There’s an ongoing question authors ask each other about writing. “Do you edit as you write, or just write?” Me? I write, then edit, then edit, then write some more, then edit. Why? Because as I’m writing I have a tendency to add, or change things and I need to reread for consistency. It’s the way I self edit myself and it works for me.
The problem is, sometimes my issues have nothing to do with consistencies at all and have to do with gaffes. You know, those editing nightmares as you’re reading a book and the character in one paragraph is eating pancakes and two paragraphs later they’re staring into their cereal bowl? (this actually happened in book #4 in an extremely popular YA series that ended up being produced into 5 films. I’ll let you figure out which one – hint: think vampires…)
I had one of those gaffes in my new WIP and it was a doozy. My characters are in Egypt. There is an Englishman, an Italian, a Frenchman and an American in the bunch. I have my characters running from bad guys. The Englishman is saying all these sayings like gawd blimey, and bloody hell, and stuff (I was researching English phrases to get it right) and to get away from the bad guys, I have my people escape into the Underground. You know, the equivalent of the NYC subway system, but in London? I continued the chapter where they got off at their stop, queued up in line to get a taxi, and then were dropped off on a quaint country road.
Did you catch the gaffe yet? My characters are in Egypt, not London! Why in the world would they be in the Underground and what in the heck was I thinking as I wrote this chapter? I do remember thinking, “Wow, this is moving smoothly, the words are flowing easily.” Sure they were, because I WAS IN THE WRONG PLACE. When I reread what I wrote, because I always go back and reread what I did the session before, and noticed this, I stared at the screen in disbelief.
I love when I gaffe a description of a character as well. My protagonist stared into her boyfriend’s “beautiful amber eyes, flecked with yellow making them seem to sparkle and shine.” Nice, but the guy has blue-green eyes in book #1 of the series. Funny how in book #2 his eye color changed – and it wasn’t from contact lenses.
I know for a fact that I’m not the only author to experience something like this, so this week I asked authors Sara Barnard and Diane Rapp to chime in on this topic.
Question #1) Do you edit when you write, and why?
Sara Barnard: The more I write and the more I learn, the more I edit as I go. Not only does it save time when the manuscript goes to my totally awesome editor, but it has become habit. I like to think it makes me a better, more efficient, scribe. Writing a sentence or a paragraph then going back through and quickly reading, looking for errors or omissions helps keep me on track, too. But as a lesson, I also let it sit before sending it in and read through it at least one more time. It’s amazing the mistakes you’ll find when you let it rest then go back to it later.
Diane: I’m a “stream of consciousness writer.” I think about a scene and how the characters interact before I fall asleep each night, and my subconscious works on it. When I’m ready to write the scene, I type as fast as my fingers will move to put it into the computer.
After I write the newest scene, I wait a day and read through everything with a critical eye. At that point then the editing process starts. The first draft of the book is flexible, so I make changes and fix problems along the way. Sometimes I redo a scene three or four times until I’m satisfied, at other times I’m surprised that I already like what I created. It’s that sneaky subconscious doing a good job.
After the first draft of the book is complete, I reread everything straight through. That’s when I hope to spot inconsistencies and major errors. I also take time to check a thesaurus for more effective words. The third time through, I concentrate on punctuation, grammar, and incorrect words. This is the most boring part of the editing process, so I find myself daydreaming. I can’t count how many times I speed along, enjoying my own narrative, when I realize I’ve stopped paying attention to editing.
Question #2) What is the most major gaffe you found editing?
Sara: I’ve found numerous mistakes in my self-edits. One was in A HEART ON HOLD … Charlotte’s horse, Achilles, was written to be a gelding. Well, later, I had him as a stallion. That may not seem like much, but it was certainly important to Achilles! In my forthcoming Amish romance Rebekah’s Quilt, I had my heroine’s little brothers named something different in almost every chapter!
Diane: My worst mistake was using the wrong name for my heroine in a full chapter of a first draft. It was understandable. I just finished writing a Mystery with a heroine named Kayla, and the character in the new Science/Fantasy is named Krystal. My brain got mixed up, or maybe it was my fingers. Suddenly Kayla appeared on the planet Drako to confront an evil villain. The worst part was that I didn’t notice the error at first. One of my Beta readers sent me an e-mail asking, “Who is Kayla?” She had not read my mystery, so she didn’t understand the mistake. I was so embarrassed. At that point I realized many of my characters had similar sounding names. I reconsidered the character names and made major changes. I discovered that characters behaved differently after I changed their names. It’s true. I got in a few arguments with those characters, but they won in the end. Darn!
Ladies, thank you both so much! I think everyone can relate to the gaffes above – I know I do! I think I’ve done all of them at one point or another, as well.
If you’d like to learn more about Sara and Diane, please check out their links below:
Sara is the mother of four small children and wife to an awesome and supportive husband. Now that her husband is out of the Army and she is done following him around to various military bases around the world, they’ve settled down in their shared hometown in west Texas. Sara’s debut historical romance series, An Everlasting Heart, consists of four books: bestseller and 2012 RONE award finalist for Best American Historical Fiction A Heart on Hold, A Heart Broken, A Heart at Home, and the forthcoming final book in the series A Heart Forever Wild. Her debut Amish historical romance, Rebekah’s Quilt, will be released November 16th, 2013. All of these are from 5 Prince Publishing. Sara also writes children’s books: Chunky Sugars was her debut children’s book from 5 Prince Kids, with Little Spoon coming in September 2013. Sara independently publishes a nonfiction children’s line as well, all of which have remained on Amazon’s bestseller lists since being released. Those titles are: The ABC’s of Oklahoma Plants, The ABC’s of Texas Plants, and The Big Bad Wolf Really Isn’t So Big and Bad. She can be reached at twitter at @TheSaraBarnard, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sarabarnardbooks, her website at http://www.sarabarnardbooks.com and lastly, her blog at sarathreesuns.BlogSpot.com
Diane Rapp is a split-personality author, who writes a Mystery series and a Science/Fantasy series. She particularly enjoys works by Anne McCaffrey, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Agatha Christie, and Arthur Conan Doyle. As an animal lover, she always includes animals such as telepathic wolves, flying dragons, or poison dart frogs (as a murder weapon) in her novels. For more information about both series, visit her website at http://www.quicksilvernovels.com. You can also reach her at her author’s FB page at: http://www.facebook.com/quicksilvernovels and on twitter at @DianeRapp