Friday, February 23, 2007

Writers in the Zoo

One of our RWA group's newly-published writers, Rhonda Stapleton (who has a brand new website) gave a workshop on self-editing. EXCELLENT! She gave an online workshop, too, which I heard is awesome! I'm sure she'll do more; keep an eye out!

As the saying goes, real writers edit.

Er. I've always cringed when I heard that, because I've never done the whole editing thing the way I've heard people do it. (My small-press editors don't do much editing on my stuff.) Robert Gregory Browne's "I edit as I go" has made me feel a little better, but it still has given me pause. I do constantly re-read and tweak and edit. It's the first thing I do every day, and I'm often re-reading to check the overall rhythm and pacing of each sentence, paragraph, scene, chapter, and overall story.

What I loved about the presentation is that Rhonda actually had us practice what she taught us. It was fascinating! We hardly ever watch someone else write. We sit at our tables and desks, clicking away at the keyboard, and we never really know what goes on when another author sits down and works.

In a five-minute exercise, we had to write a scene that showed a woman deciding to leave her husband. If I could find the handouts (I put them somewhere special where I wouldn't lose them ... yeah, right), I'd show you my exercise.

I, who fretted that I didn't know how to edit, scratch out one word for every three I write. My writing brain and the editing brain truly do work simultaneously. I'm constantly re-reading what I write, even at a pace of 500 - 1200 words an hour. (For example, while typing the last paragraph I sounded out each sentence in my head several times while my fingers were typing.) I truly do edit while I type.

My paper was a MESS of scratch-outs, arrows, and inserted words. A total mess! I had no idea how much I use that backspace key!

Meanwhile, a writer next to me wrote in pen, in cursive, and never stopped. She wrote the whole page and never once scratched a single word out. Not a single word! I was both stunned and awed. When she was done, she read it out loud. Her excerpt had complete sentences that flowed! I was so impressed.

I could never write the way so many writers write: longhand in a notebook. Cynthia Harrison does it, Susan Wiggs does it in her "low-tech laptop," and Alison Kent writes with a fountain pen. Wow! These Clairfontaine notebooks seem to be particularly popular among writers. (Why?)

I'm guessing that if you take the NANO method or the longhand method, you would need to go back through and extensively edit after the book is written. Many writers write better if they can get that internal editor to shut up.

I'm not saying it makes any difference when you do the edit (during or after or both). I'm just realizing that I do a lot more editing than I thought I didn't do, LOL. Thank God. I can call myself a real writer.

It's fascinating to see how other writers write. I kinda feel like when I was six and discovered that boys and girls were different, and a neighbor and I showed each other exactly how we were different. Up until then, I'd suspected we were different, but I never really believed it until I saw it. :-)

5 bonus scribbles:

B.E. Sanderson 2/24/2007 09:03:00 AM  

I've tried editing while I write, and editing after I'm done writing. I second-guess myself less doing the latter, so overall I do it that way. Now that I think about it, though, I guess I do some minor editing while I write, too. Mostly to get rid of typos, but sometimes when I can't get a word exactly right, and I don't feel like I can move on until I'm at least close to what I mean.

Everybody has their own editing thing. The only bad editing style is one where you don't believe you need to edit at all. ;o)

Rhonda Stapleton 2/24/2007 09:52:00 AM  

What a great topic! And thanks for the love!!

Yeah, I think it's a blast to get a bunch of writers in the room and have them write...some people sit there for three or four minutes, planning out what they're gonna say. Some do like you said and just write instantly, and for the whole time. Some (which is like me) self-edit as they go.

Editing is SOOO vital. Like I said in my workshop, I usually think of myselsf as a REwriter. LOL

spyscribbler 2/24/2007 10:58:00 AM  

Very true, B.E.! See, I was afraid I wasn't editing, because I wasn't doing it like everyone else. It's amazing, the little, stupid insecurities we get inside!

Rhonda, the workshop was a blast! Very fun, and enlightening!

Edie 2/26/2007 08:36:00 PM  

Very interesting. I edit as I write, but I also go back and revise, usually twice. My CPs go over it too, and then I read it once more.

Edie 2/26/2007 08:37:00 PM  

Very interesting. I edit as I write, but I also go back and revise, usually twice. My CPs go over it too, and then I read it once more.