9/30/2016: When To Edit My First Draft

Stephen King recommends stepping away from your first draft for at least six weeks. And in the meantime, go write something else. At least until you forget about the first thing. So that when you come back to it, it is an alien thing, and something to whose parts you have little emotional attachment, should you need to alter or remove them.

Would this be the best route for me?

I worry that if I step away, I may forget what it has become in my mind. I have spent all this time developing these characters, these metaphors, these plots, and they are fresh in my mind. What if time-away drops them from my head, and I am not able to pick them back up from a read-through later on? One might suggest that such would indicate that my first draft didn’t communicate what I thought it would. But one could also say that I simply suck at reading.

Also, this is the first of several books in a series. What if starting over causes me to lose my place (see the first point), and I’m not able to progress? At the same time, what if going on without a break leads to a dead end, when I go back and find something that absolutely needs to be removed from book one but upon which a second-book part (or the whole thing) is based. It seems like I’d either need to write all parts and then go back and edit them all or else write them as individual units—finish one before starting the other.

What do I know from experience? A good night’s sleep does wonders for an edit session. There’s something about coming back to it the next day that allows you escape whatever blinders had been developed during its writing—or at least that particular writing session—that you otherwise couldn’t possibly notice. And I have written things and come back to them after quite a while, and it didn’t seem so foreign that my ideas were hard to grasp.

But at the same time, all of those things had been polished before I set them down. I may have made mistakes by not stepping away, but the works benefitted from me being fresh on everything when editing, to be sure.

And maybe that’s the key. Read through it right away, edit it until you’re happy with it, put it away for a while, then read through it again and edit it again. It seems like I’d get the best of both worlds.

I definitely don’t feel ready to let go of the writing process yet—I know, at the very least, my ideas have progressed since my earlier sections, and those sections will need reworking. I know that it’s not unified yet, and I don’t want to lose what I have now before making it unified. Else, I might read it, get the idea I had in the beginning, and then change the ending rather than vise-versa. I would otherwise have to read the end first, almost…

I think I am decided. I’ll go back through it as soon as I have the energy and time to, and I’ll edit it until it’s got a decent polish. Then I’ll set it down and come back to it after six weeks or so.

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9/23/2017: On Finishing A Piece

I find myself wanting to know where I’m going before I write. But, “You do know. Your right side is doing its thing. You just can’t tell what it’s doing until you write it.”

Just keep writing. Trust whatever comes to mind at the time (MAKE SURE MY RIGHT SIDE HAS BEEN ENLIVENED?). Distrust looking too far ahead—coming up with specifics or links (?) before actually getting to those points (contra intuits/feelings that encompass potential links without involving specifics). That’s utilizing the left too early, I imagine. And usually it’s a result of “wouldn’t it be cool if X happened?” which doesn’t seem like the process for natural creation. Rather than having some connection within the current content, it seems like a connection between the current content and some outside content. But isn’t that right side connection? I don’t know. It just doesn’t feel right for some reason. It doesn’t feel like a part of the cluster. It feels like a separate cluster altogether—like connecting it would be moving toward that other cluster and abandoning the one I am already on.

Intuition—that little voice over which it seems you have so little control but that you can easily stifle. It seems I only have indirect control over it. Intend something else that requires it, and it fires up. Intend it, and only the things required to intend it fire up, whatever those are.

Another thought—if I engage my editing too soon, I may not see the connections from my right side. I may need to write more to see the connections. So if I come up with something that I question—something that just makes me go “Enh,” don’t just throw it out yet. Keep writing and see if it’s got roots. Of course, there are times when my intuition tells me “this doesn’t fit.” But I don’t know how to tell the difference yet. Right now, it’s something I’m thinking of that reminds me too much of The Neverending Story. So it seems like it’s my editing side that wants to get rid of it right away.

1/19/2017 I actually read something that Leonard Cohen said about this. I’m not sure if I wrote about it (I’ll find out), so I’ll write about it here. He said you can’t tell if a gem is good until it’s been cut. He said to finish everything before throwing it out. It’s the process that makes it good.

It’s always nice to figure things out and then find out that some more intelligent person figured the same thing out.