Monday, October 15, 2012

Excuses, Excuses! What's Stopping You From That Rewrite?

 I pushed forward, consuming my first draft in edit mode. I rekindled my love for my story, characters, and setting. A few tweaks here, a few deletes there. All the while, there was a tug in the back of my mind, trying to slow me down. It was coming, and coming fast. The sleeping monster's snore was getting louder, reminding me of what lay ahead.

It can't be that bad, I kept telling myself.

After all, I didn't have any major problems, just adding a few scenes for punch. Surely my memory failed me. I didn't really have a tangled mess in chapter twenty four. I probably just needed to erase and replace, brush away that old plot thread, and weave in the one I intended.

No problem. Piece of cake.

Eh. Not so much.

That sleeping monster: the not-so-great chapter....opened its lazy eyes, and began to stretch its arms, shoving away all my attempts to avoid picking him up and plopping him in the trash. It would be a struggle, wouldn't it? Too much time to try and fill in the giant gap his absence would leave. Perhaps I can just dress him up, so he “looks” good. Maybe, just maybe, he's not so bad after all.

And the little girl inside of me fell to the floor kicking and screaming:

"Please, please, please don't make me start over!"

Today, from my own experience, I want to suggest three excuses that may try and distract you from that task at hand, that inevitable step to truly polishing your manuscript before submission...even if it means that horrible word: REWRITE.

Excuse #1: Tweak what you have to fit your new plot line. So, in my case, I needed to readjust the plot. During that first draft, I had gone down a rabbit hole, and while it might have been an intriguing story line, it really was for a whole different book altogether. But, I really liked my set up, my language, the whole “feel” of the scene. There is a major problem though, when you try and fit a new scene into an old one...your characters throw a fit.
Consider your arc: would your character really do that, say that, or find themselves in that place on this new journey you've invented?
You can't just peel away the top layer and slap a new layer on it. You've got to consider the whole onion (as one particularly green monster would say. Any guesses?).

Excuse #2: Ignore your gut, it is good enough. But is it? You've written a whole manuscript. Certainly that tucks some more-refined skills in your writer's pocket? Each page you write, gives you the chance to get better. Why else do you edit, anyway? So, when you get to that scene you may have written a couple months ago, don't settle for last month's “good” when this month's good might have reached a whole new level.
Consider your own growth as a writer: Is this scene truly reflecting your best creativity, your strongest representation of the story in your head? Or does it have a hand-me-down feel, a poorly sewn patchwork of character motives?

Excuse #3: After excuse #1 and excuse #2 wasted away my time, I heaved that ugly monster and tossed him in the trash. But then came something that has not visited me for a long time: 
Writer's block.
Yeah, my plot was off, and what I thought would help was a good ol' fashion tweaking. That obviously didn't work. So now what? How can I make this worth reading to, reading thru, and hooking the reader for what's to come?
I found three things that sparked my creativity, choose one or more: 
 Crit partner brainstorming session: This is my favorite. My crit partner knows my story and my characters almost as good as me. And she also knows me. When I ask for her advice on a new plot thread, or keeping an old one, she can see through my laziness in not wanting the change, or she comes up with questions that dig deeper than the plot that's blinding me from what my characters want and need. It's always nice to have a second pair of eyes no matter what part of the process you are in, but when writing block hits, crit partners can be huge in breaking down that wall!

Research: No matter if you write historical or suspense, sci-fi or women's fiction, research doesn't just happen before you write. Sometimes you need to tap into research to spur on what's going to happen next. Since I write historical, I can look at events of that time, and decide how would my character react to them? Or perhaps there are other people's stories you come across that spur an idea? Would this be good to include in your plot to push your story forward? Even if it's a tid bit of research, if it gets you into your character's head and on to paper (or screen) then you can write yourself out of writer's block.

Take a break and read: Let your writer's mind rest. Step away from the story and jump into someone else's world for a while. Sometimes we focus so much on our own story's jagged edges, that we can't remove ourself from the snag to see the bigger picture. And sometimes, your creative juice bank needs to be filled up...which usually always happens when you dive into someone else's art for a while!

Do any of these stop you from moving forward in your rewrites? What other excuses have you told yourself to keep from writing the best for your story?
Angie Dicken first began writing fiction as a creative outlet during the monotonous days of diapers and temper tantrums. She is passionate to impress God's love on women regardless of their background or belief. This desire serves as a catalyst for Angie's fiction, which weaves salvation and grace themes across cultures. She is an ACFW member and CEO of a family of six.


Heidi Chiavaroli said...

I like what you said about your crit partner being able to see through laziness. I think that is definitely something that attacks me. I try to convince myself the story is just how it should be, when in reality, it needs A LOT more work. Having a valued critter to give it to you straight is priceless. :)

Thanks for this post, Angie.

Joanne Sher said...

You wrote this for ME! (Just FYI)

I KNOW mine needs a major replotting. It'll be my project for the end of this year and beginning of next. Great stuff!

Angie said...

I think having a crit partner in general is priceless! Glad that you have someone to help motivate you too!

Angie said...

OOh, isn't it great when you get timely advice? It's so good to be able to learn from each other!

Melissa Tagg said...

Really good stuff, Angie!! I actually really enjoy revising--it's the rough draft I freak out about. But even revision-loving me likes to throw out one excuse after another when it comes time to do revisions--especially the major plot ones. Pretty sure all my excuses tend to come down to one underlying thought: It's too hard. :) But I like what you said above--that we've already put in so much work writing a whole manuscript. Why wouldn't we take the opportunity to make it even better? :)

Jeanne T said...

Such great thoughts here, Angie. I'm in the throes of revisions now. Sometimes, it comes down to being able to see what a scene needs to make it sing. That's where I am now. So thankful for critique partners who can broaden my scope to make my story the best that it can be.

Thanks for sharing your insights today!

Angie said...

Melissa, It has taken me a while to get it into my head that it takes time and there's no way a first draft is suitable to submit! I know when I got tangled in this new plot revision, I wanted to shout "It's too hard!" several times!!
Thanks for your comment!

Angie said...

Yes, Jeanne, most things boil down to great critique partners!!! Glad you have some to help!

Pepper said...

I'm in the middle of this right now on 2 of my books - and, whew yeah, excuses.
The breaks do help and the research...and letting other people read it and give me feedback ;-)