing process.

When I first write something, it usually falls into two categories:

  1. Absolute Crap
  2. Stuff I Can’t Use

The stuff I can’t use is usually so bad that I must burn it so that if I died of a heart attack right there and then, no one would know that I produced something so horrifyingly awful. Most of the time, I can glean something from what I wrote, even if it’s only a line or two.

Every once in a while, I write something that has potential. I don’t know how I know it has potential. It just feels right. Like I can turn it into something. When that happens, I finish up everything in my head that I can think of that will be relevant to the story and then I leave it alone.

Usually, I won’t start editing for at least a few weeks after I write. The longer I leave it, the more I forget about it. The more I forget about it, the more I can edit from the point of view of a reader.

When I finally do pick it up again, I read through it carefully and I make notes or fix errors. I try to see any underlying themes or symbols and I make sure everything in the story is relevant. Then I leave it alone for a little while longer, though only about a day or two.

I repeat this process a couple of times (it’s so easy to over do it) and then the really important part comes – I ask my friends to help me not suck.

This step is essential for me. I have in my head this idea of what my stories are supposed to be, but they have no clue as to that idea. So it’s a lot easier for them to see where the awkward phrasing or plot holes are. I listen to my friends. My friends are the Oracles of the fiction world. They can tell me whether or not I will win the battles to come.

After I get feedback from my friends, I try to take their comments into consideration. I don’t always agree with them and that’s okay. But I keep an open mind as to what they’re trying to tell me and I do my best to make those changes in my story.

I usually repeat this process a couple of times, but I have to be careful. Doing this too many times can sometimes bleed the story dry and then it becomes too much like hard work and it shows.

Right now, I’m at this stage in my short story writing. Without my friends, I would probably have a really flat piece of writing that I would have thought was beautifully rounded.

If you’re a writer, don’t forget your friends. They are your lifeline.

And thank you to all of those who have helped me with my writing. You are so appreciated that I have run out of words t

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3 Comments

  1. Ashes

    October 13, 2015 at 6:02 pm

    Since you obviously don’t write stuff all the way through before editing it (at least not books/novels, LOL) what do you recommend? When putting work aside to wait a while before the editing process, is it in sections of whatever you did in one sitting, sections by chapter and/or stopping places, or what? I am the most easily overwhelmed person on the planet sometimes and I need some advice on how the structure of your processes work. I know that everyone is different, but I have no organizational process when it comes to writing something longer than an essay and am interested in your advice. (I think the longest thing I’ve ever composed was maybe 35 pages. I’m referring to tackling the art of a book.) I assume that since you set these things aside for a while before coming back to them, you would finish off a chapter and then start a new chapter while the other unedited stuff waits for you to come back to it…?

  2. devyn

    October 14, 2015 at 8:05 am

    Ashes, I usually do write things through all the way before I edit them. Most of the time. Everyone has a different process. Personally, I prefer to spew words on to paper and then come back to it.

    If the longest you ever produced was 35 pages why did you stop? Look into that. Maybe you needed a break and then needed to come back to it. Maybe you had writer’s block (which happens to the best) and you felt you couldn’t go on.

    As for long pieces, I take a break if I need to, but I try to finish it all before the editing process takes place unless I come up with an idea halfway through that would significantly change the story, and even then I try not to mess with the original until I have the whole thing mapped out. Does that help?

  3. Ashes

    October 18, 2015 at 9:31 pm

    That definitely helps! I’ve always finished my work before I started editing as well, but like I said, I’ve never written anything longer than about 35 pages…so that’s not so bad. I can’t imagine writing hundreds of pages and then endlessly sifting through so much for things to change, but then again, I can’t imagine editing before I’m finished. I guess I’ll figure out for sure what my process is in the near future! Thank you.

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