Friday, October 06, 2006

Revision, and Editing vs. Writing—boggled

Sean said something in comments that completely blew my mind and I just had to pull it out and unpack it where others can comment. I, too, see the revision process as a form of "editing", whereas I think Kelly would think of it as just "writing" and then Sean talked a little bit about authorial vs. critical modes in writing.

This is so alien to how I see the book process that I just boggled. For me, the whole thing is writing the book. There is no line between my inner editor and my inner author. I write, edit, and even read all from the same part of my psyche, and I don't think it's ever occurred to me that there was any other way to do it. The same voice that writes the sentence assesses it before and after and then rewrites and even copyedits.

Quick survey: Do you compartmentalize your writing processes? Creative and Analytical? Or is it a sort of continuum? Or is it all just in one big box? Or something completely different?


Stephanie Zvan said...

I think it's a distinction that's clearer to someone who hasn't written enough to find a balance between skills.

For example, Doug and I both talked a while ago about dealing with our inner editors getting in the way of us doing new writing. I think we both have better-developed skills as editors than we do as writers. As for Sean, he can easily sit down and spill thousands of words of tumbled ideas onto the page (just try to stop him), but he's still learning how to most effectively frame those ideas and communicate them to a reader. In all these cases, one part of the job of writing requires much more attention than another, making it hard to view the process as an integrated whole.

However, I find that the more writing I do, the more easily the skills blend. I can stop myself from taking a 500-word detour on the way to my next important scene without interrupting the flow of ideas. I write cleaner drafts even when my only purpose is to get the ideas onto paper as quickly as I can--screw grammar and clarity. I add embellishing details on the fly as I revise, instead of making a note to do it later.

So, yes, for me they do involve separate parts of my brain. But it's all still writing, and the more I write, the less I notice the separation.

Kelly McCullough said...


That's an interesting take. On some levels it sounds exactly right, though I personally don't remember there ever being a distinction between the various modes for me. But writing my first book was a long time ago. Heck, writing my third book was a long time ago.

Sean M. Murphy said...

I'm going to agree with Steph, too. The more I work as a writer, the more time that I am able to spend in honing the craft, the more I feel able to just "tune" the text as I go, rather than having it be an editorial process separate from the creative process. It does become more integrated as I go.

Oh, for the time to spill those thousands of words...