Friday, 19 June 2009

Coffee Break: Racers' Rules Part Two

The Dark Skipper's den of iniquity is once again open for business. Simply name your poison. I'm going to indulge in an Irish coffee.

Last week we talked about writer's rules (guidelines) and their various pros and cons. Still on the subject of rules, I got to thinking about this blog and The Race in general.

Animated racehorse picture

Perhaps rules are unnecessary as, let's face it, it's not really a serious race. Is it? Anyway, looking at the things on the left side-bar, I realise that I'm rather unclear about the Novel Race and how it functions.

The categories seem to be "New Work", "Rewrites" and "Complete Started Work". However, isn't rewriting * really just part of completing a started work? What is defined as complete? First draft, full publication or something in between? What about projects where more than one author is involved, where (say) one of the co-authors is not a Novel Racer?

It also occurs to me that the display of the "medallists" on the left may not be fair and accurate. Some of you may well have finished the race, however we define that to be, and have slipped under my radar. If that's the case then I apologise.

Perhaps I'm trying to be overly formal about all of this, but in any case please let me know what you think.

Talking of races, I'm off to take part in the Colworth Marathon Challenge this weekend. This means I'm not actually around to participate in the comments, though I'll have a read of them all when I get back.

Have fun!

* I don't know about you, but I've never liked the term "rewrite". It implies you're scrapping it and starting again. The term "editing" seems much more appropriate. Unless of course you really are scrapping and starting again.

So if you like, an extra question for this week could be: What's your editing process; what steps do you take to get from first draft to a submission-ready book?


Anonymous said...

Hmm, this post was scheduled to be published at 05:00 my local time (which is 04:00 GMT). I don't know why this failed, but I've posted it manually now. A good job I checked, as I wasn't originally going to be on the computer today.

According to Blogger, it's a known issue:

Scheduled posting is currently unreliable for some users. We're looking into this and will post and update when we have more to share.
Thanks for your patience. — latest update on Thursday, June 18, 2009

Right, I really am off now. See you later...

Flowerpot said...

Bit early for a drink here so I'll stick with my Rooibosh tea thanks.
I agree about Rewrites - editing sounds much more positive! And I think I'm down for several categories which confused me, let alone anyone else. As for editing - well, that's what I'm doing at the moment. I don't have a precise schedule - it's more oganic (or vague!!) but I send mine to my writing buddy, Nancy, chapter by chapter. She helps me see where things don't work, what scenes need to be worked on, where characters aren't coming across properly etc. etc. I also check for use of five senses, to make sure each scene works to propel the plot forward, showing not telling and all those 'rules' or advice. I'm sure there's lots more but it'sa bit like driving, I do it without thinking. Am sure others can express this far better than me!

Fia said...

I know what you mean Captain.
I tried to 'edit' my first book and then realised it needed rewriting but it started to turn into a different genre. Now I'm writing what I suppose is a new book but with the two main characters from the first book.

My head hurts. Pass the Irish Coffee please.

Leatherdykeuk said...

Tea for me, too :)

The race: It's not the winning that matters, but the taking part. It started as a race a couple of years ago, but has become a group of (I hope) friends.

Editing -- I read the book again, usually in printed format, and red pen all the areas that need work. I call a second draft a re-write because I keep the plot, characters and settings and re-write chunks of text. Third draft and later I call edits because all I'm doing is changing grammar and typos.

Graeme K Talboys said...

The editing process is interesting. I'm usually uncomfortable about calling anything a first draft as it invariably gets a degree of rewriting and editing as it is being committed to the computer. The only time I've done a straight draft without corrections was with the book I finished earlier in the year. Pre-computer, I always did a draft by hand, then typed it, then began editing and rewriting (editing for me is changing the odd word here and there; rewriting is literally that, producing a new section to replace one that is beyond fixing by tinkering).

JJ Beattie said...

Hello all, I'm totally in agreement with Rachel when it comes to the race. It's the support, camaraderie, shared experience and not the winning. For me it's always been just me I'm racing against. It's about me writing my book alongside, yes, friends, writing theirs.

I have yet to experience the editing process on a novel sized piece of writing, and I find it somewhat scary...

Beleaguered Squirrel said...

The point you make - re the dictinction between rewriting and completion - occurred to me too, but I realised that you could argue endlessly about how to define these terms and none of us would ever agree, so it makes sense for someone to stick an arbitrary finger in the air, make a decision, and for the rest of us to abide by that.

I decided that, for me at any rate, "completion" involves doing several drafts until I arrive at something I'm happy to show agents and editors. But, and I'm guessing this is true for many, what often happens then is this: A few months down the line, after several rejection letters, you decide to reappraise the whole thing. And you do a rewrite. On something you had previously considered completed.

The New Work thing, to me, means first draft. A completed first draft is not a completed work - it'll need editing and quite possibly a few more drafts before it can be called completed. But there's a lot of satisfaction in completing a first draft, and it makes sense to me as a Novel Racing category.

Obviously there will be people who work in different ways and therefore struggle to decide which category they fit into, but they just need to pick a category and then stick to it. It's not an exact science.

As for my process... well, you can guess it from what I've written above. I do a first draft, then there are several edits and new drafts, until I finally arrive at something complete enough to show to agents and publishers. For me that's usually several drafts down the line. Five or six, in fact. For what it's worth I will often refer to a new draft as a "rewrite". And that clashes slightly with the Novel Racing categories, because I would often count rewriting as part of the process of completion. But that's fine, I would just acknowledge the ambiguity and stay in the "Completion" category.

I have then also done a rewrite after showing the book to agents etc. This is different to the drafting process, because you thought the book was "complete" and then you changed your mind and decided you could do better. I do this kind of thing a lot. I'm an incorrigible tinkerer.

As for the word "rewrite" I have no problem with it - I find it accurately describes what I do. I write a book, but then I decide there are fundamental details which need to change. I go right back to the beginning of the book and I literally rewrite it - ie write the whole thing (or most of it) again from scratch. For my first book I did this twice: Once when I decided to change from second person to first person, and once when I changed large sections from past tense to future tense. I also fundamentally changed the personality of one of the characters, turning him from big soppy teddy bear to grumpy old misanthrope. With my second book, I did it once, after I decided to change the basic premise and plot of the book. You could argue that, rather than rewriting, I was in fact writing a different book. But there were significant elements of the original which remained. Like the characters.

ChrisH said...

I'll definitely have an Irish coffee please, hopefully I'll be able to do a marathon event (yikes) when I've knocked it back. I'm glad you raised the categories thing as I've ben feeling a bit of a fraud as it's halfway through the year and I'm only just starting my new work. The rest of the time I've been doing the 'editors'' draft of work I thought I'd finished (good definitions, Beleaugered Squirrel). I'm glad Rachel made the point about being here for the companionship - it made me feel better.
On editing in general, I've got much better about it since completing year one of the OU course, which has really helped me break the task down. I've certainly found that by editing and re-drafting smaller pieces, like short stories and poems, the final result has been much stronger.

ChrisH said...

PS Good luck with the marathon challenge, Captain, let us know how you got on.

Rowan Coleman said...

As for the race, I agree its the taking part. I have three books on the go at the moment, one at proof stage, one at 2nd draft and one new work, no idea which categories these come under. I just like joining in with you lot! I don't like the term re-write, I prefer to think of it as refining and flowing the text through. Finessing.

KeVin K. said...

Two definitions I like and use were learned at workshops I took with Kristine Kathryn Rusch and her husband Dean Wesley Smith are "rewriting" and "redrafting."

Rewriting is the process by which you take an original work and try to figure out what you did wrong with it. You then try to make it sound and look like every other book you've read and conform to the grammar rules you learned in school, bleaching out any trace of your personal voice; everything that made your original story both original and yours.

Redrafting takes place when you read an original work you've completed and realize you did it wrong. The premise, the structure, the "bones" are solid, but your craftsmanship in telling the story isn't up to your standards for whatever reason. You then throw the thing out -- shredded the hard copies, delete the file, get rid of it. Then you write an original story based on the same foundation. (I've discovered potters tend to mpre comfortable with this idea than any other group of craftspeople.)

I use a process I call composting, but I'm told is known as the rolling or cycling edit. As things occur to me during the writing process – new insights, refinements, whatever – I change the ms. In other words, my "writer" and "editor" modes work in tandem. This is why I'm amazed at people who are able to show everyone chapter one of a work in progress. Chapter one is quite often the last one I finish – the opening line almost certainly is. (Of course the moment I typed that I thought of my one exception. Liane, you know the story I mean. I think I'll write about that one elsewhere.) On the whole, unless an editor tells me to change something, when I'm done with a story I’m done with it.

Having said all that, I will make a confession. The "Complete started work" that has been my goal for the past two years is, in fact, a rewrite.(So, yes, I agree with the "rewrite = complete work in progress" model.)I can not bring myself to completely scrap Coastal, Carolina – my mystery novel. I love 80% of what I have. But what I have is a mess. There is a fundamental flaw I can feel but not see and it's driving me crazy. This is the one and only situation in which I've felt fresh eyes could help, and given my nonlinear writing style, there's no way to go about it. The ms is not a point A to point B thing, yet. Once I figure out what is wrong I will either say "Aha!" and finish the thing in a whirlwind or say "Aha!" and scrap the works and redraft

Debs said...

Best of luck with the marathon, Captain.

I'll have a tea please. I need waking up after being at the hairdressers for two hours!

I put together a rough synopsis/plan of the book and then write the first version until I reach the end. I then pretty much rewrite the thing and bring it into some semblance of order, and then comes the editing. Or that's how I think of it anyway.

I love being part of the Novel Racers, and rather than feel like I'm in a race, it's more of a group of friends that help me feel supported and keep me thinking about writing and pushing myself to achieve the best out of myself that I can.

Fia said...

'Finessing' I love that Rowan and I do agree with Leatherdyke, it's all about keeping each other company. It can get lonely in my shed - even the spiders think I'm wasting my time.

Revisionista said...

I like Beleaguered Squirrels definitions of rewriting/editing.

I think what you call the stage after the 1st draft all depends on how sh*tty that 1st draft is (to borrow Ann Lamott's term). If you write tight first drafts, then your second stage is probably editing at the sentence level. But if you're like me and write totally incoherent, unstructured, telling not showing 1st drafts just to get yourself to get the story on the page, then your 2nd stage is probably going to be another draft or rewrite.

As for the novel racers, I think it's all about a sense of going through this crazy process of writing with a lovely bunch of people who are doing the same thing. It's been a huge motivation to watch Cally go from writing her 1st novel to getting it published and then writing her second novel.

That said, I'm off to write....

Karen said...

It's funny how the same word means different things to different people.

For me a rewrite means starting all over again from scratch, so I would say I'm editing my novel, rather than rewriting it.

Best of luck with the marathon challenge :o)

Calistro said...

I'm down for 'completing a previously started work' or something - that's because I started the 1st draft of novel 2 on 6th December last year and the Novel Racer list was set from 1st Jan this year.

I like the term edit over rewrite. To me rewrite does sound like starting over and rewriting the whole thing whereas with edit you can tinker and change bits without scrapping and rewriting the whole lot!

Liane Spicer said...

Thanks for the heads up re scheduled posting, Captain. And for me the race is all about the fellowship.

Re-writing, editing, redrafting - it's all rather confusing. I think most of what I do is editing, rather than what Fia described. As for deleting everything and beginning again from scratch: what a scary thought!

Kevin, you must be referring to the armpits. And I think you'll discern the problem with Carolina when the pressure to fix it is off.

" take an original work and try to figure out what you did wrong with it. You then try to make it sound and look like every other book you've read."

Ahem. Or your agent or editor makes you do it.

Annieye said...

I like to carry out my first edit as I go, so at the start of each writing session I re-read and lightly edit the previous session's offerings. (I have been known to delete the lot, though, and start again, thus completely wasting my own time.)

Every three chapters I settle down to do a more serious edit with my dictionary and thesaurus by my side.

It's a bit like ironing out the wrinkles a few at a time.

Once I've finished the book I re-read it on the screen for pleasure with a pen and scrap paper by my side to make any notes on anomalies in the plot.

Then I do a complete edit for typos, grammar, etc. and it's done.

KeVin K. said...

Right, Annieye. The mechanics of your process differ a bit from mine, but the principle is the same. And you never waste your time when you throw out what doesn't work. Some of my most productive days have ended with negative word counts after throwing out a flabby lump of wandering narrative and replacing it with focused storytelling.