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Post-Publication Edits

Discussion in 'Fanfic Discussion' started by Taure, Jun 8, 2020.

  1. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    What do people think about editing a chapter after you've uploaded it?

    Personally I am a big fan of touching things up slightly, and I don't think there's a single chapter of VP that hasn't undergone at least 1 or 2 edits, whether it's correcting typos, fixing some clumsy sentence structure, or altering a scene in a more substantial way.

    For me, the red line for a post-publication change is this: would the change render future chapters confusing unless the reader went back and re-read the modified scene?

    If the answer is "yes", then the edit is too substantial and should not be made. Readers should not have to re-read the story to avoid being confused by things being different to how they remember them.

    This gives quite a bit of leeway. Attached is a track changes of VP chapter 20, the chapter I have edited the most. It's fairly substantially different now compared to when it was first published. But crucially, the outcome of the scene has not changed: in essence, Victoria comes across a Death Eater in the gardens, something strange happens to scare the Death Eater away which puts Victoria on the trail of deep magic, and then she returns to the party.
     

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  2. Steelbadger

    Steelbadger Auror

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    As I move from 'conceptual' to 'concrete' the scope of changes that I tend to perform decreases gradually. While the story is in planning stages, obviously pretty much everything but the core concept can be altered almost on a whim, but once I start penning actual chapters, the scope for changes in the penned parts of the story decreases significantly.

    I do sometimes completely cut or change entire chapters, but that will only happen before it gets published. The last stages before I publish to DLP are a couple of editing passes, one which focuses more larger scale chapter structure (which can result in entire scenes being inserted, removed or entirely re-worked), and another which focuses on spelling, punctuation, language and grammar (which usually only results in sentence to paragraph level alterations at most).

    Then it gets posted to DLP, which I treat mostly as a secondary spelling, punctuation, language and grammar editing pass, meaning it can see similar levels of changes. It's not unheard of for me to greatly extend scenes after hearing what people think on DLP, but this is the last point where larger changes can happen.

    Once the work is on fanfiction.net, the scope for changes shrinks again to spelling, grammar, punctuation with occasional sentence-structure changes. After a chapter has been on fanfiction.net for a few weeks, it's pretty much set. At that point only glaring mistakes that somehow made it through all the other levels have any chance of being changed (for example, if I realised I used the wrong character name without anyone noticing).

    Mostly, I'm fairly lazy. I hate 'losing' written words, which I admit is probably to my detriment. It pains me greatly when I realise a scene I've invested hundreds of words into simply isn't working. Usually such a scene gets copy-pasted to a second document for potential re-work and reuse later, but often it never is, and eventually it gets deleted.
     
  3. Otters

    Otters Second Year ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    I'm all for "editing down" - removing filler, streamlining the story, and making technical improvements to the language such as spelling or grammar fixes. QoL improvements are made possible by the nature of how fanfic is published, so it's a shame not to take advantage of it. Minor errors and extraneous content may slip through even thorough editing and pop up in a review, after all.

    Adding new plot lines, changing character relationships or significant events is a bit more complicated. Which isn't to say it can't be done, but I feel the author owes a greater duty of care in how this is signposted to the reader.

    There are sly ways to reference changed events later to let the reader know what happened in an altered chapter if extra detail is added. So long as there are no brazen contradictions, it can be helpful to have the ability to edit previous chapters.

    I tend to plot quite loosely - strong keystone points here and there, but lots of wiggle room in how I reach them. I have goals for characters to be attained within the connecting bits, but often let it happen naturally with seat-of-pants style improvisation. This can sometimes result in earlier chapters being less relevant than I had thought to later events. As long as the goals are achieved, it's less important how.

    Snip. Snip. Snip.

    Maybe big retcons are sometimes necessary to improve a story, but communicating this to the reader isn't easy without a full rewrite.
     
  4. Thaumologist

    Thaumologist Dark Lord

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    I'm in line with you here.

    Minor corrections to SPG aren't a problem.

    Similarly, if there's an off-hand reference to something that was put in by mistake, and which can be changed without having to make sweeping alterations because the outcome is the same, then no major deal. So if it's something that the author can pop in a sentence in the latest chapter "BTW, I updated the discussion in Ch7, as I realised it wouldn't have been a half moon / Hannah would have known of the shield charm, but not how to cast it", then that's fine.

    The problem comes when these changes are made to older chapters.

    Writers (normally) get better as they go on. So they might need to go back and tidy up a minor plot point from twenty chapters ago, and are appalled at their older writing, so decide to update the SPG whilst they're there. And then realise that plot point has a few extra thorns in a few other chapters... So puts the story on hiatus whilst they go back through, make those changes, tidy everything up, and then stop writing because they've stopped getting as much feedback.

    I've seen it a few times (mostly on SB/SV, but a few times on FFN; none that I can point out definitively, although I think it happened to Bii's Goblin Queen?). But at the same time, if it's for a planned hiatus between arcs, then *most* fics recover.

    Same thing with full-on rewrites - they don't always have the same oomph as the original, and peter out.
     
  5. Jeram

    Jeram Elder of Zion DLP Supporter

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    I make edits to fix typos when I see them after rereading whenever that happens, but I almost never rewrite it more than that -- the only real exceptions were when I went back to strike out book lines from my GWL story or when I reworked my time travel story entirely from the first chapter and started over.
     
  6. Mordecai

    Mordecai Drunken Scotsman ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    I despise opening a new chapter only to see an authors note at the start saying "By the way, I've uploaded an edited version of chapter X as well. You'll want to go back and re-read that otherwise things might not make sense." It really irks me.
     
  7. Anarchy

    Anarchy Half-Blood Prince DLP Supporter

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    I have no problems going back to an uploaded chapter and tidying things up with grammar and such. I suspect many authors will do that if they're not lazy. More than that though, idk. I'd probably fix a plothole if it was pointed out, but going back and rewriting a scene to make sure a future scene works like I wanted to... I guess I'd have to think about it. Hasn't happened to me in the 10 years I've been posting I don't think.
     
  8. ScottPress

    ScottPress The Horny Sovereign ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    Fixing typos is fine, as are minor rewrites to improve sentence structure maybe, but anything that begins to alter a scene (even switching paragraphs around) is a no in my view. The less said about people who add/remove plot-relevant content in post-publication edits, the better.
     
  9. Chengar Qordath

    Chengar Qordath The Final Pony ~ Prestige ~

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    I'll toss in another vote for generally not editing published work too much past grammar tweaks. Depending on the genre, minor continuity tweaks are also fine: changing Bob's shirt from red to green is fine if you just want to fix an inconsistency, and not fine if you're writing a murder mystery and one of the clues is that the killer had a red shirt on.

    I also think there's a bit of a time factor involved. Changing a chapter within a day or two of publication isn't as much of a big deal, so long as it's clearly signposted. Maybe the first wave of readers point out a huge issue that made it past your pre-readers, and you feel like it needs to be fixed, I think that's fair (just be honest and transparent about it). If the issue gets pointed out two years after the story was published, that's a different matter.

    While I'm not opposed to broader revisions in all cases, if you're doing major story revisions it needs to be clearly signposted. To give an example, when I cleaned up one of my early stories because there were a lot of little continuity and characterization things that didn't fit with what I'd written later, I kept the original story, and marked the new version clearly.

    If you're going beyond tweaks and into major structural changes ... then it's less editing and more akin to a new story with the same base concept
     
  10. fire

    fire Unspeakable

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    Having revised Queen of Air and Darkness a fair bit, this is something I've been grappling with myself.

    In my opinion, edits relating to style and phrasing are fine; edits relating to plot and substance are not. The former just makes the story more pleasant to read; the latter causes confusion for the readers who have loyally followed you since the first chapter. The worse sin you can commit, in this respect, is going back and inserting some speech or scene to foreshadow some later development, because this just leaves your older readers high and dry - either they're confused at this new development that previously wasn't hinted at or led up to; or else they're befuddled and annoyed, when they go back and re-read past chapters, only to stumble upon these new scenes they've never seen.

    This is why it's important to outline your fics and have the major themes/plot points/character motivations in mind well in advance; otherwise you're stuck trying to rewrite that which was already read.
     
  11. mrttao

    mrttao First Year

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    With a traditional book, you write out an outline for the entire series then write an entire book. Then go over it with editors to catch and fix issues. This is a process that often takes years before you finally have a well edited final product.

    With fanfics you write up an entire chapter in a day and post it with no editing at all. It is of critical importance that it be posted in a forum (so you can engage in proper debate with the audience, which is impossible via something like a comment system from certain fanfiction sites)

    It is utterly critical to take that feedback and use it to go back and edit chapters. If need be it could mean scrapping entire chapter and rewriting them to be better. Which I have seen some authors do, and sometimes for very well justified reasons (where the chapter literally did not make any sense and was a terrible idea. something that the author would have caught if they had written it into a traditional book over several years)

    Of course they should avoid the trap of just constantly rewriting the same chapters as I have seen some authors do. And also have thick enough skin to not be put off from writing just because of some criticism. But if they can do that then going back to rewrite chapters can result in massively improved stories.
    Sometimes even such an extreme edit is needed. Do not do it lightly, but if it is sufficiently justified do be willing to do it.

    In such a case the important part is communication. Edit the original chapter only to include a note at the top saying it was retconned away. remove its threadmarks, created a new chapter with a note that it is a fixed version, and make an announcement directing people to reread the new version of the retconned chapter.
    What if a reader points out a major plot hole in your latest chapter? fixing it is changing the plot after all. And due to its very nature the plot hole will confuse readers if you do not fix it.
     
  12. Halt

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

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    I do significant edits to my story all the time. I just include a summary of changes in the next update, or in forums with spoiler text, I include the relevant changes with highlighted colors. Not a huge deal for the most part. This is one of those things you can do in fanfiction that you can't in other mediums.

    Now obviously if you're planning to make a lot of changes that the story is now fundamentally different, might as well just make a new story thread.
     
  13. mrttao

    mrttao First Year

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    I like your methods.
    In regards to not being able to do it in other mediums. It somewhat depends.
    For movies you have the "han shot first" controversy over the retcon of having han not shoot first.
    And comic books are notorious for their retcons, but usually they have an in universe reboot

    But in dead paper books it is less common, you have editions there but only science and education books generally use it to make major changes. other books use edition to usually indicate a printing run, indicating minor typographical changes or spelling fixes rather than content changes.
     
  14. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    I think there is also a separate but related discussion which is: at what point is your story published?

    The obvious answer might be the moment you upload it online. But I think there is also a legitimate view that a work in progress is exactly that: you are letting readers into your creative process, allowing them to see the story as you write it, but it's not finished until you the author say it is.
     
  15. fire

    fire Unspeakable

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    That's what WBA or a beta reader is for. Honestly, there's no answer to this problem except to avoid plot holes through good planning - it's one thing to have to go back to fix some inconsequential inconsistency like the colour of a character's shirt, but for the overarching plot, an author damn well better sure its coherent before pressing the publish button.
     
  16. Selethe

    Selethe normalphobe

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    As I reader, I hate it. As I writer, I do it all the time
     
  17. Erandil

    Erandil Minister of Magic

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    The fact that this doesn't happen is one of my biggest issues with web-serials so I am very much on the "pro-post publication edit" side of the divide. I would rather have to re-read a chapter or two (or even an entire story) than have an idea, plotline or character that didn't work out weigh down the story forever. But then I also tend to view pretty much any ongoing story, be it fanfiction or web-serial, as an work in progress where edits and changes are to be expected.

    And yeah, for me the story is only really finished when its complete and marked as such, and even then I don't really have a problem with an author making significant edits and maybe posting a new, additional version. That is for me part of the beauty and advantage of the electronic medium.
     
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