Saturday, August 24, 2013

Holly Lisle's one-pass editing method

I think this Holly Lisle article deserves some review:

I got to it on a tip from Rebecca Schwarz. I'm trying to iterate over this process right now, but it's taking me a while.

My first reaction to it is to point out that one-pass is a misnomer. It's really two passes: a heavy editing/markup pass, and then a complete retype.

Nothing wrong with that. I see that one-pass is a catchier concept. And the actual method fits how I work very well -- I've done this before: do a hardcopy markup and then, instead of entering the markup in the prior version, type a new version from scratch, incorporating the markup as you go. It frees you to use completely new language, but the markup serves as a roadmap. It's great.

However, my writing process for the past couple of years has involved MANY complete retypes of each story, which I now see needs to change. I used to pride myself on that, now I see it as indulgent. I'll have 10 such drafts sometimes.

So far this is what I've learned from trying this out:

1. I've gotten away from marking up hardcopies at all, but it remains super useful. I'd begun to use it only for proofing, but it's a great way to do high-level revision. You can't beat the ability to flip back and forth and mark on the text.

2. Lisle says she can use this process to edit a book in two weeks. I assume she has no other job. Me, it's taking me more than two weeks to edit a 10k-word short story.

3. The main thing that distinguishes this, I think, from other processes is a focus on resolving ALL of your issues with the story in the one editing pass.  One of the reasons I end up with man passes is that I'll put off some issue to a later draft, preferring to isolate it and handle it. That's good in terms of splitting a project into small tasks, but I've clearly taken it too far.

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