1. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Help. I'm rethinking everything.

    Discussion in 'Novels' started by deadrats, Jan 22, 2017.

    So, for the past three weeks I have been banging away at a novel. I was feeling really good about it. Despite life crashing and burning all around me, I think my novel could be really good. It could be so good that now I'm worried I'm going to mess it up. And as I move forward in the story I want to do things that would require some changes to be made earlier in the story. I don't want to just move forward and fix things later. I can't work like that. But I am far from obsessed with editing endlessly. I am obsessed with getting this story right because I freaking love it. I'm at about 20k. Have any of you been where I am? What did you do? Making these changes are big, but maybe the story needs it. I don't know. Rethinking everything about what I've got down so far.
     
  2. Lifeline

    Lifeline North of South. Staff Contributor

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    I feel for you. Welcome to my purgatory!

    Seriously, that's the same way I feel about my story. I don't want to mess it up, so I am very careful what I write. Lately, a good friend gave me invaluable advice: In order to move forward, I have to move backwards. Which means writing everything related, all the little things which lead up to my story and will not ever wind up in it - only in writing a comprehensive backstory will I be able to make sure that I know what to write at the start of the story.

    So that's what I am doing now and all the words I write now are truly important, even if they will never be read by the public. That's my advice if you feel yourself stifled by your freaking love for your story. Just write.

    ETA: I made these big changes in the prior story, until this friend told me I'd better first hash out the whole thing. This was the point when I started writing backstory, to make sure that I'd not go over the whole thing endlessly.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2017
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  3. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Get off my Balzac... Staff Contributor

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    That's always a tough call. For me, I always move forward unless I absolutely have to. The few times I have gone back have resulted in disaster. It might not be too bad if you're only 20k deep. That's like the first quarter of a football game. There's a lot of ball left to be played, so it's unlikely you'll hurt yourself too badly that early. The problem with changing things is you may not know where you are yet. You may inadvertently lock yourself into something down the road that you haven't anticipated. For me at least, it's all about rhythm and flow for the first draft. The right words are not always necessary, those can be fixed later, but I've found that the tone and beats are one of those things you either hit right the first time or you don't hit them at all, so I try to just keep going forward and stay out of my own way. Those little changes we want to make have a way of metastasizing. I prefer to keep the disease localized so I know where to treat it later. I wouldn't sweat 20k unless your foundation is thoroughly screwed.
     
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  4. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I'll often go back and make the changes, but sometimes I write notes in the text at the point I decide on the change, reminding me I have to do a rewrite of parts prior to that. I use YYY as my code to indicate that I'm writing a comment to myself, and then at the end of writing I can go through and search for all the YYY notes that need to be changed. So, for example, in a recent story I wrote something like "YYY - Hockley more sympathetic from this point-change earlier". That seems to be enough for me to accept that the change has been made, without bogging me down in a full rewrite before I've even finished the first draft.
     
  5. NigeTheHat

    NigeTheHat Contributor Contributor

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    Times I've decided big changes are needed, I dealt with it by just writing as if I'd already rewritten the beginning to match, and then going back to actually rewrite things afterward. Seemed easiest, since there's no guarantee I wouldn't change my mind again. But you don't want to do that, so it sounds like the question is 'should I write what I want to write or what I don't want to write?'

    So: write what you want to write. Because if you don't, you won't write it.
     
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  6. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well, I think be clear about what the story is that you wanna tell, and now consider whether those new things are just "cool" or do they actually add to the story? Does it make the same story more powerful? Is it something the story cannot do without? In essence, how much quality are you really adding, and how much depth, with these new elements?

    There're many cool and exciting ideas out there - and if you changed your story every time one such idea popped into your head, you'll never finish or end up with a horrifying mishmash of nonsense. Work out if the idea is truly indispensable to the story you want to tell, and if yes, then feel free to make changes. But if no, then leave your story as is and keep going forward.
     
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  7. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributor Contributor

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    AFAIK, this is common.
    Yes. I've felt this way and I'm sure others have, too. It's just part of being an artist.
    Went back, made minimal changes, and forged ahead.
    Again, it's just being an artist. Questioning and worrying are part of the game. I've done it as a writer, a musician, and as an actor. Show me an artist who doesn't worry and question their work and I'll chip in for the gravestone. ;)
     
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  8. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    I struggle with this too. When I'm going back and rewriting stuff I feel like I'm not moving forward (even if logically, I know I am) and that's very frustrating.

    My first novel was a huge learning curve. I rewrote it completely several times before I had a finished draft and, even though it got agent representation, I then realised it needed another major rewrite to reach its potential. That's where I am now - with a novel sitting on my hard drive awaiting a full overhaul. I *could* think of it as a year wasted, and sometimes I have thought of it like that - but it really isn't. I couldn't have written the fourth draft first time. I was only able to write the fourth draft because of the lessons I learned on the first, second, and third. I couldn't write the draft that I will write this year without having written the two-and-a-half novels in between. If you end up rewriting some of the 20k you've done, I'm sure if you think about it you'll agree that you couldn't have done the rewrite without the original work.

    IIRC you aren't word count driven like me, but maybe it would help you to keep a little table of words written per day. Then even if you're rewriting words, you can still see that you're moving forward and growing, because we learn with each word written.
     
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  9. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributor Contributor

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    I do this, too. At the end of each day of writing, I check my stats and save the file with the date in the title so even if I forget to make note of the stats, I can always go back and make day-to-day comparisons. I think this may be one of the major reasons I was able to get through the 10th draft of Aliens Don't Bend at the Knees... or was it the 9th? Doesn't matter. I got through it.

    And all those back-ups will come in handy if I change computers or (God forbid) the one I'm using dies. Keep a USB key with all your back-ups in your pocket at all times in case of fire.
     
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  10. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Yep, at just about the 15k mark I realized that my story was stalling because it was boring and, frankly, stupid. Two cliché Disney Hot Dudes™ meet and fall in love against adversity, The End.

    [​IMG]

    I scrapped more than half of what I had and the other half had to be so heavily rewritten that it probably would have been easier to scrap it all and start again. o_O True story.
     
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  11. Mumble Bee

    Mumble Bee Keep writing. Contributor

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    If you don't find yourself curled up in the bathtub, sobbing your heart out, oblivious to the cold water spraying down, you're not trying hard enough.
     
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  12. Lifeline

    Lifeline North of South. Staff Contributor

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    Wrey: I don't want to laugh uproariously, but I do now *snickers wildly*. I scrapped more than this amount I think three times so far (trust me, you don't want to know how much), and just during the last three weeks I have written about 25k which will never be included in my story (fanfic). This is my daily bread and salt - write, read up, realise that something needs to be changed, rewrite, write further. I am getting used to feeling stupid and getting hit over the head with how stupid I am. But, as realising how stupid I actually am is the goal, I am satisfied :)
     
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  13. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Get off my Balzac... Staff Contributor

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    I've been trying to write the fourth draft first for years! I'm going to pull it off one of these days...
     
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  14. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    I did it with my second novel. At least, I think I did... ask me in a year if it sold.
     
  15. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Get off my Balzac... Staff Contributor

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    I've entered a disturbing trend where I did one draft of my first novel, two drafts of the second, and three drafts of the third. I'm starting the fourth next week, so if things don't reverse themselves I might throw myself off my deck into the freezing river below....
     
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  16. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Yes. I'd vote for some version of Bay View's approach.

    When you realise things need to be changed, simply go back, mark the spots that will need to be changed with a short note to remind you what the changes need to be, and then keep going with the story. This will keep your forward momentum going, but also reduce the risk that you're going to miss something that needs changing.

    Once your first draft is all finished, then this will be 'editing' mode, and a lot easier to deal with. You won't feel like you need to 'start over.'
     
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  17. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    Well after the long part of editing the first. Wound up cutting out quite a bit of padding in the process (about 4K).
    With a little bit of crit on the beginning, I had to re-write it so that it would fit better and not feel so forced.

    Currently I have on chunk I feel is really not as exciting as I originally hoped, but I plan to scrap it and start
    it over and make it a little less blah. Probably should raise the stakes and give it more intensity than just
    roaming/policing the streets thing. I have war-frames that can really mess shit up, why did I not explore
    more combat with them in the given MC's freaking pilots one.

    So fear not, for you are not alone. Just continue writing if you can, until you figure out how to solve
    the bad spots.
     
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  18. 123456789

    123456789 Contributor Contributor

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    My opinion is that it is critical to get the first draft finished.

    Your final product-whatever it's going to be- is one specific combination of words out of an effectively infinite number. Each word gets you closer to your end goal via process of elimination.

    Once you have a first draft, you've narrowed down what ordering of words you can put down by a significant amount, perhaps more so than at any other point in your novel. If your first draft is completely about the 2016 elections, you know you're not going to write about dragons.

    Hopefully your writing capabilities at the point of writing a novel are good enough that you're more worried about maintaining a uniform style than you are about the technical level of each individual sentence. By the nth draft, your voice should be be so solid that every new sentence that goes in fits in flawlessly with those already present.

    In short, I don't think putting down more words in your WIP is ever a waste of time or counter productive. First, you get all the stone you need, then you begin to chisel.
     
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  19. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Get off my Balzac... Staff Contributor

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    I don't about that... what that be one of them stranger than fiction thingies?
     
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  20. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Here's what I'm doing. I'm going to think about it a little more. Maybe that's crazy. I'm not going to outline or think about much more of the story than I have down. What kind of story is this now and where can it go? VS. If I make this big change, what kind of story is that and where can go? I'm just going to let it sit. I'm going to write a short story that has nothing to do with my novel just to have something else to work with and make story decisions about. When that story done, it's back to the novel. My goal is to be able to query agents by the end of the summer. I want to write this novel quickly. But I really want to be smart in draft one. Maybe 20k (now 25k) isn't that much, but I've really put a lot into this. I've read and edited and worked on it just about every day. I am in love with this story or what there is of it so far, but I wonder if I've set myself up for predicability here. I'm not married to the words I have down. It won't bother me too much to do an overhaul now. If I decide to go that route, I've got to do it now. I won't be able to move forward if I think I'm saving that change for later. Plus, I've only thought about this change in what I've written so far. I feel like I won't know what really happens until I write it. Thanks for all the responses.
     

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