1. Masli
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    Masli Member

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    rewriting. A pain?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Masli, May 17, 2011.

    A while ago I posted a piece of one of my stories here and it receieved some pretty straightforward reviews. To improve the piece I needed to change a lot of things. Not so bad I thought at the time. Because once I had given them some thought, I realised they were true.

    So with renewed enthusiasm I started rewriting the piece. But that's when everything went wrong. :(

    In order to follow the advice I was given I had to leave out sentences, even entire paragraphs that I had once written with so much love and dedication. Now this might seem a bit strange to most, but you see, I am not the one writing my stories. It's my characters. They decide where the story goes, they decide the dialogue etc. It's like I'm merely the tool to put everything to paper.

    And when I started rewriting I felt like I killed them, or at least part of them, of who they are, simply because it suited the story better. I even changed my mc's name, the name he has had for as long as I can remember. (years and years) simply because after some popular new story the name would now be considered cliché!

    I felt like the story was a beautifully decorated room, and I ripped out all the fancy decoration, because they were repetetive, or because they didn't add to the overall flow or storyline; leaving only a bare room, with the (in my eyes) bare necesities...

    And yes, I understand that too much decorations and pretty words don't add anything and might only confuse readers, but it felt good writing them. And part of me misses them. So much in fact that it hurts. Like it's almost physical.

    Now I know that if I want to be a better writer these changes are necessary and for the best, but right now it's confusing me. I mean I'm not writing to make money out of it, I want it to be how I want it to be, not because it would sell better or anything. But I also want to be a better writer, just for myself....

    I'm sorry for rambling I'm just really confused right now. I'm feeling like I hurt my characters, my babies.

    Does anyone else feels like this when you rewrite your stories? And if so, how do you deal with it?
     
  2. Lord Malum
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    Lord Malum Senior Member

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    You're not really editing until you cut something that hurts. It's true and in most cases, it's for the best. If you really loved the paragraph or sentence so much, save it to a Word document labeled "excess" or some such for later use in something else. You may well find later on that it wasn't really worth keeping in the first place.

    Rewriting can be fun and cutting something good is just part of it. You'll find that though you cut something good, what you add later on will improve the peice as a whole nearly every single time you rewrite (around 99.99999999% of the time actually). It comes with the territory, so don't feel so bad about it.
     
  3. StrangerWithNoName
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    StrangerWithNoName Longobard duke

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    For me sometimes it's hard to change things when people point out the flaws of my style or story, and they're spot on. Then I came back to my work, the manuscript I worked for hundreds of hours and I realise they were right, it's pretty bad, I doubt of my capabilities and wonder if does it really worth it.
     
  4. NikkiNoodle
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    NikkiNoodle Active Member

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    Here think of a rosebush. You grew it from a small sapling, watered it, mulched the soil, protected it from aphids and slugs, talked to it and watched it grow. Soon, though, you realize that there are dead branches and the lovely flowers your rose bush has produced are wilting quickly. The time has come to prune. It's painful when the shears cleave much loved branches and by the time the pruning is finished the rose bush looks to you like a mere ghost of itself. Now that all the withered parts are gone, however, the plant is no longer feeding dead branches but is able to put energy where it's really needed and produce beautiful, fragrant blooms that are the fruit of all the labor and pain. The bush is better for having the dead parts removed.
     
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  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    It is a mistake to rewrite your story in this manner based on comments you receive in an internet forum. It's your story. The style of writing you choose to employ, words you wish to use, sentence structure or placement, etc. all go into creating your story.

    Often, when you receive critiques from people, what they really end up doing is rewriting part of your story. It then becomes a hybrid - part your story and part theirs. It is a mistake to let this happen.

    Take the comments and suggestions, mull them over, accept some and discard others, but above all remain true to your own vision of the story. If you think that needs to change, then fine, but I wouldn't change it just because some people on the internet said to.

    For what it is worth, I like stories where the author creates a detailed depiction through the use of words. So long as it is done effectively. You start taking that out and you run the risk of losing your voice and sounding like the next generic writer in line.
     
  6. dizzyspell
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    dizzyspell Active Member

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    This.
    Editing stuff you enjoyed creating is part of writing, I'm afraid. Don't take advice on that would really upset the balance of the story you're trying to write, of course. If your characters wouldn't do something, don't make them do it because some person on the internet said they should. But if you take a few weeks off, then look at the story with fresh eyes, you will see far easier how others were actually being helpful.

    As for your characters dictating the story, don't let them. They're not real, remember, it's just your imagination running away with you! You need to have the strength as a writer to know which ideas of yours to implement, and which not to, especially in your rewrite. Throw everything out there in your first draft, by all means, but when it comes rewriting, get rid of some of it, for the health of the story.

    Ultimately it's at your discretion whether or not you take the advice on board. But part of becoming a better writer is learning how to take criticisms and apply them to your work.
     
  7. tonten
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    tonten Senior Member

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    I had to change a character completely in my rewrite. I really didn't want to do it, and it pained me to do it, but it was the only solution to fix the majority of the problems in it.

    I just asked myself this. Do I just want to write the book, or do I want to write the book so it's publishable? Sometimes, you need to sacrifice what you originally intended for it to be publishable.
     
  8. Reggie
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    Reggie I Like 'Em hot "N Spicy Contributor

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    I feel your pain as well. I had received 30 comments on reviews about something I need to change about my writing. Most of them came from my grammar and plot. That is why I had to rewrite the entire story over again. I still had the same theme and plotline. However, I rewrote the entire story very different, and it looked as if someone else wrote the story. The characters were still in line, and the conflicts the characters went through are still in line as well. However, it went so well that I gave up putting it into a novel. Instead, it became a movie script, which is even better.

    I am not going to make any assumptions about your problem, but I am guessing that you may be focused on the plot of the story, not how it is written on its own. You may want to keep the same theme, same plotline, and the same characters, but do not let anyone tell you to change your ideas. You're allowing the critiques to change the character development and story structure of your manuscript by taking their comments. But the writing itself (such as the spelling, grammar, style, etc) is something that you as the person accepting comments from the reviewer should be more focused on right after you have established your character development. You may be confused because you changed the character structure of the story and not the writing. However, as I said, I am not going to assume that this is your problem, but in most cases, I have this problem too. It hurts me more whenever I change my character development and plotline than the writing process (spelling, grammar, style, etc) itself.
     
  9. Green Fingered Skinner
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    Green Fingered Skinner New Member

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    Become your best editor

    The secret to becoming a good writer is to become a good rewriter.

    It is wise to understand the spoken word is different than the written word.

    The spoken word, the primary level of human communication, flows off the lips, often rapid and vapid, most times without much forethought. Such energy evaporates into the atomosphere, finding no home in time, echoing only in space, and is easily forgotten, its value never increasing with age. The written word, however, is laid down with purpose, fixed in print, black on white, lasting forever, becoming vintage nectar, full of memories and palpable delight.

    Self editing is the measure of a writer.

    In this day and age of computers and electronic communication, everyone with a keyboard fancies themselves a writer. How true and how sad.

    Writing is a craft.

    Good writiing is a skill aquired over time. Good writing is honed by the obession to be economical with words, direct in descriptive thrust, sparing the reader the ego of the author, the waste of indecision, bobbing up and down in the wake caused by the human engine in its eternal search for acceptance in the sea of life.

    To be a good writer means to be an excellent rewriter. Therein lies the individuals strength of style. Style is the paradox of creativity, a curse to be endured. Write on to discover your voice. Rewrite to discover who you are.
     
  10. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    If that's really the case, if you really thought the comments were correct, then it doesn't matter if you received them on an internet forum or from an editor at a top publishing house. On the other hand, if you accepted the comments at the time because you just felt that the people on the forum were more experienced than you and therefore they must be right, then you need to take a step back and consider.

    As I just posted on another thread nearby, where someone else was having difficulty with a critique of his work (in his case, he received suggestions that he felt were just plain wrong), you have to always retain responsibility for your work. The best editor in the world can be wrong, and if (s)he is, than you have to hold strong and defend your work. But usually, a good editor is right, and you need to consider that. If you post something here for comment, you have to be prepared for the fact that you may get comments you didn't expect and don't like.

    If, as you say, the comments struck you as true, then there is nothing to feel sentimental about. There is nothing noble about a poorly written story. Sometimes, we have to grow through pain.

    Good luck.
     
  11. StrangerWithNoName
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    StrangerWithNoName Longobard duke

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    Mmm, my observations on rewriting didn't involve the plot or the actions of the characters, I wouldn't change these elements of my work because the story is clear in my mind, it's logic and I think it's strong and original enough. I was talking about the "form" of the novel, the writing style, something I'm not quite sure at the moment, and for this reason I prefer not to post any of my work, not because I don't want to take advice of the criticisms on this board, I noticed that there are very skilled people here, but because now I don't feel ready, I prefer to read, learn and interact with the people here.

    P.S. I would disagree on your perception of the characters, for me they're not mouthpieces, they don't do what I want, and in a certain sense I feel they have their own lives outside my control, or better, of course I can write that person X is going to do something that (s)he wouldn't do, but after re-reading a passage like that, I would perceive it as wrong and out of place, much like in real life if you heard that a friend you know well is accused of having done something you can't believe s(he) would have done it.
     
  12. dizzyspell
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    dizzyspell Active Member

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    Sorry, all I meant was that I agree that when you first read critique, you tend to reject it, before returning to it with a fresh mind and realising that the criticism was accurate. The rest were my own observations. :)

    And on the matter of characters, I didn't mean making characters do things uncharacteristic, of course they shouldn't do that. I meant that sometimes when you write, your characters can seem to drag you one way while your story should be going the other. It's up to you to make your characters fit into the plot you've designed, while keeping them true to their personalities. Sorry if I communicated that badly in my initial post :)
     
  13. Pythonforger
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    Pythonforger Carrier of Insanity

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    But after that the branches are dead again, though less than before.

    So you prune it, and prune it, and prune it some more, until there are no more dead branches.

    That is the time to enter you rosebush in competitions and contests, and you will feel the joy of winning that champion cup.
     
  14. Masli
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    Masli Member

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    wow this is a beautiful idea! It helps me desling with the pain, if I can turn it into something good for the story.

    Thank you all for your wise comments. The most difficult comment was that I had put in too many words for too little plot, and that my sentences had too many info in one. Also they pointed out how my mc felt to them trough the words, and it was completely different from how he is. So apparently the words I used for him were off. This meant I had to change things about him, so others would perceive him the way I do.

    Ofcourse I don't simply take all the advises and comments here as truths (even though I feel they are more experienced writers than me). But on quite a few points they were right, and I really understood what I could improve.
     
  15. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    Go with it then, I was just going to say that you have to trust your own mind about what is right. Take Oscar Wilde for example, his writing is incredible for all the decoration he puts into the language. So don't let it effect your style as a writer just because it doesn't agree with one person.
     
  16. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    I agree with this and many of my reviewers have reminded me of this.

    They are suggestions in the reviewers opinion. You know the complete work, and where it will go. If someone points to something in the story, examine it, but its your decision to change or omit.

    7 reviews on one story, only one pointed out something they said needed work. I looked over it, and did modify it a little, but I did not leave it out like they suggested. One person should not change your mind.
    Now if half or more say the same thing, then it probably needs work.

    Reviews are opinions, not mandates.

    I enjoy rewriting or editing. I get to relive the story, take that step back and look at it from a different perspective then when I wrote it.

    Don't let the work of writing ruin the fun of writing.
     
  17. Masli
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    Masli Member

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    I know, and I wouldn't have changed things if I thought they were wrong. But the problem was that I did think the reviews were right on most points.
     

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