1. loonypapa
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    loonypapa Member

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    Aaaaaaaarrrrrgghhhh!!!!

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by loonypapa, Aug 8, 2016.

    I'm getting frustrated. I have this entire novel plotted out, with a scene list, lots of notes. Man, I should be cooking right now.
    My m.o. is that I like to write out a whole scene or a chapter in one swoop, then go back and fix the telling and info dumps. But my problem is that I'm constantly re-tweaking the stuff I've written. I almost feel like I should be writing out each sentence perfectly the first time, then moving to the next. But I tried that and it bores me to tears. I'm more productive doing the dump-and-fix method, if I could only avoid constantly going over what I've already written.
    Anyone else struggle with this? I'd be interested in hearing how others approach this.
     
  2. FireWater
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    FireWater Active Member

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    Getting each chapter or sentence "perfect" before moving on would be a huge waste of time, because perfection doesn't exist. Even Stephen King cringes at some of his older works and wishes he could have done it differently.

    I know it's kind of useless to say "just do it." But ultimately, you need to just finish the novel and then go back to revise the small things (like infodumps and descriptions) when you're done.

    Would it help to find some way to reward yourself? Like for every 2 chapters where you go forward to write the new chapter instead of going back to edit the last one, you do something to celebrate for yourself.
     
  3. ddavidv
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    ddavidv Contributing Member

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    Write the whole thing, then let it sit in a 'drawer' for a month or two. Read it, correct it, let it sit again. I usually makes three runs at mine before I feel they are good enough to share.
     
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  4. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would recommend: envisioning the scene as clearly as possible, in as much detail as possible, then putting some music on before you start putting words to the page.

    Nothing with lyrics in a language you're fluent in, but something that can drown out the editorial white noise in your brain and let the scene itself take over.
     
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  5. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with this. It took me a long time to get it down, too. I always did what you do -- write a scene, then go back and edit until it's perfect. But I never got past a handful of chapters before I quit.

    But I found a quote that changed my writing life. "The first draft is just you telling the story to yourself."

    Essentially, the first draft is shit. It's supposed to be shit. But no one is going to see that first draft except you. So let it be shit and just get it written. Afterwards, you'll be able to see the flaws much more clearly and it'll be easier to know what to take out, add, and change.

    Good luck. :)
     
  6. NiallRoach
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    NiallRoach Contributing Member

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    There's a guy on another forum I go to. Real curmudgeon, by his own admission. Professional for thirty something years. Not world famous, but not wanting for success either.

    He very loudly says, wherever revision comes up, that he does what you're doing. One page, fix it, next page.
    It can work, but you probably need to learn at what point you stop making things better, but different. Think really hard about every change. Is it necessary? Accept that it won't be PERFECT, but it can be good anyway.
     
  7. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes.

    And recently, I realized that what's going on is all that tweaking is okay. I actually found that there's a point where I read through and... there's no longer anything I wanna change.

    I don't know if I'd have made it through the first draft doing it, but 8th? Yeah, I'm okay with all those tweaks because I know it'll eventually come to an end.

    I'm not going to presume to advise you as to what to do about it. Getting your first draft down in whatever form it takes is just as important as the tweaks.
     
  8. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Give yourself permission to be imperfect. The just written scene of first draft won't be perfect, and the flow of the narrative, the next scenes or chapter will (probably) more often than not require that something changes in the prior written parts. So the faster you accept that 'perfect' right after you have written something is a non-existent word, the better your story will become.

    My approach for what it's worth:
    - Write a new one - but do not edit: it will not be effective!
    - Pause. Go to sleep. Eat. Have a night out. Go to work. Or do something else for a few hours.
    If you are too impatient to rest you can read over an old part and make notes or edit what needs to be fixed, or you can fix it immediately: ie. character motivations, stuff to be inserted due to new research. These fixes can only be seen with the distance of time, sometimes it requires months. It incidentally cleans up old writing and ensures that the voice stays the same. Caution: These kind of fixes are draining!

    After you think enough time has passed that your creativity has rested:
    - Edit the just written scene roughly to get in the mood (meaning obvious stuff like cause-effect, SPAGs *if they are obvious*, flow and such)
    - Write a new one
    ... and the circle begins anew

    At least that's how I go about it and so far it serves me well. I will not claim that everyone works like me :)
     
  9. Freethesea
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    Freethesea Member

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    Loonypapa, it's nice to see that others share this problem of spinning your wheels in mud. Good post and great question! I'm hoping you receive more answers of how others handle the dilemma. I try to proof only two pages before I start the next section, scene, or whatever you call it, when beginning to write the following day. It takes ALL my will power not to proof everything that was penned the day before. Plus, I lose the battle nearly half the time. But as Firewater said, it will never be perfect, so my viewpoint is to at least get the story down. I then rewrite chapter by chapter, then again and so on.

    Lea Brooks 'quote that changed her life' is a good one.

    But then, Sack-a-doo nailed when he said, 'get it down in whatever form it takes'.

     
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  10. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    This does, however, give you some mountains to climb. I don't want to be misleading.

    If there are too many things that need changing "back there" in the prose, I find myself getting disheartened. I've abandoned stories completely because, after getting to the end of the draft without going back to fix that stuff, it felt like it would take far too much work to fix all that in yet-another draft.

    I try to strike a balance, especially in a first draft. I don't try to polish, I just work to make sure all the story elements are in there somewhere. For instance, if the MC needs a hammer (a simplistic example) in act three, I'll go back and make sure the hammer exists in act one. But I try to draw the line there until the entire draft is done.
     
  11. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    For me, it's all about making me accountable to other people. I don't have the self-discipline to be accountable to myself, but boy do I hate telling other people that I've failed.

    So two things are working for me:

    - Setting myself a high weekly word count (high is relative, for me this is 8,000 words a week) and declaring to the forum that I'm going to meet it. I can't meet that word count if I spend time going back and reworking words already written, so I'm forced to plough on with the next chapter. Knowing that I'll be on that thread on a Sunday saying "I only wrote 2,000 words this week because I rewrote earlier stuff..." is enough incentive for me to not do that.

    - Having critique partners commenting on my draft chapters. I don't want them to go weeks in between receiving chapters or they'll have forgotten everything that came before, so I have another incentive to write new chapters instead of revisit old ones. Plus, they always get back to me within a day or so and the nearly-instant feedback is a big boost.
     
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  12. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    @loonypapa - I've heard that method of revising to perfection before moving on as 'rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.' I think that's pretty apt, actually.

    No matter how perfect your sentences are, etc ...your story will very likely change a lot as you write it. Your first draft is just a rough sketch. It's a long way from your finished painting. But once you have the completed sketch done, then you can look at it and decide what bits are good, what bits need more work, what bits need more development, and what bits need to be left out altogether in order for the total picture to have the impact you want.

    By all means, reread what you wrote yesterday, tweak a few bits, then keep going. Keep yourself excited about what your next scene will be, and the one after that. Don't keep looking backwards.
     
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  13. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Exactly. It's the what-you-draw-on-the-place-mat-in-the-restaurant-so-you-won't-forget-stuff-before-you-get-home version. Somewhere between the second and tenth draft, hopefully you'll find 'perfection.' (And notice that's in quotes because there's no such thing as perfection... unless you're talking about that town in the movie Tremors.)
     
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  14. Freethesea
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    Freethesea Member

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    Thanks for the clarification Sack-a-Doo. I also keep notes on the side. If I forgot to give a hammer to the MC, in chapter three, I write it in my 'don't forget' notebook. But unfortunately, I DO forget what exactly the MC needed if my notes aren't thorough enough (hammer, screwdriver, ice cream) and writing complete notes takes time soooo. Yep, it's better to put the hammer in the MC's hand when you remember, at that moment, that it should be there. Thanks for walking me through a more efficient process. I knew this was going to be a helpful thread.

     
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  15. Freethesea
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    Freethesea Member

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    Just read jannert's comment. I like the visual on this very applicable quote. I'm learning the hard way, how much time can be wasted in rewriting.

     
  16. ChaosReigns
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    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

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    i second this, but i gave my MS a couple of years to stew while i worked on sequels. (i find knowing what happens in the future has helped me with the past)
     
  17. nastyjman
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    nastyjman Contributing Member

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    My first time attempting a novel, I was in the same boat as you: outlined the scenes, crafted character sheets, maintained the lore. When it came to writing the actual draft, I was stumped. The novel didn't get past the 3rd Chapter.

    Right now, I'm working on my second attempt, and I'm about to finish my 3rd draft, then transitioning to the final line edit.

    What I did differently was just fly by the seat of my pants. I treated my 1st draft as a loose outline. When it came to the 2nd draft, I had my 1st draft prototype and a proposed outline for the 2nd draft. Essentially, I had two maps for my 2nd draft.

    I learned a lot on this novel. One thing I learned is that I love writing by the seat of my pants; second, I need to have something to guide me. On my third novel, I will be using a very rough outline that is only one page long. It will be a hybrid between pantsing and outlining.
     

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