1. John Shade
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    John Shade New Member

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    organizing and revising large quantities of free writing

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by John Shade, Mar 20, 2012.

    a couple of years I began a daily freewriting practice that ended up leaving me with about 300+ typewritten pages. The only conceit I imposed on it was that I would occasionally plug the same characters in to gain some degree of continuity and to explore their possibilities.

    I also made a commitment not to go back and reread what I'd wrote the next day no matter how compelling I thought the session was. I averaged 2-3 30 minutes sessions a day using Dark Room.

    Long to short. It was a great experience and I recently printed up the lot of it and had it bound and as you'd imagine that was a lot of garbage in there and a lot of amazing segments that I'd completely forgotten about.

    My question is: What system do any of you employ to "process" this kind of thing? It's unwieldy and crosses back and forth from journalish type stuff, to fully developed scenes, characters names often change etc....

    This leads to another question about revision in general. I feel like I'm writing into the dark sometimes now and perhaps have too much material. What are some of the most organic ways you have found to inject structure into your work?

    Thanks
     
  2. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    First of all, congrats on writing 300+ pages! That is quite the accomplishment.

    What I do is I go through my entire manuscript with a blank word document and I make an outline. I'll summarize the scene in one short phrase, then I'll add a few important details underneath.

    You can cut your work by skimming through it first and marking which scenes you think have potential/crossing out which scenes you think are junk.
     
  3. doghouse
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    Depends on what your writing goal is, John.

    What do you want to do with the work?

    I'd decide that before approaching a rewrite/edit.


    In respect of revision. It's important to be able to approach your work with a clear head (the editors head). If you try to edit when you still feel fondly attached, you could make some grave errors in the process.

    The fact you state, "... a lot of amazing segments ..." makes me wonder whether you're ready to do that. BUT, that is an assumption on my part. :)

    There are many writers tools for structuring a story. It's best to experiment and find what works for you. There is plenty of material on-line.
     
  4. John Shade
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    John Shade New Member

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    thanks for the replies.

    Funkybass: the word document is something that I've done to pull certain bits out. But I think a cut of the trash is in order for sure. Again this is freewriting so the goal was to not stop writing at all for the duration of each timed writing...so ALOT needs to go.

    doghouse: good point. I think a better word than "amazing" would be surprising. What was amazing to sift through that quantity of unread composition and see voices and characters and scenes emerge that I had no recollection of whatsoever. So I'm not attached to anything at all in this b/c it is so unpolished.

    I guess I should reduce this stuff down and reprint it again. My guess is the 300 would be down to maybe 75 pages of material that I could use. Structure and outlining have always been a challenge for me. Its time for me to revise and organize. any links you might suggest for basic structuring templates? Or any sites with great revision systems. I agree that I need to just try some methods myself.

    It's funny, some of my most enjoyable writing experiences in the past have been around revision but for some reason I've been struggling with that lately.
     
  5. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Rewriting is my way of introducing structure. I put aside the first draft and rewrite it from scratch. The rewrites brings in the structure, motifs, themes, forshadowing, depth etc It doesn't take as long as the first draft because I already know the characters and the story.

    The large body of work I guess you could go through it, read it and catalogue it into categories, but I would only keep things you really, really like. Instead of rewriting them use the contents for new stories and new ventures. I generally only work on what I can remember.
     
  6. John Shade
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    John Shade New Member

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    it's funny elg, that method of chucking the first draft and writing it again from scratch scares me. Not precisely sure why. Maybe that's why I need to try it.

    I've always revised by taking the original and then working it line by line. This process has been very rewarding at times but also daunting at others.
     
  7. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Try it with a short piece first. It no longer scares me (nine rewrites of my first novel cured me lol).

    I've never regretted it and I know very quickly if it is worth it and working. Even if I wrote a clean first draft I would rewrite because of what it brings into the story. Not everyone writes that way but you did ask for an organic method ;) I'm also not alone in writing that way, several well known authors do. Also several plan the heck out of it and don't.

    These days I can take a good guess when reading which method the author uses. The first five chapters are usually a good indicator. If the book stays pretty constant throughout they are usually rewriters, if the first five are the weakest chapters and the book gets stronger as I read they usually don't. (I go looking for interviews to find out ;) ) I'm not always correct but I've got it right more often than not.
     
  8. doghouse
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    doghouse Member

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    The art of writing is in the rewriting.

    'Tis as simple as that. Anyone that claims their first draft is complete is either delusional, or improbably amazing.

    But then, it does depend on who you write for.


    Personally, I'll copy the first draft and work through it. I'm not a Pantser, and neither a full-on plotter/outliner. But I do at least bullet-point a scene so I know what to get down. I find the further I get into a novel the more I rely on structure and turn from a heavy Pantser into a full-on Plotter. That's why I suggest you try and work out what works for you.

    I could give you links on scene structure, chapter, story arcs, etc. But that would be giving you information on how I write. There are solid basics worth looking into though. But as reference, not definates. Such as the three-act, the seven point story structure, and so forth.

    Writing to tell stories is an art. It's a craft that takes time to learn.

    I wasn't going to reply, as I thought Elgaisma's and funky's replies were good advice -- and they are. But then, I do things different, so I should share that, right?
     
  9. John Shade
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    John Shade New Member

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    all good points.

    Thanks for the replies. off to work.
     
  10. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes other writer's views are important, because they give ideas. Whilst we might not use them or even think the other one is nuts ;) they may just provide the vital clue to what is going wrong. Phillip Pullman writes quite differently to myself but he gave a very small insignificant piece of advice that made my writing considerably better. Other writers give me the confidence to stick out my tongue at those that naysay my methods. Very few very successful writers tell anyone how to write, but will say how they do it, pointing out there are other methods.

    Insisting people do it your way is often the sign of a person who isn't very good. Rejecting other author's experience out of hand, saying it has no relevance can be foolhardy. Evaluate it and decide if it's useful.

    If anyone is in the UK check BBC iPlayer or various digital boxes - there is a wonderful show that keeps cropping up. It is aimed at teenagers and is called ''How to Write'' normally it is on in the middle of the night. There is nothing dictatorial about it. I found it looking for ''Have I Got News For You.'' It is repeated every few weeks or so. (It is on there just now, and I think there is more than one, because I remember one with Jaqueline Wilson which was different to one with Michael Morpurgo)
     
  11. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd try to identify the story idea in all of that material and cut out everything that doesn't belong to it, that follows the same train of thought. The problem, if you can call it that, with this kind of writing is that you might end up with a lot of stuff that doesn't really belong in that story at a second thought, because it takes a different turn and seem to belong to yet another story, but when you've individuated the story path you want to follow you simply cut out everything that doesn't belong (save it in another folder), and start working on revising the remaining material in order to clarify and strengthen it. You will probably have to write some more to complete it too.
     
  12. Kaymindless
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    Kaymindless Contributing Member

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    That's how I work. (Well, minus bullet-pointing a scene.) A little after the beginning, that's when plans and plots start surfacing. Sometimes it's as vague as how I plan to end it, sometimes it's only as far as somewhere farther into the story. But I work through it from beginning to end, not a full out-and-out rewrite. I tighten the beginning up, edit for consistency, add and remove scenes and all that, but if I set down to re-write it, it wouldn't go very far. I tried it once, I got as far as chapter 3.




    Onto the main topic, it may not be very organic but I would start with a file and move all of the pieces that I could not see as useful, at all, to one file. Table of contents at the top so you can ctrl F it and then another one with the useful. Now, I'd move connected scenes (even vaguely) to their own separate documents. There might be a few files, and even some crossovers if you have some scenes that can connect to multiple pieces but it's small and manageable and not as scary.
     
  13. John Shade
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    John Shade New Member

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    Tesoro and Kay,

    Some great suggestions in there.

    I actually began doing what Kay suggested and moved bits of text into smaller and more focused documents.

    And Tesoro, you're right about the pitfalls of that kind of writing. Ultimately it's a great practice but I would absolutely start off with more structure, even a little, at the start just to make it easier later on.
     

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