Insert New Scene Here: The Dread of In-Process Editing

This scene needs something. Hmm…oh, what if I had that happen? Whoa, that would be really cool! But I have no buildup for something like that. The readers don’t even know that the character has something like that. I guess I’ll go back and insert something in that slower scene two chapters back. But if I do that, it’ll disrupt the pacing that took me three hours to figure out. And if I mention this, I’ll need to add that part about the other character sooner. But where? Even earlier? How much am I going to have to change to get this one scene right?

Those of you who write have most likely experienced this dilemma, and I am probably not alone when I say that the dread of in-process editing can be enough to have you walking away from your manuscript for the rest of the day. It’s worse than the big edits that come after the story is finished; at least there you know that you got to the end, no matter how rough it is.

For me, in-process editing is like remodeling. You have to update the bathroom before the house is flooded, so you fix it up and repaint and suddenly it’s the nicest room in the house. The minute you walk out of the bathroom you notice how drab the hallway looks, the carpets could be replaced, the kitchen is out of date, and there’s mold in the corner of your bedroom. This is about the time the washer and dryer give out as well. Somehow, just by fixing up the bathroom, you now have a huge, expensive remodel that’s going to take forever to finish! All I wanted was a shower that didn’t flood; how did it come to this?!

When I write, there are often times where I must stop and reconsider a scene. If a sudden change is necessary, then I have to seriously consider what I’m going to do. I can’t just dump the change in there, since it usually involves something that should have happened earlier (I like to be thorough…maybe that’s a flaw…it sure is a pain). So I sit there and agonize over where the new information should go. And then, while I’m flipping through the previous chapters, I’ll notice other things that need to be changed. Wasn’t this character left handed? I never show this person eating. Why is this person always working? I never mentioned how that operates. I could describe this setting a little more…wait, I only wanted to fix that scene! Stop with the edit! Stoooop! But by then it’s too late, and my brain won’t ignore the other changes that need to be fixed, so a few weeks go by before I’m able to progress with the actual story. I hate the delay, but I hate not fixing a problem I see more. I keep telling myself that I’m saving time when I get to the major edit when the manuscript is over. Right?

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kati Bartkowski's storysketches
    Apr 05, 2011 @ 19:41:33

    Hmm…if I remodeled the bathroom and it became the nicest room in the house I would take baths all day long, and read my books in there. 🙂 I do know what you mean. I need to show more character growth in my 7th chapter, and now I’m wondering if I need to make changes in the earlier chapters to show that.


  2. HaleyWhitehall
    Apr 06, 2011 @ 03:34:45

    I love your analogy with remodeling a bathroom and then the whole house. It is so true. I think how people do in-process edits is a matter of preference. I usually save major rewrites until the first draft is written because I’m struggling to get all my ideas on paper. If I notice an issue and jump in right away I often lose my train of though of where the story was going. However, if you can handle in-process edits more power to you! I think it would cut down on the major editing at the end. Another great post Jennifer!


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