1. A. G. Lucchesi
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    A. G. Lucchesi New Member

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    Trouble Editing My Novel--Help!!!

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by A. G. Lucchesi, Oct 3, 2012.

    I finished writing my latest novel back in July, and I have yet to even really attempt the revision process. I have managed to open my word document only a few times, and the times that I do go back to it I end up rereading the same first pages that I have been stuck on. I deleted the last 15,000 words upon completion because they just sucked, and I'm going over new ideas to help the novel go from just plain sucky to something that may resemble "decent" in the future. I just can't get myself to actually put the work in and revise it and I don't know what to do! I can't really say it's "writer's block" because essentially it is complete, I just can't even get myself to read it. Does anyone have any suggestions as to how I can get over my fear of revising my novel? My printer is out of ink (has been for quite some time), but I am considering spending the extra money and printing out some chapters and seeing if the new format might help strike something in my head and get me back into the process of working on my novel. Other than that, I am clueless. I even put a timer on my most-used internet website (facebook), but now I have just taken up playing Skyrim during my new found time. I hate editing!!!
     
  2. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    I'm in the process of revising and soft editing my novel right now. Basically, I'm just rewriting it, checking for lines that don't make sense, etc etc. I've already cut 4-5 chapters from the initial copy and will chop more when I'm finished. The revision actually has grown my novel (since the first half didn't match my true writing style or brought my MC to life enough) I'm at 83k right now and on the last quarter of the novel. I'm guessing it'll check in around 100-110k before I chop down.

    As King would say, which can be used to philosophize editing: "Don't be afraid to kill your babies. Kill your babies."
     
  3. A. G. Lucchesi
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    A. G. Lucchesi New Member

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    It's not so much that I am afraid to kill it, it's more like I hate it so much that I don't want to look at it. Today I read an old short story of mine to my fiancé and started reading him the beginning of an old novella, both of which I love and think that I did a really good job on it. As much as I love all of my novels because they're my babies, I believe they basically all are terrible and should never see the light of day. I think I might be better at short story writing than I am at novel writing, but I generally dislike writing short stories because I feel like I can't get everything I want into such a small word count.
     
  4. Wolfwig
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    Wolfwig Member

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    Give it more time on the shelf - perhaps six months. In the meantime, start something new. A fresh perspective needs a changed point of view - something a new project can provide. If you're getting distracted easily, chances are you're not ready to tackle the editing just yet.
     
  5. Steph4136
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    Steph4136 Senior Member

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    I agree with Wolfwig. It sounds like you need to take a good long break from it to get some distance. This really does help too. Why don't you shelve it for now and start writing something new? It's not going anywhere and when you do go back to it, it'll be with fresh eyes.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    put it aside for at least a couple of weeks... then print it out [it's double-spaced, i hope] and settle somewhere comfortable, quiet, alone, with ms and a red pen... read it as if someone else wrote it and mark whatever corrections and changes seem to be needed...

    then, when you go back to the computer to make them there, you'll most likely find more things needing attention, may even have second thoughts about some changes you made to the printed copy... when you're done, put it aside again for a few days, before giving it another careful proofread either on the computer, or another printout...
     
  7. A. G. Lucchesi
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    A. G. Lucchesi New Member

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    Thank you everyone! I think that you are all right, that I am clearly not ready to move on to the editing and revising stage of my novel. I think I am going to shelve it and let it sit around until I feel like I can properly work on it. While I do want to get it out of the way, if I attempt revisions now, while I am not in the correct mindset, it's just going to turn out like poo. And Mammamaia, I do plan on printing it out when I am ready. I am a firm believer that looking at your novel in a new format (whether it just be moving out of your regular writing space, or printing it out, or changing the font/color, or even having someone else read it to you) helps give you a new perspective.
     
  8. marktx
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    marktx Contributing Member

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    One other thing that's helpful to remember. Even if after a very long time you still hate it, all is not lost. I wrote a novel about six years ago with a great basic concept but everything else about it came up short. One character stayed with me, though, stewing on the back burner and evolving into a full character.

    This year I took another run at the story, keeping the same basic concept and moving that character to the center position. Everything else was from scratch. I can honestly say that I am very happy with the new incarnation of the book, which would never have happened without that first unhappy effort.
     
  9. A. G. Lucchesi
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    A. G. Lucchesi New Member

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    My first novel was written six years ago, and while I love it because it was my first novel, first finished work, etcetera, and while I enjoy the BASIC idea, it just doesn't work. I tried explaining the story to a lovely lady I met at one of my writing seminars, and she was just confused the whole time, even when I explained the ENTIRE story. I do plan on rewriting it at some point, I have some new ideas to help fix all of the problems, but it just hasn't gotten quite to that point yet, you know? It's not ready to be rewritten. Perhaps I was just too young at the time, or wasn't a seasoned enough writer.
     
  10. ranjit23das
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    ranjit23das Member

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    You can always seek professional help and get an editor to edit your work for you - I have seen threads on this topic in this community. However, this only fixes the problem for this novel.

    There is a deep seated reason why you cannot begin editing your novel - only you can determine what that is. Sure, stuffing it in a draw (metaphorically) for six months can move you out of your present malaise but I think the demons will still be there when you revisit your work in Spring next year.

    I am an exec coach and when managers 'hit the wall' all a coach can do is be there for the individual and get them to talk about the issue. You mention in one of the threads:

    As much as I love all of my novels because they're my babies, I believe they basically all are terrible and should never see the light of day
    This is very telling. You are either playing us along and seeking our sympathy or you really do believe your work is terrible. If its the former reason - why? If its the latter reason - why?

    May be worthwhile hooking up with a coach to discuss offline since if you intend to write for a long period then it should be a positive experience for you and not so - dare I say it -self destructive.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    And most of these threads advise AGAINST wasting money on outside editing.

    You cannot be a writer and not do your own editing. Anything else is self-delusion.
     
  12. Thromnambular
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    Thromnambular Member

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    It's self-dilution too, if you know what I mean.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    both are very costly paths to take, if you hire a competent professional... and if you go for one of the low-fee services that advertise on the internet, you'll get low-quality assistance that can harm a lot more than help...

    in either case, it's money down the drain... and it still won't guarantee snagging an agent, or selling your book...
     
  14. A. G. Lucchesi
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    A. G. Lucchesi New Member

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    The only professional editing that will ever be done to any of my works is if it is picked up by an agent and a publisher wants it. Under no circumstances will I pay anyone to do work that I should do myself. And when I say "editing" I don't mean that I need to just fix typos and grammatical errors. The story needs actual revision, as ALL works need. Plot holes need fixing, some scenes need cut, some scenes might need more to them, characters' personalities might need changing, etcetera. And no, I am not looking for sympathy. If I was doing that, I would probably say, "Here's a copy of my novel, it sucks doesn't it? Read it and tell me that it doesn't suck, blah blah blah." I think I have only had a max of two people read any of my novels (other than a writing friend who I read parts of it to), and that was my grandmother and my best friend. I am uncomfortable allowing anyone to read anything that I have written (except for a few of my short stories, some of those I am actually quite proud of). I started my first novel (first novel = the first completed one) when I was fifteen, and finished it just after I turned sixteen. I am only 22, I have written four novels, and to me they all just feel like it might be something you'd find on a fanfiction site or something. They just don't seem good at all. I don't know if this is an insecurity, or if they actually do suck. I am afraid to show anyone in case they really do suck, then I will probably be unmotivated to continue writing for a long time, OR I wouldn't trust someone who actually liked them, "They're just saying that to be nice." Whenever I have edited any of my novels, generally I enjoy them and think, "Yeah this is good, who WOULDN'T want to publish this?" and then a year later, "No, no, this is horrible."

    Now, you're mistaken. I DO enjoy writing. I LOVE writing. To me, it is one of the most AMAZING things you can do in the world. HOWEVER not every author thinks their work is a masterpiece, and not every author thinks their work is good enough to be published. Everyone is going to have a dusty manuscript in their drawer even if they're famous. Not all inventions work, not all products work, not all movies work, not all novels work. It just is. The IMPORTANT part is that I fulfill the need within myself as a writer to write the story I believe needs to be told, or the story in my head that is screaming to get out. Again, that doesn't mean it's going to end up being a best-seller, and even if it ends up being a drawer-warmer, I will ALWAYS have a level of satisfaction that NO ONE, not even myself, will be able to take away. Because I wrote that novel, that is my creation. I sat for hours and days and weeks writing that. Literally, blood, sweat and tears went into that baby. Even if it ends up sucking, it is still my baby, and I will still love it even if it is stupid.

    Anyway, thank you for your suggestions though! However much I don't agree with them, I do appreciate the time taken to write them out for me.
     
  15. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    You sound rather young. That's just an observation from someone who, technically speaking, is not. Everything in your judgments seem to be couched in extremes. Of course you love your writing, as I do mine, and, as I suspect, most writers do theirs. And when someone or something we love (and our writings do seem to live and breathe, don't they?) don't quite live up to our expectations, that is a hurtful and frustrating experience. Ever see a doting parent of a child who is competing? In sports, or dance, or a spelling bee? All support, all cheering, all encouragement...until the child falls short - doesn't make the easy basket, doesn't make that brilliant dance move, forgets that "judgment" only has one "e". Then...KA-BOOM!! The child can do nothing right.

    I sense a little of that here. I don't for a minute believe that you really think that all your writing is "terrible and should never see the light of day" because if you did, you wouldn't be asking for help in editing. Why would you edit something that should never see the light of day? So, what we're really seeing is that parental anger at the failure of the child (which, btw, the raging parent really thinks is the failure of the parent). So mamma's suggestion to put it aside for a while is spot on. You need to disengage, emotionally, from it and wait until you can come back with a fresh and more detached perspective. It may be a few weeks. It may be a few months. Don't worry about it. The longer you wait, the more you'll find to correct, but the less intensely you'll feel about it. Use that time to read - a lot. Start another project if you need to soak up creative energy, but make it something very different from the novel you just finished. If you have some other creative outlet - photography, music, lion-taming - throw yourself into that. If you come back to it and still find you have that intensity, back off a while longer. It can wait.

    When I review a completed work, I go through it the first time focusing only on SPaG errors. I include sentence and paragraph structure in this, too. I make note of passages I don't like, but I don't usually do anything about them. I also make note of any inconsistencies I find (like a character popping up four chapters after I killed him off). Then I go back and read through for problems with the writing. I do this in WORD, so that I can rewrite as I go, but mamma's way sounds like a good option, too. The only reason I prefer WORD is that I usually find I need several repetitions of editing before I have it the way I really want it, and I wouldn't want to kill that many trees.

    I was already in my 20s when I realized how much I wanted to write. Life intervened and I was in my 40s before I really made a start on a novel. I've written four (editing and all) and part of a fifth. I am now closing in on 60, and for the first time I really have a complete sense of what my novel is going to look like when I finish it. And for the first time I have confidence (as opposed to faith) that what I write will be worthy of publishing. I'm still learning a lot (because, as my grandfather used to say, the day you stop learning is the day you die) and enjoying the trip.
     
  16. A. G. Lucchesi
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    A. G. Lucchesi New Member

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    First of all, yes I am young, as I stated in my last post, I am only 22. I have written the same amount of novels that you have, I even have part of a fifth one that's been gathering dust for years, and two other half-written ones that were failed attempts. If you look at it this way, we both have generally the same accomplishments when it comes to our novels, however, I am almost 40 years younger than you. Whereas you have built up a confidence in yourself and your writing, technically speaking I am still new, and I am battling insecurities that will hopefully fade with age. I KNOW for a FACT that a lot of what I am feeling is just merely myself being insecure and not being confident with myself (I have attended the Antioch Writers' Workshop the past two years, made many many great writer friends there, and I remember specifically this most recent one someone saying [about me to someone else] "Oh she's great, she's going to go places." Which is wonderful, but then there's that voice in my head that says, "No, they don't know what they're talking about.") But I disagree completely with everything being said here in this first paragraph.

    Yes, I do probably have my emotions hanging on the extreme edge of the spectrum, I know myself and, like you said, I am still young and that sort of thing takes time to get away from. But I don't think that I ever said that I hated EVERYTHING that I have written--just my novels. I am proud of several short stories of mine. I have a novella that I believe to be the best thing I have ever written (and funnily enough it was something I wrote in three days, didn't intend for it to be anything special as it was more of an experimental work than anything--trying a new genre, trying a new tense, trying first person instead of third, etcetera).

    I don't write to be published. Being published IS the ultimate goal, yes, which is why I attend seminars and write down agent names and query places, but writing fulfills a need in myself. And while yes, I don't believe any of my novels are good enough to see the light of day, why WOULDN'T I edit them? If, as they are now, they suck, why shouldn't I take the time and effort to try to get them to a place where they ARE good enough? And even if that NEVER happens, even if they will ALWAYS be terrible, I want to make sure that everything that I write is up to my own standards. I want to go back and look at a novel and know that I did everything I could to make it great, and while a publisher might not have thought the same, I can be proud of it. I don't care if the only readers are my family. Writing is for me. The story is for me, and right now I am not happy with the story, and I want to make it better. It doesn't work where it is now. I didn't spend over a year writing it to say, "Oh well since I think it sucks there's no reason to edit it."

    Yes, I think this is an absolutely wonderful idea. I think that everyone is correct in the fact that I am not in the right mindset to edit the novel, and that it needs to be shelved right now, and I need to focus my attentions on other projects. Like I said, I have written four, and the other three I have been meaning to come back to. I plan on rewriting the first two completely. I love them, but there are a lot of confusing elements, and I think the story ideas would work much better if I really change a lot of things. And my third novel, which I think is my favourite, needs a lot of work. I went back and edited it very lightly. There was a lot more I intended to put into it during the writing process, but I wrote the last 50k (half the book) in two weeks time, and so a lot didn't end up in the book that I wanted, and I never really took the time to put those things in (writer's block). So yes, I think I am going to just put #4 aside and perhaps work on some older stuff, and work on my short story collection. Really, there IS no sense in editing it when I hate it so much. I don't want this hatred to end up hindering the novel during the editing process. I don't want to cut things that don't need to be cut just because I am in the wrong mindset.

    I love printing out my novels. There's just something about starting the editing process with a freshly printed manuscript that just helps. I generally use the paper copy so that I can just be away from my usual space (and I can't browse the internet). I use it a lot for more generic problems, like typos and little errors and marking things that need to be deleted, or changed, or expanded. I put in all of the edits, and then go back and read it another time to do the bigger changes, and then read it again, as goes the circle. I generally only print it out twice--the first time to edit, and the second time when I think it is finished (which, really, nothing is ever finished).
     
  17. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I wish you the best of success.
     
  18. ranjit23das
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    ranjit23das Member

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    Some really sound advice from EdFromNY and other contributors. I fear that you are not listening - giving multiple explanations and reasons to brush aside their suggestions. Why is that?

    You comment : I have attended the Antioch Writers' Workshop the past two years, made many many great writer friends there, and I remember specifically this most recent one someone saying [about me to someone else] "Oh she's great, she's going to go places." Which is wonderful, but then there's that voice in my head that says, "No, they don't know what they're talking about."
    Why do you feel the need to negate positive feedback?

    Its interesting that you have written four novels but have yet to go back and edit them to get them to a standard where you would be happy. Why are you not going back and editing your novels?
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    good questions...
     
  20. A. G. Lucchesi
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    A. G. Lucchesi New Member

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    I don't want to start internet drama with my frustrations, so I will keep this short. The reason why I give multiple explanations and "brush aside their suggestions" is because I am looking for a suggestion that WILL WORK FOR ME. Paying someone to edit my novel WILL NOT WORK. ESPECIALLY because A, I CANNOT afford it, and B, I need to fix the STORY not the writing itself. I think it is a good idea to set it aside, I think it is a good idea to work on something else. As Captain Kate mentioned, "don't be afraid of killing your babies," and thankfully I am not afraid to with this some. I know that this novel needs MAJOR reconstruction. I just want to spend some more time with it before I do kill it off.

    Why do I feel the need to negate positive feedback? Because I am insecure about everything. No one reads anything that I have written. Not my parents, not my siblings, not my best friend. They read a few pages and never finish. How is THAT for positive feedback? So I don't show people, and when I finally do get the courage to show people, THEY DON'T READ IT. I sent all of my short stories, THE WORK I AM PROUD OF, to a friend in the Navy after he had surgery and needed more "reading material." He didn't read it. I sent EVERY SINGLE NOVEL to a friend who moved to Israel and wanted READING MATERIAL for the plane. HE DIDN'T READ IT. Why wouldn't I feel a little bit wary of people who say my work is so awesome, especially when they are people who NEVER READ ANYTHING OF MINE. While I LOVE the people I went to the seminar with, the two who had the discussion about how great I am NEVER READ ANYTHING. While I was flattered and embarrassed that they would talk about how amazing I am in front of me, how could they know that when, as far as I was aware (unless the director gave them a copy or something), they NEVER READ ANYTHING.

    I HAVE gone back and edited EVERY SINGLE THING THAT I HAVE EVER WRITTEN.

    Now, I never said that I hated every novel as soon as I was finished writing them, and even after I have edited them. When I am done with a novel, generally, 3/4 times, I have an ego-boost, and I think they are the greatest things in the world, even after I go back and do some light editing. LIGHT editing. Because I think the story works perfectly, I think it is excellent. Then a YEAR OR TWO DOWN THE LINE, after more reading and writing and comparing, I realize that NO IT DOESN'T WORK. Hence why I haven't worked on the editing process as much as I should, because originally I didn't think it needed to, and I have, as of this exact moment in time, not had the time or motivation to go back and edit them.

    My fourth novel is the ONLY NOVEL I have EVER had such negative feelings for DURING AND IMMEDIATELY AFTER completion. Because I was aware during the writing process that it was not working. But I chugged it out anyway, I wanted to get it done. Because then I could go back and fix everything. I could read it from A to Z and be able to figure out what sucked and what was good and what part didn't work and what did. Upon completion I deleted the last 15,000 words of my novel without even wincing. I have written pages and pages of notes on what could be added and changed. I have written on my walls, saved text messages in my phone, scribbled on scraps of paper, and in a notebook. I have thought long and hard about this novel.

    I really don't appreciate the fact that you have attacked me on multiple occasions. HOWEVER, everyone else that commented on this thread, MammaMaia, Captain Kate, EdFromNY, Wolfwig, Steph4136, Marktx, Cogito, Thromnambular, and anyone else I may of forgotten, thank you so much for your suggestions, I really do appreciate it. I do plan on shelving my novel for now and working on happier projects until I can find it within me to go back to #4. I also apologize for any frustrations that may have been indirectly aimed at you.
     
  21. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    A quick comment - I'd say that a work in progress is not reading material. No matter how good it may be when it's polished up, a draft is likely to be too rough to be enjoyable reading. So I don't think that these failures-to-read really say anything negative about your work.
     
  22. ranjit23das
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    ranjit23das Member

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    Dear A.G.

    many thanks for your response - giving me the background really puts things into perspective. It must have been hurtful to give your writing to friends and family to read and find that they read a few pages and never finish. There have been multiple threads about the folly of seeking feedback of one's work from friends and family.

    I think you have come to the right place. I joined this community only recently and I must say that many of the critiques given on other writer's work have been very good. As a suggestion, why not post a short extract of some of your work in the appropriate workshop and seek feedback from like minded people - other writers? I promise NOT to critique your work! Lol.

    Good luck in your adventures. No more posts from me - promise
     
  23. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    My point of view:

    An early draft rarely reads easily, even if you have a great story hiding in there, so your readers may not persevere.

    Family and friends may not be fans of the genre you wrote so wouldn't read even a great story.

    Family and friends are not good reviewers of genres they like, because they are not accustomed to pinning down what they do and don't like in their reading material. For that you need a fellow writer or editor.

    Family and friends won't usually tell you what they don't like even if they can identify it, to spare your feelings.

    I've given my novel to 8 or 10 people over the course of its revisions, and gotten a few vague comments back from about 3 of them.

    Save a copy of your work as it stands now, so that you don't have to be afraid of trying changes that might lose something you turn out to like better than the new attempt. You'll always have that baby, even while you try to get another version of it to grow up. (Of course you should always have multiple backups anyway, but realizing you can go back may free up your mind.)

    Write a new first chapter and see if you like it. If not, file it away and go back to the original.

    Find those places where the plot doesn't work and fix them one at a time.

    Don't be afraid to try things. You don't necessarily get engaged to the first person you date. You don't have to commit to a particular version of your story until you've checked out some others. And, unlike real life, that first version will sit there waiting for you.

    I'd suggest that you go over the first chapter and, when you qualify under the rules of this site, post it here. You will get comments about what other writers do and don't find appealing in your chapter. That will tell you a lot about where you really stand.

    While you are getting to that point, write and read critiques posted on this site. You will learn a lot from just pinning down what you do and don't like in someone else's work, and maybe some more from what others have to say about it.

    Also look for a local critique group to participate in regularly. That's been good for me.
     
  24. brollykat123
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    brollykat123 Member

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    This is hard to swallow, but I think good advice.
     
  25. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Cruising through space.
    Ultimately, unfortunately, there's a reason why writing is a solitary job, as Maia has told me. If one isn't careful when hitting a critique group it can be the blind leading the blind, and I firmly believe her on that too.

    Really, editing boils down to being able to realize your words don't fit. And there are multiple levels of editing.

    There's proofreading, copy editing and high editing. This is a definition of high editing from someone I know who does editing


    More high-level editing might look for:

    Does the protagonist go through any character transformation so that by the end of the book he/she thinks differently and can do something he/she couldn't do in the beginning?

    Do you show enough of the personality of the main characters--all of them?

    Do you evoke a range of emotions, and not just fear, anger, and lust (the "safe" male emotions)?

    Do your characters sound alike? Do they talk alike? If so, you have not spent enough time developing them before you started writing.


    That's why I've cut so much on my hard editing. It allowed for space to develop characters, and have room to make sure no one sounded the same. It all matters in the big picture.
     

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