1. Domino
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    Domino Active Member

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    Make do or make right?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Domino, Apr 9, 2014.

    Hi guys.

    Ten years ago I wrote a story that I always believed had potential but needed a lot of work. I've put a lot of work into it and it still needs a lot of work, but it's getting there.

    My main problem is the opening: I have never been happy with it. I cannot tell you how many times I've rewritten those first two or three paragraphs. It's frustrating. There's only so much I want to convey and it's only a few measly paragraphs. It shouldn't be this difficult.

    So I suppose, as well as venting to people who might understand, I wanted to ask if any of you have ever just had to settle for a piece of writing that you're not completely satisfied with because it's needed for your story. Or do you battle on (and on and on and on...) until it clicks into place?

    I know my own answer is to keep on trying. But is that wrong? Is there such a thing as being too obsessive about it?
     
  2. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Depends on what you're being obsessing about. Sometimes fussing over beginnings is a sign you're trying to cling to a scene or an event or explanation that doesn't even belong in the story or maybe just not at that given moment. What is the paragraph doing? Is it explaining or showing? Can you give us a sample?
     
  3. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Believe me, I'm a perfectionist myself when it comes to writing. It's like if it's not exactly right, I can't continue the story. The sad thing is, when it comes to first drafts, you have to keep going regardless of how bad the opening may be. I struggle with this same notion myself. My thinking is that the opening is literally going to be the first thing people see, so it has to be good enough for them to want to read further.

    I'm going to sound like a robot, but the best advice is to just jot down what you like about that scene and keep going with the story. It might find a place, or it may end up not being needed after all.
     
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  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Is any writer truly happy with his/her work? I doubt it. Being a little obsessive is fine, but don't obsess too much; otherwise you'll never publish anything.
     
  5. Domino
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    Domino Active Member

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    The first few paragraphs show why and how my main character ends up where the rest of the story takes place. I know that's very vague, sorry.

    I do feel it's a necessary scene, I just wish I could write it better. It's the right place to start, I think. I just can't seem to get it to read the way I want it to. Sorry if that makes no sense.
     
  6. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I fussed for years over the first paragraph of my novel. Eventually I got so exasperated that I just deleted it. After the bleeding stopped, I found I didn't miss it at all.

    Can you try the beginning without those paragraphs at all? Does the story still make sense?
     
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  7. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd say keep working on the rest of the story, and eventually when you've finished the revision you'll have a better idea about how to rewrite it. Sometimes I believe the answer comes when you do something else (=focus on the rest of the story and forgetting about those paragraphs). Pretend they're perfect and move on. You will probably do several rewrites/editing rounds anyway, you'll have time to bring that part to perfection.
     
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  8. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    My suggestion is stop trying to so hard to convey what you want, and just write. Feel it, rather than thinking "Okay this needs to be mentioned, and that needs to go in, and oh I rather fancy using this word for its poetic connotations."

    Usually when I get stuck like you are now, it means I'm trying too hard.

    Breathe, and just write. Then let a few people read it. If they found it to be hooking, then what've you got to worry about?
     
  9. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's all about being open to the possibilities. On one hand, yes, there is such a thing as perfect, or really good, opening. Every story deserves one. However, if you make a mistake in conceptualising this opening, sticking to it will never produce something you'll be happy with. What I do is, once I'm happy how something is written, ie. I actually really like the paragraph, or a sentence, or a scene or whathaveyou, but it doesn't fit or I no longer want it, I put it on the end of my draft, under the heading 'bits of writing'. I frequently end up remembering a perfect little piece filed there, to insert or use later on. At some point, you'll realise what the perfect opening for your story is. Be open-minded about it, and even about the plot and characters, because that can change even late in the game. Keep writing, expect only the best from yourself. Keep working at your prose, moving back and forth as you progress through the first draft. That's the dynamic way that yields best results, I think.
     
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  10. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I do this, too. Only I stuff mine in a separate document labeled Rusty Nails. I've often gone back found something I liked and
    put it in elsewhere.
     
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  11. Domino
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    Domino Active Member

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    Oh, gosh yes, I have lots of random pieces of stories saved in documents dedicated to dribs and drabs I've cut or changed over the years. Don't we all? Ha ha.

    Obviously I've not been working on this story ten years straight, but I've been chipping away at it on and off since I originally "finished" it. It is about 150,000 words, so the beginning is only a very small (but necessary) piece of the big picture. I have tried approaching it in many different ways over the years, even cutting it out as you suggested, minstrel, but I felt I needed it back. And it always reverts back to pretty much the same scene.

    I suppose it's difficult for me to "feel and not think" when looking at this particular bit of the story because I've lived with it in my mind as it is now for such a long time and have spent so many hours rolling it around my brain and typing it back out again. It's like a chore I keep trying and failing to complete. I need to find a way to look at it from a fresh perspective. No idea how, mind.

    Thank you all very much by the way. Your replies are appreciated.
     
  12. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Domino : It's very difficult sometimes. I would suggest you simply leave it alone, write another story and come back to this one later, but you probably did that already. Did you give it to anyone for feedback? Different pair of eyes sometimes really helps.
     
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  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i would not just 'make do'... if i don't like the way something reads/fits i work on it till i'm satisfied with it...

    as an editor and a writing mentor, the same goes for clients' and mentees' work...
     
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  14. Domino
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    Domino Active Member

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    I believe this brief discussion about it with you guys has helped me get on the right track already. You know when you're looking for something you've lost and you ask someone to help you look, and it's suddenly right there in front of your face? It was that kind of effect, I think. (It's not like I've never spoken about this to anyone before, just not anyone who writes.) So thank you.
     

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