My writing has problems. BUT WHICH ONES?

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Matt_X
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My writing has problems. BUT WHICH ONES?

Post by Matt_X » December 1st, 2010, 12:22 pm

Nathan posted a question about this a while back but I think it wasn't really sufficiently discussed by respondents and I'd like to resurrect it, as I think about it all the time.

Whenever I've finished a work, I'm tingling with excitement, and as I read through for final edits it I can't help but focus on its strengths and delude myself that its merits far outweigh any possible flaws. But there are always problems with my work, of course, or I'd have a stack of prizes on my desk already. The problem is that I cannot recognize my own flaws--or I'd have taken care of them already.

Beta readers are invaluable, but hard to find and they never have the time and energy that you can give to your own project. So how do you get out of your own head, smash the rose-colored reading glasses and look at your work as objectively as possible?

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Robin
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Re: My writing has problems. BUT WHICH ONES?

Post by Robin » December 1st, 2010, 12:30 pm

Wish I had your problem... I'm on the other side of the spectrum-- too hard on myself. My betas and crit partners really offer valuable advice. You should look around for people who'll be brutally honest with you.
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Fenris
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Re: My writing has problems. BUT WHICH ONES?

Post by Fenris » December 1st, 2010, 12:31 pm

Well, the time-honored method is to just take some time away from it, say a week or two at least, and then come back and look at it again with a fresh perspective.

Now, what I do--you can decide whether to do so or not--if I don't want to wait is I start rewriting it, whether it's scenes, or chapters, or just dialogue (or maybe starting all over and rewriting the whole thing!). I call these experimental rewrites; I'm just looking to see what might have been done differently, and when I compare it to the original version I can decide what I think works best. You'd be amazed at what can happen, but make sure you don't get too far off track!

As for editing, it's just one long haul, sorry. One idea is to edit backward: start at the end and go backward one paragraph at a time. It helps keep one from getting too immersed in the story to notice things (at least, it helped me).

Hope this helped.
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Margo
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Re: My writing has problems. BUT WHICH ONES?

Post by Margo » December 1st, 2010, 12:35 pm

Hmph. I'm having the problem again wherein my post goes poof if I don't hit 'preview' before 'submit'.

Ah well, I'll try it a second time.

Suggestions. Get professional feedback. Conferences, workshops, and webinars with industry pros frequently feature a critique of anything from several pages to several chapters. Most pros can spot the main issues in the first 3-5 pages.

Study every good writing book you can get your hands on. Donald Maass. James Scott Bell.

Start critiquing the work of others in your genre. The process of analyzing their work will help you start spotting the trouble with your own. If you are uncomfortable with critting, just don't submit them. Keep them to yourself.
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polymath
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Re: My writing has problems. BUT WHICH ONES?

Post by polymath » December 1st, 2010, 12:52 pm

Most of the shortcomings of projects in progress I evaluate are related to narrative point of view, specifically narrative distance and narrative voice. Plot shortcomings come in a close second.
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Down the well
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Re: My writing has problems. BUT WHICH ONES?

Post by Down the well » December 1st, 2010, 1:41 pm

Matt_X wrote:Beta readers are invaluable, but hard to find and they never have the time and energy that you can give to your own project. So how do you get out of your own head, smash the rose-colored reading glasses and look at your work as objectively as possible?
I agree you won't find another person who is willing to put in as much time as you are into your WIP -- unless they are getting paid. If you aren't getting enough mileage out of your betas then, really, the only thing to do is separate emotionally from the work by taking a few weeks to a month off without looking at it. All those mistakes that your brain absorbs right now as forgivable sins will stand out and demand to be fixed when you go back to the work with fresh eyes.

Moni12
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Re: My writing has problems. BUT WHICH ONES?

Post by Moni12 » December 1st, 2010, 1:59 pm

This is a problem I used to have, but since I've been studying Literature in college I've realized how easy it comes to me to go from reading critically to reading for pleasure. When I go through something I've just finished I try to step back and think if I was just a reader what would I say to this? I also try to forget about everything I know about the story that isn't written. It's hard, I think it helps to finish it then take some days, even weeks, away from it to work on something else, read, take a vacation or whatever and then go back to it. This really helped me when I was going into the second half of my WIP. I was havign problems trying to put it in the direction I wanted it to go and after taking a week off I came back and figured out what to do.

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sarahdee
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Re: My writing has problems. BUT WHICH ONES?

Post by sarahdee » December 1st, 2010, 11:40 pm

Try writing the long synopsis while following your ms, that way you can see any 'big picture' flaws.

Also (and this may get you arrested for craziness if you do it in public) read a few pages aloud. I often miss words or make small typo mistakes that I gloss over when I read to myself and don't pick up but when I'm forced to read each word they become glaringly obvious.

Also post a few pages here in the critique forums or ask friends to read just a small bit (people will get back to you if they have one chapter, send 200 pages and they'll run screaming) - most people have several mistakes they make over and over (mine are switching between tenses, its Vs it's, and overuse of parenthesis as demonstrated by this post). Once you get feedback on a few pages you can apply that knowledge to the rest of it as you know what to look for.

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Re: My writing has problems. BUT WHICH ONES?

Post by sierramcconnell » December 2nd, 2010, 6:11 pm

sarahdee wrote:Also (and this may get you arrested for craziness if you do it in public) read a few pages aloud. I often miss words or make small typo mistakes that I gloss over when I read to myself and don't pick up but when I'm forced to read each word they become glaringly obvious.
I totally second this. It helps SO MUCH. And it's fun to do voices, too. :D
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Matt_X
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Re: My writing has problems. BUT WHICH ONES?

Post by Matt_X » December 4th, 2010, 5:22 am

Thank you all for the posts! Very helpful advice from everyone and I really appreciate your taking the time to respond.

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oldhousejunkie
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Re: My writing has problems. BUT WHICH ONES?

Post by oldhousejunkie » December 7th, 2010, 4:01 pm

I think if you establish relationships with some folks on this forum, you will find that they might be willing to help you off the board. I sent my first 50 pages out to someone that I met on here, and they came back and told me that I had "tension" problems. While having an all out beta is super helpful, you are correct in that it's hard to find (and keep) one. But even surrendering a few pages to someone will give you insight into what needs to be fixed.

Good luck!

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