I'm about to start the second draft of a WIP that has been set aside for a few months. I'm considering doing the edits opposite of how I--and, I suspect, most people--do them.

I read a while back that Raymond Chandler used to circle only the parts he wanted to keep from each draft, then re-write everything else from scratch, instead of fixing the parts he thought could be better.


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I guess that would work, but I like the act of reworking and reworking until I get a scene just the way I like it. It would be never-ending for me if I kept starting from scratch.
LOL. I started a read through since I posted, and I'm having second thoughts already. I think someone's going to have to talk me into it if it's going to happen.
Oh man, that would be a seriously tough approach. I wonder how practical it would be though. Most of the edits I do are not of sentences with no value at all. I wouldn't want to lose good words and concepts. Most importantly, for me personally it would destroy what flow I do have to my writing.
That's what I'm primarily worried about. That, and the pacing.
Out of curiosity, is this the Chandler quote that inspired you, Dana?

"A good story cannot be devised; it has to be distilled. I always regard the first draft as raw material. What seems to be alive in it is what belongs in the story." (Gee, I wonder how the "distilled" metaphor came into his mind. Looked around on his desktop maybe?)

Love that quote, but I've only seen it out of context. I say experiment with the Chandler method and see what happens. You could just toss it all if it doesn't work. Oh, and maybe I'll try writing drunk...
I couldn't do that, because the things I feel really hot about in the first draft, are always the stuff that comes across as hacky and hokey in future drafts.

But that's just me.
Great timing, Dana. I'm in the middle of a third draft/re-write, which I'm calling that because I don't know which it really is. I'm re-writing some bits and editing some bits. I think I know what Chandler was getting at -- there seems to be a point at which it feels just too clunky to try and edit certain sections. I catch myself trying to save an entire scene for one line, when really what I need to do is cut the whole scene and Kill The Baby. On the other hand, some of the babies deserve to live, and are unjustly slaughtered out of frustration. I'm curious how it turns out for you; keep us posted..
I generally know when a scene works. I take it we're talking of taking out whole scenes that don't work, not just sentences.
Like others, I have to edit sentences constantly and many times, but then I don't work the way some authors do: by writing the whole first draft as quickly as possible and then going back to fix it. I work slowly, moving forward all the time, but after multiple revisions of each chapter. During that process, a scene that fails to make its impact can be fixed. On the other hand, if it turns out eventually that whole plot decisions were wrong -- and that usually happens very late -- then clearly those chapters will have to discarded and replaced.
It all depends on how well you told the story the first time around. Some writers, the first draft is the strongest--for some its rewrite number 16. chandler's 'bridging' style, where you write a bridge to fit various pieces into one coherent story, sounds intriguing. But then, you'll begin to have doubts on how the bridges connect and flow.

My advice: write the story--then hone and polish it like a jeweler does with a rough-cut diamond. The fun in writing is taking an image and making it sharper. Cleaner. As much as I admire Chandler's writing, let's face it; the guy was a basket-case most of his life.
I've seen that quote, but I got the idea for the technique from an article I read a couple of years ago, by a writer who'd been given a look at Chandler's notes for THE LONG GOODBYE. There were several things in there about Chandler's manner of crafting his prose, including how he cut his sheets of paper in half before typing, so he was using 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 sheets, instead of 8 1/2 x 11. Part of this was to minimize how much retyping had to be done if he made a change on a page; another was because Chandler wanted there to be a felicitous turn of phrase at least that often.
Not to sound flip, but the basket case comment hit home. I started wondering about the value of this approach shortly after I posted the question. Working the way he did--and I wondered about--would be incredibly frustrating for most people; Chandler was know for working quite slowly himself. This technique might have had something to do with both his lack of speed, and some of his personal issues (and plot holes).
Chandler used it for the entire book, down to the sentence level, I believe. Your point has merit for my situation. The more I think about it, the more I believe doing this for the whole book would be counterproductive. ("Down this path lies madness" might not be putting too fine a point on it.) Howver, when I find a chapter, scene, or paragraph that I can't seem to make work, it might be best to salvage what does work and recraft the whole section.

That looks like the way I'm tending to go with this.


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