EelKat Wendy C Allen - Dark Fantasy Author

The Princess Bride predicting Covid-19?


Please be aware that nearly every page on this website contains spoilers to something. I talk about a lot of fandoms, and go into great detail analyzing them when I do. If I am talking about The Witcher series, InuYasha, Disney Ducks, the Quaraun series, or any other fandom, you WILL encounter spoilers about it. 

My Editing Process:
A Look At How My Novels Go From Draft To Publication

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>>So, I have come across many people saying things like "the first draft is total shit" or something along those lines. They say they rewrite their story multiple times until it is 'perfect'. To me, this just seems like a case of bad planning.

>>I have made a more-or-less complete outline from start to finish and am now busy writing it all out. Sometimes I expand upon a scene or add a new interaction between characters, but nothing big. It is far from being 'total shit', it just needs some careful editing here and there. So far, it seems completely unnecessary to me to create a second draft when I can just edit the bad parts out of my first one and make that into the final version.

>>Do you guys often rewrite parts or even the whole of your story? Is your first draft really that bad compared to the final product? Personally, I prefer spending a lot of time on creating a good outline instead of meticulously rewriting the same chapters over and over.

I can not speak for others as each author has their own methods, but I can tell you what I do and the hows and whys behind it.

Depending on how you look at it, you could say that each of my novels goes their 12 to 17 drafts a piece OR that it was never anything other than a first draft. Yey, how is this possible? Well, here's what I do...

An idea pops into my head, and I could be anywhere, doing anything. I have a very busy life and am often on the road or otherwise away from the computer. So, I keep a notepad (pen & paper) with me at all times, and whenever an idea pops in my head, I write it down. It may be just a one sentence idea, but in most cases it's an entire 2 or 3 page scene of dialogue between 2 characters. It could be an idea for a project I am working on already (I currently have 81 novels in various levels of completion) or an idea for a completely new novel.

When I get back to my computer, I'll create a new text file on EditPad7 and type up exactly what I had written down earlier. Depending on how much time I have at that moment, I may either just type up the exact words and save, or I may, right then and there simply keep on writing and see where the scene leads to. Often, what started as a quick 400 to 700 word jotted scene on paper, will expand to 10,000+ words within 2 or 3 hours of typing it up.

If this was a new project, this quick mind-flow hash out will serve as a shaky first draft or quasi-outline for the finished product. If it was for a project already started, I will move it to the folder, where the original project's draft is stored. Each novel has it's own folder, and the files with-in it include not only the draft itself, but also any research notes, character profiles, world building notes, rules of magic, rules of the land, random stuff written about the characters and setting that will never be included in the novel but I need to remember for how those things affect the story, links/bookmarks to sites with more research, and of course, any of these previously mentioned random brain-fart ideas that may or may not become a fleshed out part of the story.

Each of my novels, usually takes a 4 or 5 year process of starting with a random idea and then letting it slowly snowball into something bigger. And while I personally consider it to be one long process of creation, and therefor simply one draft, that eventually reaches completion, I feel that most other authors might look at what I do and translate it as many drafts being reworked and editing, a dozen or more times.

The finished product is considered (by most of my readers) to be what many have termed "avant garde" or "artsy-fartsy" and technically is classifies as Literary Fiction, because it does not stick with the norms in terms of grammar, style, and prose. In other words, a grammar nazi would have a heart attack looking at just one page and the finished novel itself would have them jumping off a cliff. I have an English degree, focused in teaching high school grammar and literature, and I can, if I wanted to, sit down and write perfect grammar and recite grammar rules for hours on end... but you wouldn't know it to look at my novels.

This deliberate lack of perfect grammar is a style choice, and one that often results in many of my books receiving bad reviews with the reader saying "this was unedited!" No. None of my books has ever gone through fewer then 12 edits and most go through 17 or more edits. If you are finding bad spelling and poor grammar in my books, believe me, I'm well aware it's there and it's there intentionally, on purpose. The reason being that all of my books are part of a long running series about the same set of characters. The primary POV character is an unreliable narrator. An opium and LSD addict, he often does not know up from down, reality from hallucination. He contradicts himself constantly, inconsistencies are overboard, stuff he sees happening around him may in fact be only a hallucination, but he can't tell and neither can the reader, and a talking cat is following him around writing down everything he does and says. His best friend/lover is illiterate, unable to read or write, and barely has a clear grasp on the English language, English not being his native tongue; he says things wrong, often not realizing it, saying one thing when he thought he was saying something else. The cat who is writing this down does not make a distinction and does not correct him, and thus the story is written by someone who is not an person and has a lingo of her own, while she is trying to write about a mentally unstable main character and his illiterate lover. The grammar is not only deliberately bad, it is at times horrific, to the point of leaving the reader asking: "What does this even mean?" And again, this is intentional. The finished product is intended to read as though it were written by someone on LSD. The cat is a 4th wall breaking narrator, telling the story of a drug addict from the drug addict's point of view. It is a genre known as "Psychedelic Fantasy" and while popular in the 1970s when the series started, Psychedelic Fantasy is a genre rarely seen today.

So back to the topic of the process of writing and editing...

>>So, I have come across many people saying things like "the first draft is total shit" or something along those lines. They say they rewrite their story multiple times until it is 'perfect'. To me, this just seems like a case of bad planning.

I am one who does not believe the first draft is shit theory. I believe each first draft is different, even from a single author. Some drafts will be gold bricks vomited on the page and others will be just plain vomit. It depends on many factors, including the current level of stress and health the author is in at the time of writing. The more calm and relaxed and healthy a person is, the better the chances of a clean first draft that needs only minimal spelling/grammar/typo edits, even without an outline. That same author, when dealing with stress and sickness will struggle to get their draft polished even after multiple edits and with a good outline. No author always writes pure gold and no author always writes crap. Heck, you want to see how crappy a first draft can be, try writing a story when you have the flu! LOL! :P

With this in mind, it is my belief that how many drafts a novel goes through is a reflection of many things, including, but not limited to the author's skill level, their stress levels, and their current state of health. Even just being hungry because of skipping a meal while writing, can cause a change in levels of crappiness. Some people are affected by the weather and write better on sunny days or rainy days, then vice versa.

It's been my personal experience, that the more stressed I am, the more free-flow and neurotic my writing becomes. So for me, I don't think every first draft is shitty, and I do think, that under the right conditions, most authors can put out first drafts that are near publishable with only a minor edit. A also think MOST authors seem to write when they are stressed, such as being inspired to write after a break up with a boyfriend or the death of a grandparent or being told they have cancer or struggling with depression or whatever else... high stress is often cited, by many authors, as the trigger that inspires them to write, thus it is perfectly logical and reasonable to expect the resulting draft will be rushed and shitty and need a lot of work. Many authors (myself included) write through struggles as a way to deal with stress. Whereas if that same author writes from a well planned out draft and does it on there summer vacation, in a peaceful relaxed environment, there is no reason to think they couldn't write publishable first draft that doesn't need edits.

I do however feel that every novel, no matter how good the first draft is, can be improved by simply putting it away for a few months or even a year, and then rewriting it as you read it. Because after a year, you've had time to forget what you wrote and can now read it a bit more objectively with a bit less "this is perfect" bias that you had upon writing it. I do this and am constantly taken back by the reaction of: "What the hell did I write? How did I think this was good?" Every year, my work from the previous year, seems less good then I had thought it was when I finished it.

>>I have made a more-or-less complete outline from start to finish and am now busy writing it all out. Sometimes I expand upon a scene or add a new interaction between characters, but nothing big. It is far from being 'total shit', it just needs some careful editing here and there. So far, it seems completely unnecessary to me to create a second draft when I can just edit the bad parts out of my first one and make that into the final version.

I used to outline. Decades ago. I have many massive notebooks and binders full of hand written outlines, many over 100 pages long.

I don't do outlines anymore.

I found that I would waste months on end outlining and planning and outlining and plotting and outlining and worldbuilding and outlining some more... and it was great fun to do, I loved doing it, BUT... I'd get done outlining and be: "Okay, that's done, now what can I write?"

I can make some really amazing outlines, but that in itself became the problem. I made my outlines too good, and the act of turning the outline into a novel became a chore. It took me several years to figure out what the problem was too. I'd be all excited to write this novel, I'd plot and plan and write out these massive, highly detailed outlines and then I'd be bored out of my mind when it came time to write the thing.

It turns out, I'm something called "a discovery writer". I like the thrill of discovering the story, thus why I was so excited to to the research and planning and outlining. BUT, once I know the end of the story, once I know what happened and why, suddenly the thrill of the discovery is gone and I lose interest. Thus making an outline became the very reason I struggled to finish so many novels in that time period of my life.

I stopped writing outlines and BOOM, I suddenly had no trouble writing novels again. It's weird, too, because I had it in my head that I HAD to write outlines. I thought you couldn't write a novel without an outline, so I never even tried to work without an outline before that point.

Now, instead of outlining, I just free flow it. I'm a person of extremes too. I went overboard extreme with my outlines, filling them with hundreds of pages of details, that I really had no reason to include, but I detailed out all the little pointless details anyways, just because it was fun to do. There is so much joy for me in the creation process. Well, now that I've stopped outlining (I wrote my last outline in 2006 so it's now been 12 years since I last used an outline), my drafts have improved substantially. All those details I used to put in the outlines, I now put in the drafts instead.

Usually I have no idea what the plot of the story is or where the story will go or how the story will end. You remember those random scenes I mentioned earlier? Those quick handwritten pages that I later type up and start expanding? The process goes like this:

I take this random scene idea and I start asking questions about it:

  • Why did he say this?
  • How will this other character respond when he finds out?
  • What would happen if he went forward with this but that happened to interrupt him along the way?
  • What would happen if this person disagreed?
  • What if it suddenly started raining/snowing while he was doing it?
  • What is she thought he was doing it because of this when he was really doing it because of that?
  • How would the result be different if he did it here instead of there?
  • What if while he was doing this, that happened to mess up his plan?
  • What will she say when she finds out he did that?
  • etc...

I'll write and write and write and write, maybe 1,000 or 2,000 or more words, full free flow with no clue what direction it'll take. When I get to the end of the scene, I'll go back and read it, while tossing questions like the ones above at it. Next thing I know, I'll be writing the next scene. The question will have inspired me to toss another person or item or event into the end of that first scene, and I'll write it out to see where it goes. I'll write and write and write until I reach the result of that change. Then I'll start throwing around some more "What ifs?" Wat if it started snowing? So I'l write it snowing and see how the characters react. Wait, what if it had rained instead? I'll go back to where it started snowing, write a new version of that scene now with rain and see where it goes. Then I'll look at both scenes and determine which one better fit the way the story was going. I'll use one and save the other as an indea file to maybe be used in something else later.

I think of it as though I was reading a book. When I read a book, I'm on the edge of my seat wanting to know what happens next, so I keep turning the page and reading more to find out.

I write like that. I don't know what's going to happen next. It's the thrill of discovery, to write a scene and not know where it'll lead. I'm on the edge of my seat while I'm writing wondering: What's gonna happen next?

This is the same experience I felt while writing my outlines, but then after I finished the outline, it was like I had finished reading the book, so had no more desire to go back into it, thus I wouldn't write it.

But now without an outline, I get the novel written in a few days because I'm so excited to discover what is going to happen.

>>Do you guys often rewrite parts or even the whole of your story? Is your first draft really that bad compared to the final product? Personally, I prefer spending a lot of time on creating a good outline instead of meticulously rewriting the same chapters over and over.

You'll often hear me talk about revising and rewriting, but I think, what I call rewriting, may not be what most others would consider rewriting? Not sure. It seems to me, when I see people saying they are rewriting, that they are actively writing their story over again, and for me, that's not what I do.

When I revise a novel, it' not so much me writing it over, as it is me continuing to snowball ideas at the story.

After I finish writing a novel, I like to put it away for 6 months minimum, before going back to edit it. These first drafts are usually very short only 70k to 80k words, barely the size of the finished novel it'll become when published, with most novels of the series being 140k to 200k words and some reaching over 300k. I'll immediately move on to my next novel. As it takes me about 2 to 3 weeks to write a "first draft", I'll have written 5 to 8 more novels by the time I go back 6 months later to edit that first one. I've now had time to forget a lot of what I wrote in this particular novel.

Now it comes time to "re-write" the novel. My process is this:

I read the novel, and as I read it, I'm now thinking of the additional 6 or 7 new novels I've written for the series since writing this one I'm now editing. I'll realize "Wait... did I have him doing this in that one? But I have him doing that over here in this one instead. That's not right. He can't do both. Can he? I gotta change one of these."

I'm now off to read the novels already published, read the drafts written before the one I'm editing, read the drafts written after the one I'm editing, and am now writing new scenes for this draft, in order to match up the chronology and consistency of the series as a whole. I'm now looking for plot holes and lose ends to tie up. I'm looking for places where what he did in the already published volume 22 does not match up with the now being edited volume 122. I'm writing new scenes to fix these inconsistencies and making old story lines match up with new story lines.

Keep in mind that the series in question, was started in 1978, has 130+ novels already published, and has a grand total of 275 novels in the series already started, with me currently working on 81 volumes in various stages of completion. And the way I write this series, it'll likely pass 400+ novels published over the next couple of decades, seeing how I have no plans to ever stop writing it, am writing new novels (150k to 300k words each) at a rate of 10 to 12 a year, and will probably keep right on writing into my 90s.

As I am doing this consistency checking process, I'm also STILL asking those "What if?" questions and so, new scenes start being written into the story, often resulting in very dramatic changes in the story line. I consider the 70k first draft to be nothing but a bare bones skeleton, completely lacking in meat, and this process of writing new scenes to answer the "What ifs?" to be the process of fleshing out the story and putting meat on the bones. So in an essence the first draft was actually an outline written in story form, and it is now evolving into the true story that will go on to be published.

The editing process after this point, consists largely of spell checking, grammar correcting, and combing for typos. I'm currently using 3 different editing programs for this, but I used to have 7 different programs I was using. (I got a new computer and have not yet bought new versions of the remaining 4 programs.)

In the end my process is this:

  • A first draft written in fast free flow, often written in a single weekend, that acts as an outline for the novel. (Done in EditPad7)
  • A revision/2nd draft written in a slower, more well thought out manner, usually taking 2 or 3 or more months to complete. (Done in yWriter5)
  • 3 to 7 edits via editing programs, counting as drafts 3 through 6 or 3 through 10. (Done in LibreOffice5)
  • A editor taking a look and a final draft being made via those suggestions. (I used to use beta readers, but haven't in nearly a decade.) (Sent to the editor vis Google Docs)
  • A manual eyeballing it while I format it for publication, edit. (Done in LibreOffice5)
  • Order the printed proof copy, and do the final edit, red sharpie on printed page, then typing those changes into the final draft.

The end result is a grand total of 12 drafts being made of each novel from start to finish.

Anyways, there is it, my editing process.

I edit after.

I'm one of those people who loves editing. I find it very relaxing and peaceful, almost meditative you could say.

On the other hand I find writing to be very energizing. Thus I write myself into an energitize frenzy, then edit back into a state of calm again.

Weird, I know, but that how I do it.

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