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How can I stop editing previous chapters?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Vicki27, Jun 16, 2020.

  1. Vicki27

    Vicki27 Minstrel

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    Hi, I started my book at least a year ago, and found it difficult to keep all the characters straight in my head until I found your very helpful forum. After reading the articles about writing, I realised I had not mapped out my world, my story or my characters enough (obviously I'm not a panster!). Now I have really nailed my story, all my main characters have backstories of their own (whether I use them or not at least I feel as if I know them better) and I have even roughly outlined what I want to write for each chapter (thanks to the various writers on this site that give good, informative and helpful advise). The problem is I am having difficulty in fitting in subplots (these just seem to present themselves as the story unfolds!) without having to alter previous chapters so that they flow better into the story. I don't mind doing this but once I start reading through the chapter I need to alter, I find other things I want to change and before you know it I have yet another draft of a chapter I have already written and re-written numerous times. Now I know eventually I will have to edit my story before I think it's okay and I will need to have others read and edit it as well, but at present all I seem to be doing is writing a couple of chapters and then back reading and changing stuff. I don't know how to stop myself from doing this, but at the same time making sure my characters and story is believable and flows without plot errors and character inaccuracies. I seem to be taking 2 steps forward and then 1 step back. Any advice would be gratefully received.
    Thanks Vicki
     
    Nigel likes this.
  2. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    I'm not going to tell you how to change this because rereading and editing as I go are crucial pieces of my process. I think that there are great advantages to doing so, including keeping critical details fresh in my squirrely little mind.

    Everyone has their own process. I say, if it works for you, if you are producing like this, then if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Don't feel like you have to do what you see other people do. You're just making your final edits that much easier.
     
  3. Ruru

    Ruru Troubadour

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    I'm glad you have found the forum so helpful! There is some really useful information (and people, hah!) here. I have found it very encouraging.

    As an answer, this is the experience I have had with my current story. I started it a little over two years ago as a way to practice my craft, because I just didn't have the skill to write the tale I really wanted to tell. The initial 'Completed' work was 12k words, and I wrote it end to end with very little planning and almost no world building. I edited it and polished it and left it alone.

    Then it was very obvious that the story wasn't finished, and I was quite enjoying myself, so I carried on. Part two got much bigger, and introduced some fairly serious plot clashes with part one. Then without editing part two, I wrote part three during Camp NaNoWriMo this year. Part three (the end) by itself was almost bigger than the previous two sections combined. It also had serious plot clashes (and details clashes) with part one and two.

    But, most importantly, I had the whole story through to the end. By the end of part three, I had a much better grasp of the world my characters were in, and what they needed/wanted to achieve. I knew how the story started, and where it had to end. In other words, I had a place to start embellishing, a 'sketch' to fill out and colour, if you will.

    Now I have gone back to part one, and started to revise and rewrite. I knew how I needed to shape the story now, because I knew where I was heading. Scene one at 1400 words became Chapter one at 7000. Scene two at 1500 words became a delve into the world my characters lived in, ballooning up to 12k words all by itself.

    The boiled down version of that is: in a first draft, only write forward. I am sure there are arguments to the former, but you can't edit words you haven't written. Make notes about things you changed going forward, so you know to go back and fix them up in the earlier story (I love Scrivener for this, it has a virtual note pad alongside your main text). Or highlight bits of you text where you deviated from what went before, or something.

    Either way, continuity corrections are for the editing process. It sounds like you are trying to edit as you go, and come out with a near readable first draft. Don't get me wrong, there are writers who can do that very well, but for the rest of us, there is post draft editing haha. Don't underestimate how good it feels to 'finish' a story, particularly as a first draft, since that's the first time you've done it!

    I really hope that helps!
     
  4. Vicki27

    Vicki27 Minstrel

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  5. Vicki27

    Vicki27 Minstrel

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    Thank you for the advice, I guess because of my background (admin) I am used to rewriting everything until I feel it is something like I want it to be (maybe not perfect but that will come with the final edit I guess). It does help to keep the storyline and characters fresh. I was just worried that it was taking me too long, everyone who knows I am writing a book keeps asking me how far I have got with it and because I haven't finished the first book yet, I feel I haven't got very far. I knew there would be other writers out there like me who cannot start at the beginning and go right to the end without rereading it's just nice having it verified.
     
  6. Vicki27

    Vicki27 Minstrel

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  7. Ruru

    Ruru Troubadour

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    haha we must have been writing at the same time! Exactly as A.E Lowan said. Everyone has their own process :) And there are many different processes out there. If its working for you, stick with it! If it's not, maybe try something else haha
     
  8. Vicki27

    Vicki27 Minstrel

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    Thank you for your advice Ruru, I know it is better to write a story from start to finish without the rewrites and edits and it makes perfect sense what you are saying about having the whole story and a greater knowledge of the world and characters, however I cannot keep everything straight in my head if I do not go back and reread (I blame it on my age). I have tried not to reread but get into worse trouble when I don't. Perhaps I can try a compromise and write say 5 chapters without going back and then only rereading the newly written chapters rather than from the very beginning again. Everyone is so helpful on this site and very generous with their time and advise.
     
  9. Ruru

    Ruru Troubadour

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    You are very welcome Vicki :). Sometimes the best thing you can do for your writing is to do what feels right and works best for you. It is your story, after all. There is so much advice out there, and almost all of it conflicting, it can be a little overwhelming!
    All the best with your writing journey :).
     
  10. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    There's nothing wrong with going back and doing a bit of revision as long as you are constantly making progress. The danger is in the perpetual revision, where you get caught up revising the same handful of chapters over and over and over. In that instance, you're just spinning your wheels and that's not good.

    Every book I've written, I've changed the way I work. I've written a book with almost no plans for the plot. I've written a book where I planned the major sign posts but winged everything in between and so-forth. With each book I refined what I was doing, figuring out what I liked and did not like doing and what worked for me and what didn't. So just do what you're comfortable with, make your mistakes or not, and as long as you're making progress in the story, you'll start to find out what works for you.

    For me, when I started, I was the perpetual editor, so I need to plow forward. You may not need to do that. But here's the danger of going back and revising too much, you may invest hours and hours editing say chapters 1 and 2 to perfection, but later on, you make a significant change to the story that will require you to either significantly alter or erase one or both of those chapters. Now all those hours of editing have been wasted. OR worse, because you've invested so many hours on those chapters, it makes you reluctant to alter or edit them out, and you try to keep those sections intact to the detriment of your story.

    If you want to stop going back and editing, IMHO the best thing to do is to only make minor edits, but with major edits, make detailed notes on what you want to change in that chapter, and then, continue writing as if those changes had already been made. That way, if more changes need to be done to that previous chapter, it gets added to the note section and gets taken care of on the next draft. This should save you significant time and speed up your pace, because for the most part, you don't really take that step back. And when you do finally make the edits, you'll have full knowledge of exactly how the story plays out. This will help you with the consistency of the story and will make it easier to foreshadow and more easily layer in meaningful details.
     
    Ruru likes this.
  11. Vicki27

    Vicki27 Minstrel

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    Hi Penpilot, such sage advise, I guess that's why you're on the staff. What you say makes perfect sense especially the bit about investing a lot of time editing earlier chapters and then having to alter them later on in the story or ditch them altogether, I can see that would be challenging or distressing depending on how much time and effort you have put in previously. I tend to print off each chapter as I finish it anyway and make notes once I go back through it, I will try and leave it as that rather than continuously altering the live version. I tend to track all the changes as I'm going along anyway and save each version of the draft copy. Thank you so much for helping me with a way forward. :)(y)
     
    Penpilot likes this.
  12. Nigel

    Nigel Acolyte

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    I’m a real novice at this and learning as I go along.
    Having written two books and well into the third (all sat in the Cloud until I figure out what to do with them) in what will be a series of five, what I have learned is to have a clear view of start middle and end, but to be very flexible.
    I play out each chapter in my mind (usually before I go to sleep!) then start writing the next day.
    I am a terrible reviser though! Numerous iterations required until I am even partly satisfied.
    But, I’m also happy to surprise myself with a character or plot idea, even though it will require revisions Earlier in the books!
    I’m not great at plot notes, but my glossary is a useful aide memoir (that’s just how my brain works). As the story grows though, I find I keep more plot notes. It’s just too big otherwise.
     
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