1. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    How to get OUT of edit mode?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by jannert, Jun 18, 2013.

    I'm hoping some of you have been through this situation and can offer suggestions. I'm getting very frustrated indeed.

    I wrote a LONG novel several years ago, put it through a short edit just afterwards, tinkered with words, bla de bla. This didn't really work as an edit, so I put it away for several years, in order to achieve distance. I didn't write any other fiction during that period.

    I've spent the past 6 months doing a fierce edit of the novel, and I've dumped (painlessly, for the most part) more than a third of the original book. I've done most of this by tightening up, dumping repetitive dialogue, toning down the melodrama, cutting scenes that didn't really funnel toward the conclusion. I feel the result is MUCH improved (so do my beta readers) and I've learned a lot.

    My problem? Now I can't get OUT of edit mode.

    I've started writing a second novel, and the sparkle is gone, even though I know I've got good story potential. I find myself 'editing' every sentence in my head, writing everything in the most economical fashion possible. The result so far? Several chapters of flat, dull, clinically correct but unemotional prose. I hate it! I want to get back to writing lush, overblown melodramatic, overstated garbage (!)—if that makes sense—and having fun doing it.

    Now that I know how to edit, I know I can prune away the excess once I've finished. So why am I feeling so uptight? I need to get that disorganised sparkle back, or my new story just isn't going to work.

    Has anybody got advice as to how to get OUT of edit mode? :(
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I'm probably no help, I'm in heavy edit mode but enjoying it. But your description doesn't match my edit mode.

    Maybe 'edit mode' is not the reason you are not sparkling when you're working on this story? Have you considered other reasons?
     
  3. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Hi Ginger - Well, I'm willing to consider other reasons. Any suggestions?

    The story is a direct sequel to the first story, with two of the characters I already love. The story takes them to a new location (a place I've been, personally, and also love), and the story itself will be much different. The characters will be dealing with issues that arose in the first book, as well as a couple of 'elephants' in the room which are also left over, but the focus is different, the story engine is different, and it's not just gnawing the ends of old plots. Lots of new characters and relationships.

    So I don't know. I've visualised many of the scenes I intend to write, I know where the story is going. I AM stuck with what I wrote before, in that I have committed myself to certain things, so can't just go winging off in all directions. But being 'stuck' with elements of backstory didn't stop me while I was writing the first one, as one thing led to another and I had to stick with what I'd already written to some extent. In fact, I find these kinds of story limitations are liberating, in that I don't have to constantly make decisions about 'what', and can really let the 'how' ideas flow.

    I really do feel it's the edit thing, the 'I won't make THAT mistake again' thing, that's holding me back. I just wondered if anybody else has experienced this situation. Should I just keep writing like grim death and hope the life flow comes back at some point? Should I go stick my head in an ice bucket? Have a lobotomy? Repeat: "I am the most marvellous writer on the planet, and everybody loves me?" Dance naked on the lawn? WHAT???
     
  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I can only tell you what's going on with me, not being in your head and all. When you say "lost sparkle" I envision, 'not in to it' and that suggests a continued hiatus, write something else.

    But when I read, "not happy with it, keep editing over and over", I envision me working through a scene I know that I've not yet portrayed the way I envision it. 'Motivation to go on' differs from 'just can't get it right but I really want to, really I do'.
     
  5. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This has worked for me. The super-critical edit mode hits me periodically (had one just a month or so ago), and I get rid of it by writing, writing, writing, writing. I also ask myself every now and then "what do I want to say? What are the things I want to highlight in this scene" and that gives me direction and keeps my thoughts away from the technical side and inside the story. I just try to keep myself from editing, consciously tell myself "hands off". On the other hand, the more you edit, the more automatic these "right sentences" and "right content" come, so I guess you also just have to trust your writing skills and just roll with the story.

    Tbh, I have an advantage: my writing partner T.Trian. He lifts a finger when I write something stupid and says "that could be worded better", while I just focus on getting the stuff out.

    Oh, another thing that helps me: I think of hats. There's the editor's hat and the writer's hat. Before I start writing new stuff, I pull on the proverbial writer's hat that shuts off the parts in my brain that are über-critical.
     
  6. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Write something else, do a writing exercise - essentially, write something that's not so important to you, something that you don't love, because it means if you fail, the stakes are not so high, you know?

    I'm at the same stage you are right now, I can't get more than 2 lines on my novel at a time right now because I've just lost all motivation, and when I do write, I am so conscious that I am writing that nothing is "just flowing" - everything feels clinical, pre-planned even though I haven't planned lol. For myself, I think my problem is I no longer believe there's anything of value in my book anymore, and I don't genuinely believe I'd ever finish it because even if I put in all the hard work and "finish" it, it'll still not be good enough (leading to edit/rewrite which means, it remains unfinished). I've deleted some 300,000 words now... I can't do it anymore. It's not like I haven't tried, it's not a matter of discipline, it's not even that I'm a bad writer, the writing quality is good, but something isn't falling into place and I've just lost hope, I guess.

    Well, anyway, the only time I can write at all is when I do something other than my novel, little short bursts about something else. Perhaps it'll help :)
     
  7. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Ha ha! Well, that stopped me cold. I instantly started picturing hats, all kinds of hats—and then I kept reading and realised what you meant. But the damage is done now. Now every time I feel stuck, I'll think of a hat! Who knows, might even work...! I'll try picturing those Victorian ones, with the dried flowers, ribbons and a dead stuffed songbird perched on top ...that should get the the melodramatic excess flowing again.

    That's actually awful, and I feel for you. Deleting that much writing, without feeling any real improvement. O my god. For somebody who is serious about writing, as you seem to be, this must be damn soul-destroying, and makes my (hopefully temporary) problem seem trivial.

    Have you tried giving yourself more distance? A lot of distance? Like a year or so, to where you forget why you wrote certain words and just look at what they say? Have you had feedback from beta readers? By feedback, somebody who has bothered to read the whole thing and can maybe offer helpful suggestions from their point of view.

    I'm sure your writing is very good, as are the comments you offer to so many of us. Maybe you just need to stand on your head for a while, to get a different perspective. (The old Hanged Man in the tarot deck!) Sometimes it's that one lightbulb moment ...I just had one the other day while I was drying a plate ...that helps pull aspects of the monster together in ways you hadn't originally envisioned, and gets that 'something' to fall into place?

    Anyway, good luck. You've written so much. I can't believe it's that bad.
     
  8. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Awesome :D

    Besides, nothing wrong with melodrama. Every single one of my favorite novels has melodrama and pomp in them (but humor too!)
     
  9. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I've been there too, frequently, so I feel your pain, man. Sometimes during the editing process I see so many god-awful mistakes I've done and just lose all confidence in my writing skills. That's when it becomes hard to produce anything new, to get the flow going because I'm so afraid of producing the same kind of crap I have so many times before.

    Usually I just take a step back, go for a walk e.g. and discuss the plot, characters etc. with KaTrian. Then after some fresh air and new ideas, we sit back down and the flow is back. Sometimes forcing it helps, sometimes it's just a bad time to write. Another thing we do is if it's just not working, we watch an episode of an inspiring TV show (usually something in the same genre that we're writing, like since our current WIP is military sci-fi, we've watched Stargate and JAG). Whenever I watch something that inspires me, my inner guitarist wakes up. You know the joke: how many guitarists does it take to change a lightbulb? 10. One changes the bulb while the other 9 watch and go "hmm, not bad, but I could've done it better." I'm fiercely competitive, so I want to outdo the writers of the TV show and lo and behold, the flow is back.

    I do think a writing partner is an advantage in this respect because that way I get real-time feedback if I write, say, something that's logically or psychologically inconsistent or just produce crappy writing (typos, too wordy, wrong word-order etc). After some trial and error, we've agreed on a system: if one of us stumbles, the other doesn't speak up immediately (so the writer doesn't forget the idea s/he was writing), but just lifts a finger to signal to the one writing that they have noticed something wrong or have something to add. Then when the writer has finished the sentence / paragraph / idea, we discuss what the other person noticed and, if need be, make adjustments accordingly. It's like having a beta sitting beside you every time you write: at the same time amazing and very frustrating. :D

    ETA: Melodrama and pomp are the spice of life. I love cheesy, corny stuff, even in the songs I write, and I like the idea of doing something people usually avoid though not just for the sake of it, but because I like cheese.

    "I tend to get into stuff that is considered either inappropriate or corny."
    -Beck (paraphrasing from a guitar rag I read 10 years ago).
     
  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Woo. Fellow cheese lovers. And corn! I feel better already! Thanks everybody. I'm sure this irritating phase of my writing adventure, too (unlike cheese) 'will pass.' I'll just keep plugging away. Actually, had a better writing day today, maybe due to all this empathy and those hats. Some of the sparkle HAS already returned, along with the fun.
     
  11. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Personally, I'd say you need to move out of that world and try something new. Set that second novel aside and find new characters and new situations. I wrote a story that I hated to finish - I really wanted to move on with the characters, see what happened next. But I wrote other stories (short and long) before moving on to the sequel. It's kinda like a vacation - if you stay, you start getting tired of sight-seeing; if you leave before seeing everything, you look forward to coming back.
     
  12. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, that's certainly a possibility, especially as my local writer's group is trying to get an anthology together. I don't really write (or read) short stories, but it might be a challenge to give it a go. Just the boot up the backside I probably need here.
     

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