1. delphinerivers
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    delphinerivers Member

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    How do you get back "in the fire" and stay there when editing/rewriting?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by delphinerivers, Aug 7, 2012.

    I want to, need to, hear from writers who have fallen away while editing or who have a good system to work steadily while editing.

    When I was writing my novel I got up at 6:30 every morning for months. I had a whole ritual. I went beyond the word count I had set for myself every week. I also wrote every evening, every moment I could steal; I was obsessed. I finished back in April. I intentionally over-wrote so as not to sensor myself plus the project is huge because it is based on the culture of the Scots, Africans and many tribes of Indians that interacted in the earliest days of Carolina. I ended up with about 300,000 words.

    I began editing on the anniversary of the Yamassee War which is the climax of the novel. It was going well but I felt as if I did not have a system in place because there was no word count to stick to . I decided that as long as I worked every morning I would be OK.

    Well I was wrong. I'm not OK. I haven't worked on the novel in a steady way for weeks, maybe more than a month.

    I think that while I was writing the story was where I spent most of my time. Then when kids came home from college and brought friends with them and my daughter who has not been home for years came to visit for a month before leaving for Germany for grad school, my mind shifted.

    I know that I work through obsessions. I believe in obsession. I'm older, so after years of obsessions I've become a master in a few areas. It works, in the long run. It's how I did all the research for my novel and then wrote it. But what is on is on and what is off is off. Things are back to normal but my writing is not.

    I would love to hear from others on how they beat back less important obsessions to get back to editing.
     
  2. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    If you are taking time away from the editing work, it may very well be because you need to get away from it. The creative process that drives the writing process is different from the workmanlike approach that is needed to review and edit. That's why whenever I finish the first draft of a major project, I take some time off - sometimes several weeks - before I begin the editing process. Then, when I sit back down at it, I'm fresh and ready to tackle a different kind of job.

    As for "beating back less important obsessions", the truth is that sometimes, I don't. I use them to recharge my batteries.

    Best of luck.
     
  3. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with Ed. I'm in that mode, now. When I was writing my story, I couldn't get enough of it -- I loved it. I wrote every moment I could. Now that I'm editing, I'm finding it much more grueling. I have heard that some people love the editing, because that's where they're really discovering and finding and polishing that story. I'm finding out that I'm not one of those people. I'm worrying much more about the ramifications of any changes I make more now than I did when I initially wrote it.

    I find that I do ruminate on my story and potential changes even when I'm not sitting at the computer editing. I think that rumination is just as important (and maybe even more important) than when my hands are on the keyboard.

    And time away does recharge your batteries. I think it's time well spent. You'll do a better job when you're more excited to edit and able to focus on it naturally, rather than forcing yourself to do so.

    Also (and this might not work for everyone, but it works for me), I have found that even if I'm not editing, I do something related to writing every day. Often this includes reading a book on writing -- there are a bunch of good ones, and I feel like I get more out of them now that I've got some writing done, because I understand on a deeper level what the authors are talking about.
     
  4. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    I've gone on and started the second book in my series while letting the first sit and rest. I've also got three core people who are true first readers: they get the first draft, and tell me what works and what didn't. Then I go back and slice and dice.
     
  5. Cherrera
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    Cherrera Member

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    I guess I'm the odd one out. I think you have to make yourself sit in the chair in front of it and sit there until something begins to happen. No television, no internet. Just the work and you with no interruptions. But then again, I'm a masochist when it comes writing.
     
  6. delphinerivers
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    delphinerivers Member

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    I didn't expect to get this kind of answer. I've been thinking that I need to crack the whip. Thank you. I like the things I'm presently obsessed with and they are ultimately good for me.

    Ed, I think I'm scared. This is my first novel. For years, decades, this story hung around me while I told myself I was too busy to do much about it. (I home-schooled five kids and ran a wholesale and retail business while tending a homestead with my husband.) I beat myself up for not starting. Now things are different and I think I need to remind myself that it is an irrational fear that I may never pick it up again. I'm practically retired now and the kids are all in college except for one.

    I feel pressure also because every year we travel for business and put things on hold from Sept to mid Oct. I feel that hurling towards me and I'm afraid I may not be able to get back to my novel until Oct. unless I crack the whip. That seems like too much time away.

    The characters represent my Scots, Indian and African ancestors so I feel like I've put them down.
     
  7. delphinerivers
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    delphinerivers Member

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    What's making this odd is that for the first time since I started writing in earnest I'm not ruminating while doing other things nor am I studying writing. I was thinking it might be a good idea to read a writing book -- I have so many of them-- or listen to an audiobook like Stein while I do my tomato canning.

    Then I think that I could just read through my novel without editing. I should at least be reading. I just feel like I need a little piece of the fire back even if I don't work. Frankly, I would prefer to just get back to it.

    While my daughter was home I began running with her. It was wonderful spending the time with her and it was for a month. I don't want to drop that. That's what I've been doing in the mornings when I would normally be writing. My husband and I perform, as a band, have been getting gigs so we practice at night and are up until 12 or 1. I can't really get up any earlier, can't make it on less than six hours. I would like to get up early enough to write, run and do yoga but I can't. I will eventually have to do something different but one day keeps following the next.

    Thanks for the help and encouragement.
     
  8. delphinerivers
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    delphinerivers Member

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    That's the way I worked when I did the research and when I wrote, for over a year that was my approach. That's why I feel out of sorts.
     
  9. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I actually think that you are, somewhere, thinking about this and letting it all mix and settle somewhere in your brain, even if you aren't aware of it. I've found that if I stop doing something for a while, and then go back to it, things seem much clearer and I get some insights that I didn't have before, that I doubt I would have had if I hadn't taken a break. I think we're synthesizing and ruminating even when we're not cognizant of it. That's my own theory based on my own experience. I have zero scientific evidence to prove this is the case. But I really believe it's true.
     
  10. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I'm in kind of a similar place. I took a while before I got launched in my career, and then soon realized that writing was what I most wanted to do. Only there was no time - we had kids, the kids had special needs, and we had a mayor and a governor hell-bent on cutting the resources to meet those needs. I wrote a lot - not of the fictional characters who were taking shape in my head (whether I wanted them to or not), but position papers, op-ed pieces, letters to politicians and to editors. Then we had to get my daughter placed in a residence. Then I hit a crisis in my career. Luckily, I had a wonderful, understanding spouse who realized, as I did, that we didn't need the extra money, so I downshifted and went to work for the government and got my life back. Time to get that writing career in gear, you say? Not so fast. Now came elderly in-laws, having done no planning and suddenly incapable of managing themselves. So, we got into the assisted living business until my father-in-law was diagnosed with alzheimers. Okay to write now? Well, maybe. Actually, I've been squeezing writing in here and there for 20 years or so. I've managed to write four novels and a play (first draft only). Two of the novels drew at least a little interest before being rejected, so that gives me hope.

    I have recently embarked on a new project, a historical novel that I have long contemplated (actually, one of two historicals, and not the one I thought I'd do first). Since it involves the history of another country, there is a lot of research to do and I am pushing myself to do that, keeping copious handwritten notes and constantly tweaking my emerging plot outline. It is the most organized I have ever been in a writing project in my life, and I am convinced that this will be THE ONE. In two weeks, my wife and I will be on vacation (not going away), and I will have to be VERY careful about what time I allocate to the book. But what terrifies me is that we will be spending a weekend at a hotel in Manhattan (to play tourist), and I will not be doing any work on the book for those few days. I fear the loss of forward momentum on this project more than any I've ever taken on because I am convinced it will be the best work I've ever turned out.

    But as you know, the myth of the carefree writer who strolls Paris by day and scribbles furiously in his/her garret at night is exactly that - a myth. We live lives, and our writing, when we perservere at it, is all the better for it. Clint Eastwood said on his 80th birthday that "80 is the new 20". I don't know about that, but I do know that for aspiring writers, 62 is the new 22. So, by that count I am 19, and I have all the time in the world, except I've lived enough to not believe that canard, either.


    Whatever break you've had to take from them, believe me, they'll welcome you back with open arms, just as you will them.
     
  11. Meshybizzo
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    Meshybizzo New Member

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    wow, exactly the same problem i have. and this answers it well. tanks!
     
  12. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    You obviously live a busy life and I'm amazed you have been able to deal with as much as you have, and write on top of that.

    >Then I think that I could just read through my novel without editing.

    I think that is a mistake. The most important thing about time off is to let you step away from the book and get a fresher perspective. After writing, reading, rewriting, and editing the same thing umpteen times it gets so familiar you can't see problems or alternatives. Time away gives you back a little of the fresh viewpoint.

    So when you go back, use that invaluable fresh viewpoint to mark up your draft with notes of what you want to do to it on the next rewrite. Don't get bogged down in the rewrite itself, but this is the time to use that unique person before you lose them: the person who has a fresh view and yet your own knowledge, preferences, and style that no other reviewer can have.
     
  13. delphinerivers
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    delphinerivers Member

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    Ed, Thanks for every drop of this. I think it will be easier to go back to the work if I don't surround it with guilt. I never considered that this might be a natural part of the process.
     
  14. delphinerivers
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    delphinerivers Member

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    Liz, I know some how that you are right. I've noticed that many times in a lot of areas. I've taken time away from a piece that was vocally challenging and come back to it to find it better and easier. I've seen the kids take time away from a math concept and then come back to it with a better understanding. If it was simmering away for years before I started, after all the hours I've spent with it, it has to still be there.

    I think I may read some history. I actually have a new book on the culture of southeastern Indians that I've not read. I also have the journals of Bertram who was a naturalist that traveled through the southeast and lived among the Indians a few years past the setting of my book.
     
  15. delphinerivers
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    delphinerivers Member

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    That sounds interesting. I actually have another project I've been thinking about. Might be fun to at least let myself make some outlines and notes on it.
     

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