Is there ever a case for not editing?

AnRoinnUltra

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Hello Chrons, there's something I've been wondering about since starting writing. All writing advice says you should edit multiple times (from what I can tell). Do any writers just not do it?
The reason I'm asking is because I've been publishing a book in weekly audio format. I couldn't get a quiet time this week, so decided to reedit the section instead (like a good writer should), but when I read it back the edited thing was rubbish. By accident I opened a copy of the first draft and it seemed much better (in relative terms!).
Is there ever a case for not editing? I know the 75/ 100 worders have to be edited for word count if nothing else, but I'm not sure about the long stuff.
 
There's always a case for just about anything in every art, writing included. There's always an example of someone who did it and succeeded, and stories from those who failed.

The only relevant question is, what you should you do with your own work? And only you can answer that. Which is not helpful, I realize.

The only helpful bit I can offer is that you be clear about what you mean by "edit". Do you mean grammar and punctuation? Consistency (inconsistent descriptions, for example)? Hackneyed expressions, overuse of words, white room dialog, and a hundred other writerly difficulties? Pacing? And more....

By way of analogy, do you do any quality checking of your audio? Do you check levels? Do any mastering? Filter pops? Do you just hit record and then hit post?
 
I couldn't get a quiet time this week, so decided to reedit the section instead (like a good writer should), but when I read it back the edited thing was rubbish. By accident I opened a copy of the first draft and it seemed much better (in relative terms!).
This sometimes happens. But you need to repeat the experiment many times before you can arrive at a rule.
 
The case for not editing would be that one does not have a reason to edit. If there was a reason why one edited the first draft, having the first draft be better than the edit is immaterial. The underlying reason for the edit is still there.
 
I wouldn't know, since I am obsessive about editing everything, even my online posts, and (as described elsewhere) the ongoing inner monologue of my own thoughts, which no one else will ever see. (I think I can manage to put together a grocery list without editing it ... no wait, sometimes I worry about how I spell the items on the list.) So I have no experience of what it is like to write something and leave it as it is. Maybe sometimes I should have done, but I'll never know.

But there is a difference between editing and revising. If the first draft and the edited version were so different, did you do a lot of revising?
 
I would suggest that there is very little which can't be improved upon by editing. There are times though when you can get it right first time.

As Teresa says though, if you've gone from something you're happy with to something you're not, then that does sound like it's more than editing. In my opinion editing would be slight amendments for grammar, and perhaps to replace one word with a more appropriate one.

I've had instances in the 75 Word Challenge when I've come up with an idea I was happy with, then tried to improve it but made a mess. Always keep your original draft, because this is the one that gave you the original inspiration and will be informative.

I think that part of the skill in being a writer is to know when to stop.
 
Thanks all for all the advice. I've a ways to go and hadn't thought of the difference between editing and revising. It's probably the case I made a pig's ear of the revising and a more systematic approach is needed ...spellings, grammar & punctuation (probably a lost cause!) and then revising.
do you do any quality checking of your audio?
A bit, but very superficial due to time constraints, thanks -there's a lesson in that.
did you do a lot of revising?
I think I mixed the two things up, sorry -yes, I meant revising (changing around the story); learned something new today, thanks.

Reads like the key is yes, always try to edit unless you're sure what you have is match fit, ...and be clear what you are at before getting stuck in.
Appreciate the advice.
 
When I started writing my 1st novel a year ago (after many years of planning), I wrote what I saw in my mind and I thought it was good. But, when I went back and read the first 2000 words, I realized just how horrible it was. And I was stuck as to how to fix it. Well, after all this time in doing the 75/100/300 worders, reviewing and giving my hand at doing critiques, as well as other exercises (3 leg :)), I am rewriting the entire beginning of my novel so that it reads like the story I want it to be.

The only 75 worder that I wrote right off with no editing was the one last year under the Water theme where Parson won, and I placed second.

Some people need to learn how to tell a story, and others are more natural at it. And what I have heard from you, and your writings, you have things pretty much thought out before you have a go at it. But writing a novel is like a game of chess, you need to plan and think ahead; it might change on its own accord.
 
Assuming we mean editing to improve the story and not correcting typos and the like (which I think must always happen) -

I know there's writers who don't edit, or only edit lightly. I'm fairly sure some of them published writers. Big name published writers.

In fact, I'm fairly sure you're more likely to find the big name writers doing it than anyone else in trad publishing, because they're the ones with the clout to be able to tell publishers "yeah I'm not doing those edits, do you want to take this book you know will sell or not".

The other people I know of not doing it are writers doing some form of indie publishing with a colossal output. Webserials like The Wandering Inn. I have a friend who was doing a book a month for a bit with only light edits.

In any case, I think the underlying attraction of doing little to no edits - and the ability to get away with it - comes down to the art form. Which is to say genre fiction aimed at people who like their genre fiction to do genre fiction things.

They're not producing a form of art where the quality of the prose is highly significant as long as it's easily understood. As long as they consistently write clean sentences, they're fine. They're not producing a form of art where complex and/or water-tight plots are necessary. You can follow a standard heroic arc easily and get your audience to skip over a few plot holes if they're having fun. Characters can be archetypes. Basically, everything they're doing is fairly easy stuff that can be done quickly and to a high enough standard that people will enjoy it if you hit the right tone and have the right moments.

And spending a lot of time editing it won't really improve a whole lot the audience cares about, but will result in time lost that could have been spent writing more books for more sales. Or just having a life other than writing.

Now I can't do that. Not only do I needlessly overcomplicate things, I don't have a strong enough grip on story, and I also don't have the attention span and stamina. But if you do? If the nature of your art form is about doing the simple things well and you can get the simple things right 90% of the time and your audience will forgive the 10%?

Then it's worth considering.

I would add that there's a difference between light and no edits. No edits is asking for trouble. Light edits - that become heavy if you realised you messed up - evades a lot of the trouble.

p.s. I would also add a third category now I think of it - people who work slowly but cleanly, tidying as they go, and by the end of the first official draft pretty much have a finished product that only needs light tightening. I think Peter McLean and Fonda Lee are both examples of spec fic authors doing that today.
 
p.s. I would also add a third category now I think of it - people who work slowly but cleanly, tidying as they go, and by the end of the first official draft pretty much have a finished product that only needs light tightening. I think Peter McLean and Fonda Lee are both examples of spec fic authors doing that today.
For the last ten years I've been writing a first draft that is as good as possible, so the magic of that initial sense of discovery is retained. This, however, is a high risk strategy that an experienced author can consider.

Editing is all about preparing the work for readers (that is, viewpoints) other than that of the author. If you want other people to read your work, understand and enjoy it, then edit it or have it edited, as professionals do. If not, don't bother. This is why the comment above about editing changing what the writer wrote to what they meant is germane.
 
Thats the problem I am having. My MC is an emotionless, stagnate stick figure. Putting emotion, feeling and purpose into my MC is easy in my mind but on paper, might as well leave him out and write an SF History in my case.

I can put purpose and meaning into the supporting characters, but for some reason not into the MC. In my mind it's a wonderful movie, on paper it's a nice idea. Turning that idea into a MC with emotion with purpose is where I need to improve upon.
 
because the read what they meant and not what they wrote.
That is probably the case -and a good case for editing.
If the nature of your art form is about doing the simple things
Thanks for the detailed and considered reply, in an ideal world that would be what I could do (love the Mr.Men kids books, clear simple straightforward stories ...reckon I enjoyed them more than the kids).

Reading down the thread the big lesson here is always edit, and even if ya don't generally do revisions -there'll be times you have to.
 
The more I write, the rougher my first drafts are and the more I rely on editing to make them better (in some cases, coherent). I think this is a matter of confidence, although it can lead to some odd problems. When I was editing God Emperor of Didcot before sending it to the publisher, I was surprised to find a blank space with the words "Fight scene here, Smith wins" which had to be filled.
 
One option might be to submit the chapter in question to the Critiques forum. It is size limited, but I've found it helpful to get some other people's opinion. I'm not sure how an audio presentation would look in written format, so that might be a challenge. It might be interesting to post an audio segment for comment; check with the mods first, though.
 
submit the chapter in question to the Critiques forum
Thanks, it was more of just a general question to see what people do, and if it's a really bad idea to go with first drafts (managed to record the chapter in the car at lunch today so will have it published later anyway). The story is the same written as spoken, but I'd need to take some time to fix spellings and other umfigelments before it'd be fit to read. I've used the Critiques a bit, and found it very usefull, but am just going with self editing and revision this time around.
 
For the last ten years I've been writing a first draft that is as good as possible, so the magic of that initial sense of discovery is retained. This, however, is a high risk strategy that an experienced author can consider.

Editing is all about preparing the work for readers (that is, viewpoints) other than that of the author. If you want other people to read your work, understand and enjoy it, then edit it or have it edited, as professionals do. If not, don't bother. This is why the comment above about editing changing what the writer wrote to what they meant is germane.

Ah! I like how you put that a lot.

It also explains the various genre authors who don't edit a lot - they're so in tune with their readers they don't have to much.

It should also be noted the first two categories either rely heavily on name recognition and emotional bonds with readers, or selling to an audience that likes cheap and plentiful over excellent. Outside of those two, a good edit still seems very necessary.
 

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