1. urban_rae
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    urban_rae Senior Member

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    Do you toil?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by urban_rae, Nov 5, 2011.

    Learning creative writing has been such a journey. I would have to say that it is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I am almost embarrassed to admit how long it takes me to finish a first draft. I must read it 50 times, editing and reediting. I could spend an entire day contemplating one sentence, one word even. I toil over every little detail. Is this comma right? Does this imagery work? Is this interesting enough? It gets to where I read it so many times that I don’t know if it will make sense to anyone else. I start to tell myself that it’s not good enough and I eventually talk myself out of showing it to anyone.

    I wonder why I toil so much. Is it a growing pain that comes with learning this craft and something I will grow out of? Or is it just an individual’s process and how they work?

    Do you toil like me? Or do you write with confidence, where I aspire to be?
     
  2. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    I'm kind of the same way. Now, I'm not a "serious" writer that gets his stuff published of anything like that, but I'll write like 40-50K word stories and I might post them online under a pen name on some random website. But a lot of people that know me very well don't even know that I do this.

    But yeah, I do the same thing. I go through all of my work numerous times to look for errors in grammar/spelling and plot consistency. I've never spent a day on a sentence, but maybe an hour (which is still extreme). But I think recently I have kind of forced myself to go "ok, you got the general idea of what you wanted to say in that sentence, you can change it later in one of your 50 read-throughs".
     
  3. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I toil. I like my prose to sound good when I read it aloud, so I care very deeply about things like rhythm, alliteration (sometimes I want it, sometimes not), accidental rhyme, and so on. I also want the imagery I use to be fresh and interesting. I'll sweat a long time over a paragraph to get it right. Sometimes it takes me hours to get just one or two hundred words down that I'm happy with.

    I'm not one of those writers who can write ten thousand or more words in a day. I mean, I could do it, and I have on a couple of occasions, but I know it's not good enough as I'm doing it, and when I read it over, I see what crap it is and I get depressed, sometimes to the point of losing the inspiration to finish the story. But if I toil, and get only a couple of good pages out in a session, I feel proud of them and my inspiration stays intact. I sleep easy at night knowing I've done good work, instead of tossing and turning thinking I've wasted my time writing a pile of crap.
     
  4. JackElliott
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    JackElliott Senior Member

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    What you describe sounds like what I went through before I learned what to expect of my first drafts. The thing you have to understand is your story will get better with each pass. It doesn't have to be perfect right away. You'll drive yourself mad trying to get a work of art right out of the gate.

    I don't toil. It's relaxing now, to write. But my first drafts are sometimes rambling, sometimes they take odd turns, and sometimes they're underwritten. It's all part of the process.
     
  5. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with Jack Elliott, i don't, at least not in the meaning you give it. I have never struggled an entire day with a sentence, even less with a word.. My first drafts are everything but perfect, but That doesn't mean I won't try to make each chapter the best I possibly can In the later drafts, when I work on the those tiny details. Words come pretty easily to me, but sometimes I struggle anyway. If I can't come up with the solution I want within a certain time I usually decide to come back to it later, and sometimes the right phrasing comes to me when I'm doing/writing something else. I guess I'm quite an effective writer in that sense. Always have been. :)
     
  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Everybody has their own process, but I think that it's worth considering whether you're putting in all that effort at the wrong point in the process. The careful editing, the exact right words, the exact place for the comma, should IMO come after the first draft.

    Until the second or possibly even the third or fourth draft, it's reasonable to focus primarily on the plot and general structure of the story. With your process, you could spend days on a paragraph that ends up getting cut out entirely.

    It may end up that you _need_ to work this way, but I think that it's worth trying to be more relaxed about the first and second draft, and go into the details later in the process. It's not that you should expect to reach the point where you write both quickly and perfectly; I doubt that anyone ever gets there. I'm suggesting that you try to accept quick, imperfect writing, and then perfect that piece later in the process.
     
  7. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can't say I'm like that, not really. I care about the quality of what I write, yes, but I couldn't read my stuff so many times.

    Lately I've been writing some (quite) short stories.

    I never thought I would find that enjoyable, but I find the process quite refreshing, possibly because it's quick.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    no, i don't 'toil'... words come easily to me, always have... and while i may do more than one edit of a long piece of work, i can get through it fairly quickly, thank goodness...
     
  9. JMTweedie
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    JMTweedie Senior Member

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    I don't 'toil', I get myself in the mind of the POV character for each scene and just write. I find it helpful to fully picture the scene as a mini movie beforehand. I run it a few times until I'm fairly happy with what I'm trying to achieve and then just write.

    I'm thoroughly enjoying writing the first draft of the first in my novel series. I will not go back over it again until I start on the first edit. That's when I'll make any grammar corrections and re-writes.
     
  10. Man in the Box
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    Man in the Box Active Member

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    I don't toil, but I have the unfortunate habit of making the first draft my last. :D I wish I could feel more motivated to actually revise my drafts, but my first take on a scene is usually pretty good with regards to language.
     
  11. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    Barfing words onto paper was never hard for me. But, when I first started writing, having perfect grammar and punctuation was the tough part. All of my editing consisted of that. The words and story were fine. I may have added little blurbs here and there to flesh it out more, but it was primarily the grammar, punctuation and formatting. So, I indeed toiled over that a lot in the beginning. But, with the help of the internet and these lovely people on this forum, I soon became competent.

    Practice, practice and practice. Also, I know it is said all the time, but it is true; reading a lot helps tremendously.

    Also, I had some pretty bad tense issues, I was mixing past and present without noticing it. Thankfully, after some tough love from mammamaia, I have fixed that problem for good.
     
  12. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm curious: those of you who does, or who do the edit-as-you-go, does this mean you only write one draft, since you spend so much time on each page in the initial stage (and maybe just do a spelling- and grammar check in the end)? Or do you still rewrite after having finished a first version of it?
     
  13. bobnr32
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    bobnr32 Member

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    There must be a stage where a writer just gets on with it rather than wait for the muse.
     
  14. Keven
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    Keven Member

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    Reader,

    Don't wait to long as you may never get published.

    I usually read or watch certain movies that will motivate me to write and not "write then change."

    v/Respectfully,
    Keven
     
  15. Blue Night
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    Blue Night Active Member

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    I say get the story out of your head and onto paper. It may be a paragraph or a hundred pages. But I wouldn’t toil over words or wording too soon.
    As the story grows, it will take on context. And the context will dictate what stays and what goes. Finding the best word for a sentence may prove to be insignificant.
    Should you keep your current writing, one day you will re-read it and what you meant to say will come to you.
    Toiling is not something you should be doing. Don’t get stuck on a page.
    It reminds me of a math test in school. I was always taught, if you don’t know the answer, move on and then come back. It’s better to get 80 percent done than get one right answer.
     
  16. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Generally I'll write two drafts. The first draft is one that I think is fine, even wonderful, from a language and technique point of view, but it may have (and probably did) take a few wrong turns before getting straightened out. The second draft will eliminate the wrong turns and add new material to smooth things over. Anywhere from about 10% to 40% of the first draft may be deleted and replaced in this process. Sure, that means I lose a lot of what I sweated over, but that's ok. I enjoy the process of making my paragraphs as good as I can - that's probably, more than anything else, why I write in the first place. I do not enjoy "barfing words onto paper", to use JHunter's colorful phrase. It doesn't feel like I'm writing; it feels like I'm barfing.

    I never do a spelling and grammar check at the end. I never need to. When you toil to get the paragraphs right in the first place, the spelling and grammar are right, too. It's part of the initial process, not a separate final process.
     
  17. urban_rae
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    urban_rae Senior Member

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    Okay, so I definitely need to relax, and not be so hard on myself is what i'm learning. I am a perfectionist, which causes me to agonize over every little detail, in life in general, not just writing. But I love writing so much, I need to learn to let go and have fun. I guess a certain amount of toiling is natural, maybe even necessary, but not to the extent I take it.

    ChickenFreak has a great point. I am spending too much time at the wrong stage. But I can't help it, if I am going to share my work with anyone, I feel compelled to make it as perfect as I can. I see now this is rather ridiculous, but its a part of my obsessive personality. I don't know how to share any of my work without polishing it to death... crazy right? I don't know how to get passed that.
     
  18. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    I edit as I go. So, I guess you could say it is one big long draft that takes a lot of time to complete. I never thought about it that way before.
     
  19. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    I do something similar; I write three chapters then stop to edit before I move on. If I don't, it really irks me and I wont be able to continue writing until I know it is perfect (at least in my mind, haha). Thankfully, when I barf ;) out three chapters the story and dialogue is usually fine -- but I do occasionally add more during the edit. It is primarily just grammar and punctuation that I need to fix when I edit. I am glad to know there is someone else out there like me who cant move on until they feel it is as good as it can be.
     
  20. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    Double post.
     
  21. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I said above that I generally write two drafts. This is for longer works, novels and novellas. With short stories, I might do a third or even a fourth, but because I've toiled so much over the first draft, by the time I get to the third, I'm hardly changing anything. I might delete a paragraph or two near the beginning to hook the reader in quicker; I recognize that my stories tend to start too slowly. I like building moods and settings before something happens, and that sometimes takes too long.

    Or I might add a paragraph or two to the ending if I think I can increase the emotional power of the story by doing so. Sometimes I feel rushed at the end of a story, because I'm excited to be done at last, and I wrap things up too quickly.

    But is it really a new draft when it's 98% identical to the previous draft? It doesn't feel like it to me.
     

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