Thursday, April 20, 2017

A to Z: Editing Fiction - Quit Tweaking

2017 THEME: Editing Fiction (Because that's what I'm in the middle of doing.)

What is the Blogging from A to Z challenge and where can I find more participants? Right here.


Quit tweaking words and get on with it! You may find all this feedback and fixation on making the story just right gets to you after awhile. Each word starts attracting scrutiny. Is this really the right word? Should I delete every instance of "very"?

My roadblock usually hits around the time I'm doing a final pass before sending the story off for critique/beta reading. That point where I've been fixing little things here and there for a couple weeks and I'm beginning to notice when doing find (Because I do a lot of editing that way when hunting down sections in a full novel .doc) that I've used certain words multiple times. Now, I know this doesn't seem like a major issue. Of course words are used more than once in a 80-120K word novel. But when you look for the word "push" and come up with five instances of characters pushing hands through their hair, you begin to doubt yourself and consider that just maybe you had that action on the mind more than you thought. Incidentally, this is also how I discovered that in one book everyone jumped up from their chairs instead of simply standing and a lot of other little nitpicky fixations.

So yes, some tweaking is a good thing, but when you find that you can't stop going over the first paragraph of chapter one to get it juuuuuust right, it might be beneficial to take a break, send it to those other eyes and get another opinion. You can't move forward if you keep picking at it. And its hard to publish anything without moving on.

This also applies to the another issue I've seen a lot of writers (including myself with one book) fall into early in the process. That part where you do get feedback and everyone hates your opening chapter(s). And then, instead of moving on to find the point in the book where readers do start connecting so you know how to fix it, you pull everything, and spend months re-writing those opening chapters over. And over. And then send them off only to find that they're still not perfect. So you pull them again. The next thing you know, you've wasted six months on three chapters and your readers are so sick of the many incarnations of the opening, its like pulling teeth to entice them to read the rest of the book.

Just write the damn thing the best you can, clean it up the best you can, and send the whole thing off to trusted eyeballs. See what they have to say about the overall piece before sinking your time and energy into a major rewrite. That feedback will help direct your efforts rather than banging your head on the desk while you second guess yourself into hating your own novel.

Do you get hung up on tweaking the little things?

11 comments:

  1. As I've said on one of your earlier posts, I found myself using "eventually" a lot. I wondered if I should eliminate it at some points. Also, you brought up eliminating adverbs in another post. I've wondered how often I should do that, without worrying if my meaning will be lost.

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  2. I tweak a lot too. Sometimes it';s an evil necessity. At others it's my form of procrastination. Find me here.LINK

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    1. Procrastination is the issue exactly. If I keep playing with it, I don't have to move on to the next step.

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  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  4. As an editor, I have to be picky right down to the excessive use of a word.
    As a writer, I love brandishing my pen caring little about the details.
    I think that's why editors are worth their weight in gold they allow the writers to Write.
    A Piece of Uganda

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    1. Yes, everyone has their place in creating a great finished piece.

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  5. Excellent advice, though that's exactly what I'm in the middle of right now: Tweaking words. To be fair, it's the right time in my novel editing to be doing this. Later, not so much.

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  6. Hi Jean - I say enough is enough fairly often now - I can't be perfect any more ... but of course I never was!! Good luck with weaning yourself away ... cheers Hilary

    http://positiveletters.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/q-is-for-quirky-quizzy-facts-and-quaggas.html

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  7. It is hard to let go of the tweaking sometimes. I also key in on the words and phrases that I overuse which leads me to even more editing. It's always a balance. WeekendsInMaine

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  8. The thing about that sort of tweaking is once you notice one thing you start to worry about all sorts of other issues, more than is probably warranted. Feedback is key here as if something is really jarring, a good CP should point it out.

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  9. I used to get hung up on tweaking no matter what I was writing but not anymore. Now I (try to) operate with the motto "Done is better than perfect." Picked it up from my last employer.

    I love that each of your posts includes stories about how each applied in your own writing.

    Emily | My Life In Ecuador

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