Editing As You Write: The Pros And Cons

Editing as you write your flash fiction, short story, or novel.Do you find yourself editing as you write? Do you prefer to keep the writing and editing processes separate? All writers have an opinion about how and when to edit your work-in-progress. Some storytellers let their writing flow uninterrupted, leaving a trail of spelling errors and typos in their wake. Other writers prefer careful editing of their piece after each writing session (or page, or paragraph, or sentence), examining each scene or chapter carefully and fine tuning it into a work of written art.

I use a mix of both techniques. I can’t stand looking at the red squiggly lines appearing below my errors, so I quickly backspace and fix my glaring errors while writing a scene. I even enter my characters’ names into my dictionary, so I don’t have a messy document. However, larger changes, such as carving up a scene, I save until much later on. That much reworking would knock my writer’s hat off my head, leaving only my editor’s hat.

Pros of Consistently Editing

  1. You’ll finish with a more polished manuscript, which will require less editing after it is completed.
  2. You can keep track of how your plot, subplot, and story arc are progressing, and rely less on your memory.
  3. If you find a major plot hole that requires a complete restructuring of your story, you can fix it immediately and not find yourself at a dead end later.
  4. Your characters will be less likely to wander off on tangents that are unrelated to the story at hand.
  5. The story will have much more continuity, and you won’t have to search to change every instance of an incorrect fact.
  6. Grammatical errors are much easier to spot when reading smaller chunks of a story.

Cons of Constantly Editing

  1. The flow of the story will be harder to maintain when you are stopping and starting repeatedly.
  2. The critical side of you required to edit properly can bring your mood down, draining your motivation.
  3. You may pick apart a scene to pieces, so that it falls apart and is no longer usable in your story.
  4. You may forget your place in the story, and stop writing much sooner than you intended.
  5. Your daily word count may be lower, and your progress will be harder to track.
  6. If you find a problem that requires major work, you may not know how to fix it, which will halt you in your tracks.

So what’s the verdict? Each writer has their own writing and editing style. What works for me won’t necessarily work for you. As long as it is actually working, then keep it up! If not, go over the pros and cons, and decide for yourself.

Weigh in on the editing debate! Which method do you find yourself doing most often? Do you have more pros or cons to add to the list? Share your editing experiences here.

Photo Credit: Nic McPhee

Back Up Now, Back Up From Now On!

Yesterday, a very dear online writer friend of mine mentioned on plurk that her blog was acting strangely. It sure was! When I checked it out, along with a dozen other people, what we saw was a page of content that went down in one cumbersome lump. One of the downsides of using Cascading Style Sheets. If the .css page fails to load, your site gets really ugly!

Not A CSS Issue?

Initially, I thought it was a simple problem and offered a simple solution to her plea for help. Unfortunately, the problem was no where near as simple as we originally thought. As she called in the troupes I set about scanning her files to check that the CSS file DID exist, it WAS being called/included correctly in the headers, the files required by the CSS file existed, etc. But as I was diligently checking these details someone or something was doing something very untoward.

Databases and WP-Admin Cookies

I’d reached the point where I was checking settings in the database. Now, most Web hosts make this easy with MySQL and phpMyAdmin panel. The database looked a little cluttered but everything should have been working perfectly. So, I logged out of the database to check into another area of the site that might be the culprit, the WP-Admin panel. That’s when I discovered that there was another issue. One we still haven’t truly nailed down. For some reason wp-admin was failing to store cookies and it’s failure to do so was leading to an endless loop as the site attempted to log in and attempted to log in and attempted to log in…

OMG! Malicious Attack!

It was time to check the database again so I logged back into phpMyAdmin and my jaw dropped. At least one, perhaps more of the databases were gone. Completely obliterated. They had been there earlier, I’d left them sitting their all nice and pretty, but when I returned it was as if they’d never existed. Someone has their grubby footprints in the backend of my friend’s site.

When you’ve had a malicious attack the first thing to do is to change your password. This, hopefully, bumps them out of your system and sends them back to step one, running keygens to try and discover the new password. You, of course, have selected a gobbledy-gook password of alphanumerics that no one could possibly guess because the truth is you just closed your eyes and threw your cat on your keyboard when choosing it. So, it means Mr. Nasty is held at bay and hopefully will give up and move into new pasture in which to make a mess.

But it still left us with a dilemma because you see while I’d gathered a backup of the original website we were having trouble with, there was no backup for those databases that were now gone. With no backup there is no way to restore the information of what could be weeks, or months, or years of data.

The lesson?

Back Up NOW!!! Honestly, don’t feel like this can’t happen to you. It can! You might be insignificant, your site might get a total of three unique visitors a week but tragedy can strike and you can lose your content. It mightn’t be a hacker, it could be a server fire, electrical failure, magnetic interference, or any number of culprits, the thing that’s important to remember is your site is not fail safe. Bad things do happen.

The Backing Up Process

  1. Change Your Password
  2. Copy your primary site directory into an archive file on your Hard Drive.
  3. Load your phpMyAdmin and export each of your databases as single .sql files.
  4. Zip the primary site directory files and your database files into a neat, dated, archive package.
  5. Email a copy of this package to your online email address (such as gmail, hotmail, yahoo etc.).
  6. Save the archive package to your external hard drive (you do have one don’t you???)
  7. Burn a copy of the archive to disk and file it away from your computer.
  8. Back Up Now, Back Up From Now On! (At least once a month, weekly if you update more frequently.)

Happy Ending?

To tell the truth, over 24 hours later and my friend and I are still working at damage control. We are waiting to hear from her hosting company in hopes that they can at least correct any server related issues. We could beg upon their mercy in the hopes they’ll do a full restore for us but the odds are slim. Yes, the host backs up regularly but they will not (generally) be willing to wade through their massive gigabytes worth of file structure to restore one users information.

I was able to bring the original site back online with it’s CSS intact. It looks pretty again despite not being currently hosted with the original host. We can only hope that this story will have a happy ending and we are already looking for the cosmic message in this tragedy.

Regardless of the outcome of this one case, don’t let it be you. Back up!

Have you experienced something like this? Please share your own experiences in the comments. How has having a backup of your files helped you? Have you had to learn this lesson the hard way like my friend did? Do you have other tips or ideas when it comes to site security and restoration? Share your thoughts!