Editing Chapters After They're Posted

One reason I like writing online is the continuing opportunity to change things.

A different word here and there, an explanatory sentence added, a proofing error found and corrected, maybe an added section and so forth.

But if you have many chapters, how do you go about it?

I use Wordpress's info on what chapters have been read today, go to those chapters and read them. Inevitably I find things I need or want to change. If someone has caught an error or an awkwardness, that is strong motivation to spare the next reader.

I wonder what others do.


If someone points out a small error, I'll correct it. Or add it to the log of editing notes for use in major revision. Gotta keep the train moving forwards or I'd forever be stuck in the first station making adjustments!

Only trouble I've had with that is My Yahoo RSS. Confounded thing issues an update alert via email every time I unmisplace a comma, or add or delete an advertisement.

I suppose the users of that service switch off notifications before long. I hope so. (I subscribe to all services my readers are likely to use. I don't like this one.)

As to your greater point, the best is the enemy of the good, and the only sure way to honk off readers is not get on with it. People in the fantasy reading world are still mad with that Jordan fellow for not having a point. Well, maybe he did, but he died before he got to it.

A thought that has been growing in the back of my mind, though it does not need surgery yet, is the typical reader does not notice small errors like comma placement or drifting from past to past perfect. Their speech reflects their minds. The ordinary reader is not a grammarian. So I concluded I would stop writing for the copy editors (some of the very best have gone over my printed stuff) and just write for readers.

I don't know if that helps. The coin is still in midair on your question for me too. I think if I totally screwed up I ought to fix it, but then I think, why bother?

Just watch your average TV serial. Every episode will have errors, be they editing, continuity, acting, boom-mike-in-shot etc - and these shows have a ton of people working on them to make sure these things don't happen! Then there's the Japanese, who love their serials, and are quite happy to publish weekly manga chapters with rushed - or even unfinished - artwork (yes, even the most popular serials get this treatment), and their animated equivalents can air in a similarly rushed/unfinished state. They just go back and fix things up for the published volumes and DVD releases.

So, really, it's not that big a deal. They do it at the top, it's just easier to notice these things when it's your work and you're not looking at it from a reader's perspective.

Holy cow, you saw it too? I stopped watching television because every part and participle of bad writing is in there, and I didn't want bad habits, like magically forgetting the continuity problem when you come back from a station break.

When I'm working on a new episode and I have to refer back to a prior episode, that's when I notice something clunky or a typo and so I just fix it. Then every so often I reupload stuff that I've fixed. It could be at that moment, it could be later on when I reupload a lot of things in sequence. There's no method to my madness.

I'll correct typos or missed words when readers point them out to me, because I don't want other readers fumbling over the same errors. Anything beyond that, I might change in my personal draft, but I don't randomly go tweaking my story midstream. A month in, I did revise my first three chapters to strengthen them a bit, but that was just before I started listing my story on WFG & elsewhere, and generally publicizing my story's existence.

Because the chapters I post are all first drafts, I would like to go back occasionally to tighten things up. I'm thinking every 15-20 chapters (3-4 months at my current rate), I'd announce a week off of writing new material so I could go back, revise the old stuff, and post any changes in lieu of a chapter update. That's just an idea I'm toying around with, though. Not sure if I should go through with it yet.

Same here. I fix typos that are pointed out or that I catch. Usually, I read the previous chapter prior to writing the new one. If I catch a small error, I fix it immediately on the live version on my site. Otherwise, the last major change I made was on my first story, when I accidently wrote a chapter in first person, instead of third! Soon as a reader pointed that out, I rewrote it and reposted.

I actually have more problems with this when the thing hits print than when it's in progress. If you write an online novel over four years and finish it off, then want to issue it in print... inevitably the beginning of the book is going to look awful. How much of it do you change to reflect your current skill level? How much of it do you leave because the readers who fell in love with it want the copy that they fell in love with?

Bleh. :)

So basically once you have enough readers you can't fix stuff (except for typos or small grammar issues). That seems to be the jist of it. Sounds pretty limiting.

I really don't think there's a rule. Speaking for myself, I almost guarantee I'll be rewriting my work at a later date, since my blog published material is already a second draft. For people that are actually looking to get their stuff professionally published, I'd think their work would go through drastic revisions before hitting print (if that happens). Unless, of course, their stuff is really flawless, but then again that all depends on how the author feels about it.

Just because people have a large reading fan-base doesn't necessarily mean they're doomed to leave their work the way it is. Some people opt to make a revised edition available, and others (like me) use blog-published fiction as a way to feel out reader reactions and ways to improve for the future.

MeiLin Miranda is facing this problem, too. If I recall correctly (and if I don't, sorry Mei!), she's going to leave the "original" first drafts up online for free for now, and readers can use points/buy a PDF copy of it for keeps. When the revised version is done, the drafts are coming down and the new story goes up a chapter at a time with the whole shebang available at once by purchasing.

Just another way to handle it. I think that as long as you retain your rights to your work, you can revise as much as you want whenever you want. I do think it'd be polite and helpful to retaining readership to at least *warn* your readers when you're going to make a major revision, and even nicer if you offer them a way to keep the current version they're familiar with (PDF or whatever) "just in case".

Personally, I separate editing into two categories (like some other people here):

1. Copy editing: Grammar, spelling, minor continuity issues

2. Story editing: Rearranging the plot, major continuity issues

Basically, the stuff in "1" gets taken care of as soon as someone tells me. The stuff in "2" will be taken care of when and if I do a rewrite.

I suspect that I won't do a rewrite until I do serious thinking about hardcopies of the story or perhaps ebook/pdf versions.

You're definitely allowed to go back and correct typos, grammaticos, and minor errors. This includes minor errors in continuity, like getting a name or a date wrong. That's part and parcel of running a serial drama on the Web. It's a different medium from print or video, with different qualities and limitations.

Bigger changes are more problematical. But if you realize, thirty episodes into a story, that Fred the Slayer really should have been from Cincinnati rather than Cimmeria to explain that obsession with Bengal Tigers you plan to introduce in a few weeks, and if his land of origin has yet to be important to the plot, I believe you're allowed to make the change... IF you don't do thing like this too often, and IF you acknowledge the change publicly so that your readers won't feel cheated. When I did something like this with Rashid in The Flying Cloud, I was careful to announce the change in the story's blog.

I would say it all depends on who you are writing for. If you're writing online to strengthen your writing and to eventually get the story dead-tree published, then I would say edit away as much as you want. Both Copy and Story editing.

However, if the purpose of your writing online is meant for an online audience, then I would do Copy Editing only. As a reader I hate running into bad grammar or verbs with no clear subject. Also, as a reader, I would hate to read your whole story, come back in a week or two to read the updates only to find that everything has changed.

That's my 2 cents.

I don't think minor story editing is a problem. If a couple of readers tell you they have trouble identifying with or envisioning your characters then tweaking the story to enhance their sense of presence is okay.

Personally, I only correct errors in posts that are already live. Each post is copy-edited before it goes up, but occasionally I have had to go back and add in a missing word (oops) or correct formatting (particularly in my current project, which has a lot of specific format requirements).

If (when) I go back and pull the story together into an e-book or similar, I will give it a heavier editing run-through. I'll only do that once the story is complete, though (like the Apocalyse Blog, which I'll sort out eventually). When a story is in progress, I'd rather move forward than spend a lot of time looking back.

The discussion of "what will the readers think/do/say" is largely academic for most webfic writers, no matter how much we all like to obsess over it.

Really? I've found my readers to be loud, active, and very opinionated (and I love them for it).

On topic, I change typos and other errors whenever I notice them, continuity errors as they happen, and am planning on re-writing Chapters 1-3 and 16-19 of my serial for a cleaner read - without changing the general gist or the dialog in those chapters.

A small remark (from the readers point of view). If you are thinking of editing for a print edition, keep in mind that books are very different from the internet. Online chapters tend to be shorter compared to print chapters, and often they don't feel like chapters but more like parts of chapters (when reading in one go, not while reading while it's updating).

So as far as I see it, print editions need to be edited on the plot/story/flow level. In fact I think if I'd bought a print book I'd wanted it to be different. The same story, yes, but not the same kind of story-telling. Does that make sense?

I like Meilins idea to offer an ebook / pdf version of the original online version, so when it comes to the 2nd level of editing I think you can't do wrong with a system like that.