Recently, a friend in a writing group asked a question that plagues me as a writer.
How do you avoid the temptation of a shiny, new idea while you’re in the middle of writing/editing your WIP?
I have no good answer for that.
Historically, I can say that I have been notorious for dropping one project like its hot to snatch up the latest idea in my brain. Usually, that means both end-up unfinished and I’m off to a third idea. This is the reason, if you click on my “WIPS” page, you will see seven listed projects – in addition to Incandescence, my current focus. Seven does not begin to cover the irons I have in the fire. In fact, before this page is published, I am going to add a third section to that page just to remind myself of all the stuff I have to finish! Hopefully it’ll turn out to be motivating rather than overwhelming. We shall see.
Anyway – the original question is an important one. How do we avoid the temptation to move onto something new?
- Absolute Denial: you can completely ignore those new thoughts & ideas to maintain focus on your WIP. Of course, you could be missing out on your magnum opus.
- Calculated Pause: give yourself a measured amount of time to scribble out notes on your new idea and when it runs out, back to the WIP.
- Full Stop: take a break from you WIP and give your full attention to the new idea.
- Split Attention: write both!
For me, I can immediately strike Absolute Denial and Split Attention from the list. I abhor the idea of not, in some way, recording inspiration when it strikes. I carry around a notebook and pen at all times, for just such an emergency. And – should I be caught without said items, I always have my phone on my person and I frequently text cryptic ideas to my email address. Still worse, is trying to focus on two distinct storylines, sets of characters, worlds… I have to concentrate on my book’s cannon lest I end up with scenes (as had happened in past works) in which a previously murdered side character is chiming in on the group’s new plan to escape. Not ironically or as a ghost, but because Split Attention allowed me to forget what had happened to her.
I’m the same way when reading. I prefer to stick to one thing at a time and focus on it and do it ‘right’, rather than read half-a-dozen willy-nilly. When I was a kid, I did that all the time and kept it straight. These days, I’d probably end up confusing Mr. Darcy with Mr. Frodo and wondering why he was spending so much time with the ladies when there was a ring to toss into Mount Doom.
Full Stop must also be stricken from my list. If I Full Stop – I end up Full-Never-Get-Back-To-Previous-Work. As my list of WIPs illustrates nicely.
This year, once Incandescence and its sequel are finished, no matter many lovely new characters pop into my head, I am making it my goal to practice the Calculated Pause. Take notes on new ideas and put them into the pot for safe keeping, then immediately back to the WIP. The WIP takes precedence. Total focus. Total dedication.
And now I have Meghan Tonjes’ song in my head again.
(I’d link that song now, but I’m sharing her in a week for Tuesday’s Tunes post, so… you can wait… or Google her… or click here.)
Love & Rainbows,
…but with less booze.
Okay. So, here’s the deal. I’ve been editing. Re-reading and editing my WIP Incandescence for a few weeks now. Its pretty intense. But- BUT – I have started to feel as if I am treading water. I’ve had trouble merging a few threads that I previously believed already seamlessly melded. Nuts.
But then! A glorious burst of brilliance (tee-hee) and inspiration struck me! And I knew how to fix the things that had been bugging me since before I even started writing Draft One. I danced, I celebrated, I sat down today with the intention of rocking out a few thousand words of an edit while listening to the awesome speakers at the Koda Conference. And… the day escaped me as I struggled to find a place to stick my scalpel and start slicing, gluing, tweaking…
It was not settling in properly. The changes feel right in my head, but on the page, as it stood…stands?… it just wasn’t gelling. So.
What I’m proposing is a tossing, in toto, Draft One. Beginning anew. From scratch – no, not scratch. Semi-scratch. Semi-homemade. And now we’re back to Sandra Lee and booze.
Its a daunting task, but with all the revisions I’ve made to my outline, filling in some gaps in the world outside the immediate setting of the plot, fixes I’ve planned… it makes sense. But oh, gosh! To scrap 152,212 words mid-edit and just…start composing again. I weep.
The good news is, much will be salvageable. Its just that the layout of the chapters will have to be altered, and some niggling details will need changed… the telling of the story is probably much the same, but the pieces that aren’t are so wide-stretching that I don’t think just shifting them in will work.
So, I think I have to start with a blank page and start again.
God, I need a drink.
Love & Vodka,
Can you learn self-editing from a book?
I don’t know, but I’m sure hoping that the tips in this book, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to edit yourself into print which was recommended to me by Zoé Perrenoud will help me tighten up my first completed novel in… oh, let’s round it off nicely and say – five years. Its been nearly that long since my last college writing class as well, and so far, the things I’ve read in the book are helpful though most of them merely refresh stuff I had learned ages ago.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t know that I’ve ever truly ‘edited’ one of my novels before. I know, I know. That sounds insane, but one of the reasons I haven’t pursued publishing since I was eleven years old and got a rejection letter that broke my widdle-bitty heart, is that when a manuscript gets to ‘The End’, I tend to put it away and not look at it again. Ever. Sometimes, even before the piece is complete (for instance, my beloved Rudabet story).
Those I have edited, have morphed and changed so much in the second and third drafts that they feel like entirely new novels. Granted, this is going back to High School, but Death in the Family started out a paranormal novella featuring a woman named Sarah (and was actually called Sarah’s Ghost) and ended up a weird murder-filled mystery featuring Sarah’s niece Jacinta and her daughter Jade. Nothing supernatural at all, if I recall. And the trilogy – well, that one didn’t change so much in the edits as it grew from a stand-alone into a three part epic of four girls (and two guys) saving the world with (and from) some demigods.
Back to the present and my current editing dilemma. I am re-learning some valuable techniques and things to look for in my novel, I am. And I will employ them for sure. But on the other hand, I do tend to lack confidence (*gasp*) and like all the bewildered new moms drowning in how-to baby raising books and feeling inadequate compared to all these Super Mommy bloggers, I’m afraid my own unique voice will get lost if I adhere too stringently to the guidelines I read. Not just in this one book, but around the web and beyond.
I should ask some of my recently published contemporaries how they dealt with that. How they maintain their own voices/tones/styles while trying to implement the ‘new’ conventions of modern fiction? Gone are the days when a publishing house would take a novel they felt had potential and let an editor have a go at it; these days, from what I read, novels are often pubbed as-is. Meaning that its the author’s job to make sure its properly edited and vetted before its submitted.
This is going to be a long process, I can tell. *sigh* But to make one’s dreams a reality, one must take the first step.
So this is me, stepping.
(With guidebook in hand, naturally).
Love & Rainbows,
Ah, spring. Wish you were here. Somehow, we skipped you here in central PA and dove straight into summer. Bah. One such as myself is not made for steamy days and humid nights. Argh. Worse than the weird weather we’ve had, is the fact that it continually jumps back and forth between warm (verging on hot, we’ve hit 80 already in March!) and cold. Which has left me sick twice in the past month and really killed my productivity level.
The completed first draft of WT: Incandescence stood at 152,212 words which seems like a lot. I knew there would be many cuts to make in the second draft, but I also knew there were several crucial scenes that I needed to insert as well. Presently, I am nearly finished with ‘Part One’ which is, admittedly, the shortest part. With all the cuts and edits and fixes, this section came out with an almost identical word count. Color me stunned.
And appalled. I really thought I had been pretty brutal with my slicing knife, trying to tighten up the opening section.
Seriously – they are less than 1000 words apart (an important 1000 words, mind you).
I suppose the proof is in the pudding, though. My first two beta ‘readers’ will let me know if the changes I’ve wrought improve the tale or no. Then its on to a third edit, an editor, a (hopefully) final draft and… *trumpets blare* publication.
Before all of that, however, I have 135,000 words left to edit and being sick since Saturday night has slowed my roll. Its time to put nose to grindstone and work.
Wish me luck!
Love & Rainbows,
Editing into the night is F-U-N… right? *taps mic* Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
I have a strange method of editing a first draft. One my fingers and wrists abhor.
I re-write the entire thing. I mean, I have my original draft open, and my new one, and I go through it scene-by-scene, line-by-line, re-typing the entire novel. I am not sure why I do it this way, or where I learned it, but I’ve done it this way since I can remember. From the earliest drafts of the unnamed kidnapping story I wrote in 6th grade to Death in the Family, Will & Audra, The Eternal Defenders trilogy, every unfinished version of Madaya… all of them have been edited with a full-on rewrite.
It works though (for me). Because I already have the gist of the story, the majority of the prose, themes, et cetera worked out and on the page, when I re-type it, I can focus less on speedily barfing the ideas onto the page before they vanish and more on actual content. I tweak each sentence and paragraph as I come to them, then make overriding edits to chapters and whatnot as needed. I also have a list of changes/fixes that I found upon first read-through (which comes between First Draft and Second Draft) and I consult that as I go, making sure to add or subtract or alter as necessary.
The WIP I am currently editing is (working title) Incandescence. It is a large departure from the sort of high fantasy I have been focused on for the past decade or so. Then again, it is also a fantasy novel with magic and mayhem and revolves around the end of a civilization (something I adore). Modern day fantasy in the ‘real world’ is something I have never tried before. And although I am really fond of some of my characters, the first draft was (thank you NaNoWriMo & sprinting) ROUGH.
So editing it into a manageable size (it currently stands at nearly 160,000 words with several scenes remaining to be added in) and sewing up a few gaping plot holes is going to be a b*tch.
The good news is, I have re-written 5001 words in the past six hours and am making headway. Progress for the win.
The bad news is, the longer this takes to re-write, the more my fingers itch to get to work on any of a dozen other projects I have in the pipeline. Between the boisterous new voices in my head, begging to get their turn to be immortalized in ink, the collaborations I am working on with Mr. Morgan, and the grumpy grumbling of characters who have been stuck on the back burner for years – I’m definitely not at a loss for projects. Just time.
C’est la vie!
Such is the life of a wordslave like myself.
Love & Rainbows,