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Editing Mojo

January 26, 2014

For this week’s Sunday Scrapbook I present to you a blog post about … a blog post.

I’ve decided to give you a peek behind the curtain and reveal the magic I use to polish every post until it’s sparkly. Since most of my posts are much too long for this kind of analysis, I’ll share a post from the How To Think Sideways Blog (and you thought A Scenic Route was a ponderous name!), where I post every Friday to highlight a particularly interesting forum topic.

I’m going to go through some iterations of the draft and highlight the changes that helped it come together. There were actually seven drafts, but to spare you the agony of the entire process (and to keep my word count manageable) I’m only posting three of them.

Here we go!

Step One: Today’s post topic is about a forum member who is looking for a critique partner. In preparation for my writing session, I make a cup of tea, dial up a suitable playlist, and set the timer for an hour. I soothe my Inner Editor with the assurance that if I don’t have anything good after an hour, I can just write a plain vanilla post and get ‘er done.

All Systems Go

Then I bang out a first draft, no stopping to edit, just to get the ideas on the page. I posted it here for your edification:

Writing a novel can be a lonely job

(I stopped here, and thought blech … then started over)

Writing a novel can be a lonely business. With nothing but a dream that is no more substantial than clouds between one’s fingers, writers shape a story out of thin air. Practicing our moves, checking the mirror to make sure our backs are straight and our toes pointed.

But there comes a time in this intricate dance that we need a partner. Someone to check our footing, initiate a turn in the right places, or suggest a different tempo. The right critique partner can choreograph a mundane story into one that soars.

How does one find such a writer? One brave intrepid writer has raised his hand and asked for laid out his credentials in the hopes of finding just such a person. Log in and check into the boot camps to find out if you can help him out, or post your own!

Words on the page. Yay! Now it’s time to look them over and see what I can fix.

Step Two: I have an idea about a critique partner being like a dance partner, and there’s a lot of clunky wording that needs polishing. So I go to town and edit …Image courtesy of Jonathan Ruchti @ stock.xchng

Writing a novel is a lonely business. With nothing but a dream no more substantial than a cloud between one’s fingers, writers must fabricate compose a story out of thin air. Like a dancer learning a new program, with each draft, and each revision we are practicing our moves, checking the mirror to make sure our backs are straight, our toes pointed, and that we’ve got just the right spin in our pirouette.

But Often there comes a time in this intricate dance that we need a partner—someone to check our footwork, initiate a turn in the right places, or suggest a different tempo. The right critique partner at the right time can choreograph a mundane story into one that soars.

How does one find such a writer conspirator? A Boot Camp member has sent up the smoke signal in the hopes his call will be answered. Log in and check into the boot camps to find out if you can help him out, or post your own call.

Step Three, Four: More polishing. I’m starting to have more confidence that I will be able to see this idea through as I substitute better words and smoother sentences for clumsiness. I’ll spare you that step, because I can see your eyes glazing over.

Question Mark-RedStep Five: After this step I realized that starting with clouds and ending with dancers just didn’t quite flow yet. I knew I needed to connect the beginning with the end, and that’s when the magic happened. Watch the first paragraph closely …

Writing a novel is a lonely business. Listening only to the music of our imagination, we compose stories from nothing more than clouds between our fingers. Like a dancer learning a new program, with each draft and each revision we are practicing our moves, checking the mirror to make sure our backs are straight, our toes pointed, and that we’ve got just the right amount of spin in our pirouette.

Often there comes a time in this intricate dance that we need a partner—someone to check our footwork, initiate a turn in the right places, or suggest a different tempo. The right critique partner at the right time can choreograph a story that stutters into a story that soars.

How does one find someone to fill that role? A Boot Camp member has sent out the casting call. Log in and check into the boot camp forums to see if you can help him out, or post your own casting call!

After this comes a bit more polishing, and the final touch: A Title.Exclamation Point -Red However, in the spirit of blogging community, I’m going to have to insist you visit my other blogging home, the How to Think Sideways Blog if you want to see the final product!

How about you? How many drafts does it take to get things just right? And aren’t critique partners the best?

Red pencil image courtesy of Jonathan Ruchti @ stock.xchng, punctuation images courtesy of Jordan McCullough @ Big Stock
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19 Comments
  1. January 26, 2014 6:07 pm

    Your process makes me chuckle.
    I usually spend so long polishing the outline, the first draft is in pretty good shape. However, the one I’m working on now will need some extra and some rearranging.

    • January 27, 2014 8:44 pm

      Glad you liked my little backstage pass!
      I’m learning that I start rough, and do my best to finish polished. 🙂

  2. January 26, 2014 6:36 pm

    Wow, no wonder your posts are so lovely. I have to admit that I don’t put near that much editing into blog posts. My creative writing, yes, and that is where critique partners are the absolute best. Even critiquing others’ work is a learning experience every time.

    • January 27, 2014 8:47 pm

      Even my comments get the once over …
      For a long time, I was so nervous about sharing my work that all I did was critique other writers. I learned a lot that way too, but nothing compares to having another writer give some thoughtful insights.

  3. January 26, 2014 7:38 pm

    Wow, can we say perfectionist? You go, girl! And yes, critique partners are a very wonderful thing 🙂

    • January 27, 2014 8:49 pm

      Welcome to my world, Jamie! I struggle with letting things go, because there’s always one more edit, one more comma to fix …

  4. January 26, 2014 10:47 pm

    Your method for writing a blog post sounds similar to mine. I usually like to power through a first draft, then polish and revise as needed. I have no idea how many drafts I typically go through. Editing/polishing/adding images to a post just kinda happens organically as I go.

    • January 27, 2014 8:51 pm

      I had no idea how many drafts I do either, so for this short post I decided to find out and save the successive versions. I was surprised by how many times I end up going over things. No wonder I was having trouble getting some posts up here!
      Images are fun too. Those usually come in last, but I often end up with completely different images and color schemes than I originally intended.

  5. January 27, 2014 1:07 am

    I am humbled! I rarely put in this much effort for a post (unless it’s one where I fear the message may be misinterpreted and I want to make sure I’m saying the right thing)
    I don’t have a critique partner as such, although I do have Beta Readers, so I’m off to visit your post to learn more!

    • January 27, 2014 8:54 pm

      Yeah, Amanda, I’m starting to think that quality control is way too tight around here, although I think I do learn a lot every time I go through a lot of edits. I’m hoping that eventually the smooth writing will come out sooner in the process, and save some time!

      • January 28, 2014 1:29 am

        I agree, I learned loads from editing my Claire posts every day. I used to hate doing line edits but came to really enjoy crafting each sentence and considering each word choice. I’m going to contradict myself and say I should do it more often as I write because, when faced with a complete draft of a 100,000 word novel, line editing seems a daunting task. But going through six hundred words with care is manageable. But I don’t think I could do it with blog posts because often my posts are banal chatty domestic rambles. You can’t polish a … 😉

        • January 28, 2014 9:37 pm

          Your posts actually read quite well, so I’m surprised when you say you don’t line edit them much!
          I enjoy line editing, and even proofreading. I’m weird that way, I guess!

          • January 29, 2014 3:57 am

            Thank you. I usually read them twice through, but I’ve taken to writing them on the iPad for apparent ease – it’s a false economy because editing on the iPad is a nightmare! There are no curser keys to navigate the text and it’s really hard to edit typos in wordpress (and there are more typos as I can’t touchtype without keys) so recent posts haven’t been as well polished.
            I’m learning to enjoy editing but it’s never been my first love! Unless I’m writing poetry and that’s more like building something and moving the bricks around until they fit properly.

  6. January 29, 2014 9:54 pm

    You nailed it Kirsten. Can you go ahead and do my blog posts from now on. One every two weeks would be perfect. Just let me know when you want to start and I will give you the login for my blog. What, you think I should write them myself? Well, okay, if you insist. But I really like the way you do it more than how I do it. 🙂

    • January 31, 2014 7:29 pm

      I’m glad you like my posts! I actually enjoy doing them, (except for the time it takes from writing stories) but your posts are unique to you. I don’t think anyone could quite write them the wonderful witty way you do, nor could anyone write mine, I suppose!

      And isn’t editing wonderful? I fixed your typo right up there. 🙂

  7. January 29, 2014 9:55 pm

    Grrrr, I can’t edit my post KIRSTEN!

  8. February 3, 2014 3:59 am

    I love seeing behind the curtain of how someone else works. That was brilliant. Thank you!

    • February 3, 2014 6:36 pm

      You’re welcome, Rebecca. 🙂
      It was interesting for me too, because as I took the time to pull apart my process, I learned a bit about what makes a post come together for me.

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  1. Backstage at the Blog: E is for Edit | A Scenic Route

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