Oh delete, you're so tempting

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Oh delete, you're so tempting

Postby heather_hangs_it » 29 Jul 2010, 20:05

Okay, need some serious encouragement/writerly advice/kick in the pants. 75,000 some words into my wip and I think I may have to scrap it all, or at least a good portion of it. The more I've thought about it, the less original my plot seems, the less thought out my backstory is, and no matter how lovable/despicable my characters are, they just seem to be in limbo - caught somewhere between unfinished shite and possible guilty pleasure glory.

In the meantime, I'm beyond discouraged and ready to give in. I'd really like this to be one of the things in life I saw through to successful completion but my perseverance is fading.

Help? Fellow writers? Nathan? Random literary muse?

Anyone? (echo)

~heather
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Re: Oh delete, you're so tempting

Postby Margo » 29 Jul 2010, 20:32

STOP! Get your finger away from that key right now!

75,000 words is (depending on genre) a whole book or a good portion of one...more than half. It is common to feel the way you are feeling. At least finish the whole thing. You are so close.

Then take a breath. Let the book sit a little while, a few days at least. Two weeks would be better. Absolutely AVOID making major decisions during this time. Do other fun things or start another project or read writing books.

Then go back and look at it. It may not seem so bad at that point, or you may see what you need to fix. You may simply find that you are one of those writers who does a very rough first draft and that the revisions are where the story will really take shape. Many professional writers work like that.
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Re: Oh delete, you're so tempting

Postby polymath » 29 Jul 2010, 21:06

Yes, delete; no, save; no, I don't know. Either has benefits. Starting over from scratch often results in tighter focus, tighter writing, applying methods learned from first efforts. However, some redeemable passages might come in handy for rewriting. There's a hunch speaking behind the frustration. What is it? What is it trying to say? Structural or aesthetic hunch? Style, craft, or voice hunch? The four areas I find most struggling creative writers have difficulty with are SPICE development (setting, plot, idea, character, and setting), identifying and staying on task with a main dramatic complication, narrative point of view, specifically narrative distance and narrative voice, and building reader rapport.

"A writer . . . must not only have a story to tell but a story that he must tell. And, in order to do so, he must struggle to find a voice. Whether he works with or against the natural iambic meter of the English language, the writer must be in love with language, with the words themselves, the sound of the words on the page, the music they make in meaning. He must love them not so much in order to express the self as to discover a self, and, through it, his province, his territory, the territory of his story." --Lynn Freed, "Doing Time," in Harper's, July 2005, pp 65-72.

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Re: Oh delete, you're so tempting

Postby cheekychook » 29 Jul 2010, 21:11

Okay, I'm a fellow writer and part time freelance literary muse, so I'll throw in my two cents.

First off your subject heading scared me---whatever you do don't delete 75,000 words of your writing. You know how you go through your junk mail pile and finally throw out all the catalogs/fliers/coupons that have been creating clutter as they accumulate...and then the very next day you actually need one of the catalog/flier/coupons you just threw out? Well that's the same sort of thing that will happen if you delete a block of work. Don't do it. I'm a firm believer in virtual pack rat behavior when it comes to writing---save it all, you never know when you may need it/want it/realize what to do with it. Actually this belief extends beyond the virtual for me, which explains the mile high stack of scribbled covered papers/napkins/receipts on my desk. Seriously, don't delete. Step away from the delete button.

Okay, I don't know about you, but I feel better already.

I think many (if not most) of us have been in the same position you're in now---no matter how smoothly a writing project goes we all have days where we stop and think "Is this right? Am I writing total nonsense? Have I just wasted the last week/month/year on some sort of insanity?"---it's not always easy, or even possible, to tell if what you're in the middle of writing is great or total trash. If you're having doubts, take a break. Set it aside and ignore it for a while---see if it calls to you. Projects that are worth finishing have a way of making their way back into your brain, whether you want them to or not. If you step away for a bit and still feel that you either don't know how to finish it or that you don't really like it much after all, start working on something new. (But don't delete---I mean it---because you never know...)

Whatever happens, don't give up hope. If you were able to write 75,000 words about this story it probably has multiple redeeming qualities---and even if you don't wind up finishing this project in the way you originally thought you would there will likely still be aspects of it that you can salvage and apply to a new project. And, most importantly, keep in mind---it's never a waste of time to keep writing.

Hope that helped---I'd hate to have to turn in my muse card.
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Re: Oh delete, you're so tempting

Postby HillaryJ » 29 Jul 2010, 21:14

Save it. Open a new document. Start writing. Steal the chunks and pieces of the first ms that still work. Insert them. Keep writing until you finish.

I never erase a story from existence even if I know it's awful. Because even an awful story has a good turn of phrase there and a great description there. Also, sometimes if you just walk away and leave a story for a few weeks, it doesn't look so bad on return.
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Re: Oh delete, you're so tempting

Postby Cacy » 30 Jul 2010, 03:34

I feel your pain. I reached word count of about 90,000 on a WIP before I decided, "Wait, no, I don't want this to be third-person omniscient. It should be first person!" Looking back on that statement, after already re-writing and completing the first person version, I realize how crazy that sounds. But it can be done, if necessary.

But, like others have already said you definitely should not hit delete. Even if you want to change a good, healthy chunk of what you've already written (or if you want to change it until it's unrecognizable), there could be some useful stuff in it. I ended up losing some character POVs when I switched from third to first, but all that writing in third helped me get to know my characters better so it wasn't for nothing. i now look at it as a really long exercise in pre-writing.

I wonder though if you've let somebody else read your WIP so you can get a second opinion on it. Don't sell yourself short. Your story may be be brilliant beyond belief but you're so close to it you can't see it. If nothing else, set it aside for a while, work on a short story for something completely different so you can exercise your creative mind in other ways, then come back to it refreshed. That usually works for me when I abhor whatever I've been working on too long. Sometimes the brain just needs a distraction from obsessing over the same thing for months on end.
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Re: Oh delete, you're so tempting

Postby Holly » 30 Jul 2010, 04:46

heather_hangs_it wrote:Okay, need some serious encouragement/writerly advice/kick in the pants. 75,000 some words into my wip and I think I may have to scrap it all, or at least a good portion of it. The more I've thought about it, the less original my plot seems, the less thought out my backstory is, and no matter how lovable/despicable my characters are, they just seem to be in limbo - caught somewhere between unfinished shite and possible guilty pleasure glory.

In the meantime, I'm beyond discouraged and ready to give in. I'd really like this to be one of the things in life I saw through to successful completion but my perseverance is fading.

Help? Fellow writers? Nathan? Random literary muse?

Anyone? (echo)

~heather



STOP THIS MINUTE!

(1) Do a Save As and name it Book One.
(2) Let it sit for a while.
(3) THEN -- important step -- make a bare bones outline of the plot and themes. What the heck is the story about? What's going on?
(4) THEN - another important step -- make a nice pot of coffee and have some cookies (or some other yummy gooey mmmmm-type stuff), and sit down for a one on one with your baby beast.
(5) When you can see the plot and where you are going and want to go, make another Save As and name it Book Two.

I hate to tell you this, but I am making final revisions on Book Nine -- and I finally love my novel.
Last edited by Holly on 30 Jul 2010, 09:22, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Oh delete, you're so tempting

Postby Emily J » 30 Jul 2010, 06:16

NO! Back away from the delete button, slowly, no sudden moves!

I am going to join all the other comments and say please don't delete.

If on a second look, your novel is better than you believed it to be, you will be happy you saved it. If, however, when you look back you wince and see nothing redeeming in your novel, still don't delete it! I have looked through older writings of mine and the horror... the horror. BUT, as terrible as they were, I was able to see quickly what I was doing wrong. In fact, I was able to spot a weakness in my earlier writing that I was, to a lesser extent, still guilty of in my current WiP. By looking through my older, rougher drafts I was able to analyze my mistakes and improve my writing. But that aside, I doubt there isn't one passage, one description, one page of those 75,000 words that isn't worth saving. So really, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by saving it. And if you want to start from scratch, go ahead, but there is no need to throw away all your hardwork.
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Re: Oh delete, you're so tempting

Postby dios4vida » 30 Jul 2010, 08:58

I concur with everything advised so far - especially the Save As and the cookies.

We all think at one point or another that our writing is unoriginal, uninspiring, or just plain...you get the point. It's really, really common. The important thing is to learn from our past experiences and grow as a writer - even if that means writing an entire novel that is absolutely unpublishable in its current form. Notice that: in its current form. Just because something you've written isn't very good as it is, you can always revise, rewrite, and make it better. That's what we do. So the fact that you've written this much is great, and that you're really analyzing your writing says that you care about your craft. These are good things. Deleting "unworthy" work is a bad thing, because there is no such thing as "unworthy" work.

Keep at it, maybe take a break, but know that as long as you're writing, you're growing! And the more you grow, the better writer you'll become.

And when we all take that advice and finally see our novels on the shelf of Barnes & Noble <moment of sighs and daydreams> it'll all be worth it. Heck, I'm unpublished but I still think it's worth it. :)
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Re: Oh delete, you're so tempting

Postby heather_hangs_it » 31 Jul 2010, 01:20

Thank you so much everyone! While trying to bide my time and avoid the delete key I've been working on clarifying/solidifying my backstory and I think I'm getting close to a firmer foundation to build on. I have read all of your great and encouraging advice and promise to take it to heart. I appreciate the thoughtfulness and anecdotes of your own struggles, too. I did - and still do - think I have some good stuff in my 75k, but when a few things seemed to be amiss it snowballed and got the better of me. I especially like the idea of the save as New Book. I'm going to pretend that I didn't read the 'Book 9' thing, though. Oh, and love the cookies advice. Can you believe I haven't tried that yet?

I think I need to go back and read some of the comments to thank a few more people, but until then, thanks so much! Hopefully soon (or in the next year, that's soon, right?) I'll have something along the lines of a finished piece. Here's hoping!

~heather
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Re: Oh delete, you're so tempting

Postby xoCamillia » 31 Jul 2010, 07:53

Don't delete. Whatever you do, do NOT delete. I had this problem once when I had major writer's block. I had found everything I had written to be horrible and just deleted them. Now, however, I wish I hadn't because I find myself wanting to see what I had written and if anything is usable. Bottom line is, I think everything you've written has learning potential and until you've milked your manuscript dry do NOT scrap it as useless.
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Re: Oh delete, you're so tempting

Postby wilderness » 02 Aug 2010, 11:27

heather_hangs_it - I know your pain. I'm nearing the end of my first draft and it is JUST AWFUL. I know that my second draft will be a rewrite not really just a revision. As much work as that is, at least we've sketched out our main plot points, made some of our ideas concrete. In the next draft, we've got something to start with!

Good luck!
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Re: Oh delete, you're so tempting

Postby wilderness » 02 Aug 2010, 11:35

By the way, I plan to take a month off of writing after the 1st draft, and use this time to get re-inspired. I plan to read some fiction books with great prose and some non-fiction to shore up on some of the details in my book. If you are planning a major rewrite, you might want to do the same and hopefully gain a fresh perspective when you get back to it.

And it was great reading everyone's extremely sage advice. The Book 9 thing actually made me feel better, that it's okay to take my time with this. :)
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Re: Oh delete, you're so tempting

Postby heather_hangs_it » 03 Aug 2010, 01:28

I appreciate all of you greatly! It's nice to hear that I'm not alone and where everyone else has been. And I love all the great ideas for how to handle the issues in my writing. Amazing constructive inspirational advice. Thanks so much! I'm going to work on my scaffolding and see where that leaves me and my story. Hopefully I'll get to keep more than I pitch. And cookies. Must. Make. Cookies.

Soon. ;)

~heather
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