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When the Bad Outnumbers the Good

Posted: September 23rd, 2011, 4:05 pm
by dios4vida
:( Oh, this is bad. Really, really bad.

I've been editing my latest WIP for about a month now. I've found issues and fixed them and found more issues and fixed them...but I'm starting to see that a lot of these little issues are really facets of some big issues I have. Like, ginormous fundamental "what-do-you-MEAN-you-don't-have-that" issues. Issues that are making me feel like a n00b, even though this is my third novel.

I know why this happened. I was focused so heavily on creating the magic of this world that I just threw some characters in there to have action in this beautiful world. I never fleshed them out, so they're Jane and Joe Vanilla. And plot...well, I had some, but then I just threw other stuff in. I usually write slowly, methodically, even though I'm a pantser. It takes me eighteen months, usually, to finish a first draft. This time around, I went for a "write hot edit cool", "don't get it perfect, just get it written" method to try to speed up my writing process. It worked, I finished in less than a year. But instead of a decent first draft I got this mess of a WIP that I have no idea how to fix without scrapping it. It's a pantser's nightmare.

The thought of going back to the drawing board, character study sheets, outlines, etc. makes me want to cry. I'm not good at things like that in the first place, but I can't think of any other way to get this muck into some kind of order.

HELP!! How can I salvage this?

Re: When the Bad Outnumbers the Good

Posted: September 23rd, 2011, 4:17 pm
by Beethovenfan
BREEAATHE! In - Out. In- Out. Calm down first. Panic is your worst enemy because you will start hacking and slashing, inserting and stuffing and before you know it, your story is unrecognizable.
I have TOTALLY been where you are right now. As a fellow pantser I completely get where you are coming from. Although you are not going to want to hear this, I think the best thing you can do right at this moment is to step away. Put your novel in a drawer for several months. Have you read Stephen King's On Writing? He does this when he finishes a first draft. He says that he is just too close to the work to be able to look at it objectively. But if you put it away for a while then come back to it, after you and your novel have had time apart, you see see more clearly those things that really need to be changed, and those things that simply need to be tweaked a little.
Perhaps things are not as bad as they seem.

Re: When the Bad Outnumbers the Good

Posted: September 23rd, 2011, 10:13 pm
by polymath
I want to advise not commiserate. I'll do neither. However, a touch of encouragement won't hurt. What I'm seeing is a writer trying methods outside the comfort zone. Though it looks bleak now, it's an ongoing growth process. The horizon widens; the skills strengthen. A little time if not distance will put things in perspective. And lo, intuitions turn into prescience and insight. There is that, dios4vida, that you see what's working and what's not on your own. A noteworthy milestone on a poet's journey. Celebrate!

Re: When the Bad Outnumbers the Good

Posted: September 24th, 2011, 6:55 am
by MattLarkin
Relax, Brenda. If you step back for even a few days, a solution may come to you. It may not be as drastic as you first think. You may find you can salvage a lot of what you've done.

Mostly, it takes only a few carefully inserted details to make minor characters seem deeper. If you have things in there that detract from the plot and add nothing, they can be removed. Just because you wrote them for this novel, doesn't mean they have to stay in this novel.

I know we talked about exchanging work in mid-October (I may be late on that anyway), but if you want me to look at what you have now I can do that, if you think another perspective will help. Or maybe just discussing what these giant issues are will help you work through them. Either way, after taking a week or so away, go back and re-read it and figure out which parts resonate and which parts don't work. I'm not a pantser at all, but I'd say if you mark what you want to keep and what you hate, that's a start.

Re: When the Bad Outnumbers the Good

Posted: September 25th, 2011, 11:27 am
by washingtonwriter1968
Someone, I do not remember who wrote that we are working on paper plates. It helped me maybe the thread will help you. I have had this problem a lot,sad to say. Editing is so hard especially when we fall in love with our first -draft... a good thing in some ways as if we fall, so will they.

However, as artist.... (and face it we are... we just have words as our paint and paper as our canvas.... )we have a tendency to know what it is we want to see and become very frustrated when it isn't quite right.

The temptation at that time is to either " throw a bunch of paint at it or to bust the canvas" I know I have had tons of times when perfectly good MSS ended up in a burn can of crumpled in a trash can (before the computer). A tool I am trying to give myself is a 6 month policy. When I finish any writing; not just the Novel I just finished in first draft. I will walk away from the work, with a scheduler notice and come back in six months and will not touch it to edit. Right now I am reading Mann's " How to write a Breakout Novel" though. I will give myself some time to stew on it and not hack it.

Course I do have my husband who has given up a lot of time for this CWIP and he jealousy guards my work. He says," Don't you dare throw it out!" I think he feels that if he had to lose time with me it better be worth it lol! :lol: :lol:

I agree with others. We need to relax breathe and take a step back!

Re: When the Bad Outnumbers the Good

Posted: September 25th, 2011, 12:57 pm
by cheekychook
You've already gotten such good Bransforum advice/encouragement that I don't even need to say anything---but that rarely stops me. :)

Absoluterly, first and foremost, BREATHE. Really. All is not lost. You've written a draft! That's great! You've tried something new. Also great! So it needs some help? What draft doesn't need help?

I would find a good fresh pair of eyes or two (willing beta readers are invaluable) and while you let them read, DON'T TOUCH IT. Don't look at it. Don't think about it. Work on something else. Do some reading. Anything that DOES NOT involve this book. Wait and see what your feedback is, then decide how you want to proceed. By then, you'll have had a little break from the project and will be in a better frame of mind to judge which suggestions/criticism speak to you in terms of what you see for the story.

Most of all, don't freak out (though we all do at some point---some of us many, many, manymanymany times ---won't mention any names on the grounds I might incriminate myself).

Good luck.

Re: When the Bad Outnumbers the Good

Posted: September 26th, 2011, 11:50 am
by Sommer Leigh
Don't you just love it when you come here with a problem and everyone takes your hand and says, "It's ok. Relax. You're goine to be fine." I always feel like "yes yes, I am going to be fine. You're right!"

I love the Bransforumers.

I have been a pantser for a long time. Not because I didn't like to outline, just - I didn't know HOW to outline. So since I didn't know how, I didn't put a lot of effort into it. And as such I have to spend two or three times as long to write a full manuscript as anyone else. And that's before editing.

I'm tired of that method. I'm tired of how long it takes and I'm tired of "feeling out" my problems. I had all this great stuff, but none of it went together exactly right. It was always missing something, and because I pantsed the whole thing, I never knew what it was missing.

I recently read the book Story Structure Demystified by Larry Brooks and I took his story structure agrument and applied it to what I am working on now. It's not outlining, which is not something I am ready to do, but it helped me see through my problems to the exact pieces I was missing. It was genius, really. I'm so thankful I found it.

And maybe it's not for you, but I've become a believer that even pantsers like me need some planner methodology to make things work without taking two or three times as long to figure it all out. Since you went outside your comfort zone to write this in the first place, maybe you need to try something outside your comfort zone to make sense of it too.

Anyway, that book fixed me right up. It can't hurt to try right?

Re: When the Bad Outnumbers the Good

Posted: September 26th, 2011, 11:54 am
by dios4vida
Thanks, everyone. You guys are wonderful.

I'm not prone to major panic over my writing like this so I feel a bit awkward now. I took the weekend off, not even turning on my computer or stepping into my office. I tag-team read The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell (wow amazing) and Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews (seriously one of the best urban fantasies I've ever read). I crocheted half of an afghan and watched the University of Arizona lose to Oregon :( . I tried very hard not to think about my WIP, and now my mind's a lot clearer. Yep, it still has a ton of problems. I need some better motivation/history for my protag, I need to tie in one aspect of the plot better, and I have a myriad other smaller things to take care of. Huge work - but possible. It won't be fun (hardcore pantser here, I don't like the planning stuff) but I've got good raw material to work with and my Plotmaster (husband) has agreed to help. Things are starting to percolate and I have the core of an idea that might bloom into a great history for my protag. :D

And Sommer, that book is actually on my Amazon wishlist!! Guess I'll be bumping that one up to the top of the "Ineedthis" list.

I think while this is brewing in the back of my mind I'll look into some of my other Shiny New Ideas. I feel guilty about leaving this one alone and planning another WIP, but that would be a good idea, right? I'm not used to working on multiple projects so I kinda feel like I'm abandoning this one.

Thanks again! You all deserve some major kudos and virtual cookies. Heck, if you were here, I'd make y'all some real cookies. :) I love you, Bransforumers!!

Re: When the Bad Outnumbers the Good

Posted: September 28th, 2011, 3:26 pm
by oldhousejunkie
I feel 'ya, Brenda.

I just picked up a new beta and she's tearing apart my manuscript that I had been previously querying. A lot of little newb-ish things that I thought I had resolved. But apparently not.

This is my third novel too, so I'm feeling like a dork. All I can say is keep writing...keep editing. The thought of going back to the drawing board scares the crap out of me too, but I'm resisting the urge by continuing to get good criticism (all the name of improving) and soldiering on.