Something Different

I usually post something writing-related on Tuesdays. This week, I’ve pretty much got nuthin’. So what I’m offering is a picture, and a question.

I’ve been enjoying everyone’s comments on my first-draft-ish vampire… stuff… the past few weeks. I know it’s not perfect, and I know that you all know that (and you know that I know that you know that, etc), but it’s very encouraging, especially when I usually show that kind of stuff to NOBODY. That’s how special you all are to me. One pass for typos-and-grammatical-faux-pas special.

So here’s a picture of something different. This is a printed page of my third (fourth? Fourth-and-a-half? Seventeenth? I don’t know anymore) draft of Bound. Not every page gets this many notes, but I think it gives a pretty good idea of how I usually struggle through revisions. That is, with a lack of focus, a lot of questions, some music, a few notebooks (and a pirate hook, apparently) and a whole lot of doodling in the margins. Don’t bother trying to blow it up to see what I’m changing, it doesn’t matter. The point is, DEAR LORD THE RED PEN.


Ugh. The wases. The missteps. The questions that could have been better answered elsewhere, the too-much-backstory, the could-I-cut-this. *sobs*

So here’s the question: how do you do it? Do you print out your work and mark it up like a high school teacher (with significantly more funky flowers and birds, in my case), or do you revise electronically? Are you still changing this much after numerous drafts, or do your stories come out pretty much the way you wanted them to in early drafts, and you’re just changing a phrase here and there? Do you prefer to doodle spiderwebs, cats, car chases or perhaps sharks on your work? What’s your process?


About Kate Sparkes

Kate Sparkes was born in Hamilton, Ontario, but now resides in Newfoundland, where she tries not to talk too much about the dragons she sees in the fog. She lives with five cats, two dogs, and just the right amount of humans. USA Today bestselling author of the Bound Trilogy (mature YA Fantasy), Into Elurien, and Vines and Vices. Writing dark, decadent, and deadly Urban Fantasy as Tanith Frost. View all posts by Kate Sparkes

24 responses to “Something Different

  • elaine jeremiah

    I guess for me most of the time I chop and change things as I go along. But I do go back over what I’ve written at various points. Then once I feel I’ve finished the story I read it all through and make more changes.

  • Charles Yallowitz

    My drafts have gotten neater as I finish books and get more of a style locked in. I also use pencil instead of red pen. Too many bad memories. I start with a printed out version to edit and then move on to a digital version. It’s weird that you catch more on a printed version than you do with digital.

  • Gloria Weber

    First: ZIM!!!!!!! SQUEE!!!!!!

    Second: I start with an electronic edit, using comments function to make notes during the read through process or simply highlighting what’s screwed up if it’s obvious, Then I do a read aloud (be it me or the PDF reader’s robot voice doing the reading). And when I think it is best I print it. From there it goes to other humans and I restart the process.

    Third: Depends. Sometimes it is weird fantasy creatures with large noses, fat birds that look dumb, or just swirls.

  • L. Marie

    Hi, Kate! Wooo. The evil red pen! I like your little doodles! πŸ™‚ I do a first pass edit on the computer. I wind up moving text around, rewriting, answering the questions I wrote during the draft phase, etc. Then I print it and do another pass. Even after the first pass, the page I print always winds up looking like the page you included. I catch typos, missing words, mistakes in logic, etc. And sometimes this happens after three drafts.

  • Ricarda

    Looks like my revisions of what I sent in to apply for uni a few years ago. Minus the hook^^ Do you go “Arrr, needs moar pirates!!” with it? πŸ˜€

    My stories’ first drafts usually turn out second- to third-draft-ish, if that makes any sense, but only because I write at a snail’s pace. Seriously, it takes me forever until I even finish a first draft, because I keep fretting over details (big and small and “do people even notice this outstandingly clever thing I did with grammar there?!”^^). So maybe my first draft is really a second or third draft already, but I refuse to call it a complete draft until I can type “the end” on the last page :>
    Which leaves me with the possibility to do the “proper” revisions in OpenOffice via comments and the “show changes” option. Saves paper, and I can change what I dislike directly and don’t have to go back to it when I’m at a computer again (which more often than not means that I forget to change half of it anyway). I wouldn’t have the patience to go through revisions like you do. Respect for that :3

    *achem* I turned on my computer intending to write. Now look what you’ve done, distracting me like that :O …okay, who am I kidding, I’m just procrastinating on the internet. Again.

  • Raewyn Hewitt

    What is it with writers and editing? My process has evolved into such a convoluted process I’m sure I’m subconsciously trying not to finish. The read through first (not usually when I’m finished the whole thing – about a third of the way through, just in case I’m getting off track). Electronic at this stage and only allowed to write notes in the comments – otherwise evil rewriteritis strikes and I just end up with more first draft…

    Then chapter edits. Still electronic. Then print outs for red pen editing (including reading it out loud). Trying to stop writing ‘this is crap’ all over it – although maybe it would look better in beautiful cursive with embellishments – and a hook!!!!

    Then decide perhaps I need a break because I’ve squashed all of the life out of it. I have a very patient CP who usually pats me on the back at this stage and says ‘there, there, it’s not that bad…’ Poor girl deserves a medal.

    • katemsparkes

      A break might not hurt- my month off has helped me tremendously (partly in realizing my work is better than I thought when I was getting burned out). And I do find that writing “WTF?!” in the margins is much easier to come back to if I’ve done it in fancy script, or in a speech bubble coming from a funny character. πŸ™‚

  • jadereyner

    My editing process at the moment is all electronic. I tend to re-read as I go and sometimes read sections aloud and then I go back over and do a full read through edit, and then do the spellcheck/grammar check and then go back through it again. Then it goes to editing and then I do all the changes and then read it a couple more times. I’ve only published one book but by the time I’d read it nearly 10 times I was going spare and decided that it was a load of rubbish. I then put it aside for a few days and picked it up again and found last minute changes and decided that I did like it again so I went with it. It’s such a personal process and I suppose we all work how it suits us best. The main reason I don’t print off is because of the length of my manuscript and the cost of ink and paper! But I do agree that you find more mistakes in the printed version – strange isn’t it? Great post. πŸ™‚

  • ioniamartin

    Both, print for the first draft, final draft the screen.

  • Jae

    Because printing is so pricy anymore, I do the majority of my editing digitally. I leave track changes on in case I want to go back, and I also save versions of my book, like March2012, June2012, etc. when I make major changes. I find that when I get feedback from experienced writers that’s when major changes tend to happen. I’m not sure what draft of my book I’m on either, but I know it’s more than 8.

    These are things I’ve learned via conferences and personal experiences to do to help with editing:
    *write in Times New Roman, edit in Arial (basically go from serif to san serif). The change in font presents something new to the brain and you notice mistakes more.
    *Read aloud. Sounds like you’re already doing this. I worked with a friend who edits professionally, and she could always tell when I’d read aloud and when I hadn’t. Big difference.
    *Have someone else read it to you aloud. I haven’t done this myself, but if you can have it done, most said hearing it in another voice helped point out problems to them.
    *Edit backwards. I don’t mean literally backwards. I usually do this as starting at the end of Chapter One, say it’s 11 pages long, and work backward. So edit page 11, then 10, then 9, etc. This has done a lot for me. It keeps you from getting too invested in the story that’s going on in your mind, jarring you out of that vision every page. Supposedly you should do this from page, say, 300 to page 1. I still haven’t tried it yet, and I should, but the backwards on chapters has worked well for me.
    *Do “find and replace” on clunky words, like: still, seemed to, began to, etc. I have a list of these on the grammar notes I took from the Storymakers conference. The word “could” is a culprit I see too often in literature now and it bothers me to know end. Not that you can’t ever use could, just that it’s used far too often.

    Best advice of all, find critique partners that are good for grammar and critique partners that are good for the big picture stuff. Some of the best critiques I ever got were something I call “impressional” where they just said what didn’t work for them and why and left it up to me to fix it.

    And sometimes, the most important tip of all is: TAKE A BREAK. Yep, sometimes you can be editing too much. Work on a completely different project and let the one you’re editing get cold. I was amazed at how much easier it was to edit when I let my novel be cold for a month.

    Best of luck. We’re all there with you.

  • thelovelymessy

    I write my way through a novel, rereading the writing from the day before and double checking that things are going in the right direction. If not, I do quick revisions. I have CP’s (4) who read a chapter each week, but I usually stay several chapters ahead of them. After I get revisions/notes from CP’s, I fix those things asap, while they are very fresh in my head.
    By the end of a manuscript, I have had 4 sets of eyes read everything along with me. Then I send out to Beta readers.
    My CP’s are ruthless. And I’m so much better because of it. Nice friends aren’t what I need. I need red pen, ALL CAPS, slashes and ??? in places things get wonky, because my goal is publication.

  • thelovelymessy

    Also, in my ‘over used words list’ I include Just, But & And.

  • Emily Witt

    When I had grand intentions of actually doing something with my first NaNo story (before realising that it was way too not-scientifically-sound for a sci-fi piece and that i wasn’t really clever enough to fix it), I printed that out, and was scribbling all over it.

    I got the first draft of AMCF printed as well, but that turned out to be a bit of waste of my money. It is still pristine, as everything I’ve been doing on that has been electronic so far. In the first draft, Cait and Felipe’s kingdom didn’t even have a name, and so there’s been a lot of fleshing out and writing completely new scenes to help establish that. When I’m really happy with the story I might get it printed again and go through to pick up typos and that sort of thing. I’m pretty new to the world of actually getting as far as revisions, so I’m still figuring out what works best for me.

  • ontyrepassages

    Late comment…I’ve been gone, as in “road trip.” Don’t tell anyone, but I’m old enough to remember typewriters (the clip-clap was a soothing sound that helped pacify the Neanderthals when they visited). Having been responsible for entire forests disappearing I swore that if a day came when I could edit electronically I would. It did. I do. I also find it easier because I’m what my college professor called an “instinctive writer.” I couldn’t diagram a sentence even under threat of death, but I know if one’s right when I hear/see it (most of the time). She likened it to playing music by ear. Thus, I play with my sentences a lot and that would mean a lot of paper. For me, reading aloud is critical and highly recommended. It’s especially critical for dialog. I’ve changed a million sentences that sent skewers through my brain when I read them. Oh, the nightmares…

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