Thursday, September 29, 2011

In Need of Help... maybe the kind with a couch

Unfortunately, I don’t think the help I need can come from the outside. I’m in need of help with the craft. I’m in that really really insecure part of a revision. I’m struggling to put together a compelling opener for my soon-to-be query bait. It’s having a hard time catching the eyes of anyone who reads it, so that’s gotta change. It’s top heavy, and bloated in places, thread bear and breathless in others.

I had this great opener for it, but I’ve changed around some chapters and now my awesome characterization seems out of place. So that has to go. But then how to start? ERRRG. And to think this is merely reason number 857 that writers are bat$**7 crazy. So here I am, leading with more action, and struggling to build in enough characterization and information for the reader not to be completely lost.

And it’s hard. Of course, pretty much all of writing is hard, so I guess my struggling is a good sign. Right? I mean if it were easy then I’d know I was taking a short cut and not really putting in the work, right?

I totally sound like that crazy kid in high school right now.

Still, I know I’m not the only writer who pulls her hair out when they find the broken places in their novel and has to fix them. Right now I’m fixating on other peoples openings like at MSFV and Mother. Write. (Repeat.), but how does everyone else handle the My-manuscript-is-broken-OMG-how-do-I-fix-it moments?


  1. I start with making a laundry list of things I'm not happy with. And I tackle the little things first. Then I do a bunch of edits that only focus on one thing--plot, pacing, characterization, romance, subplot, etc. Then I throw it all together and make another list. This list is not always shorter than the first list, but the things on it aren't as major, either. Instead of REWRITE FIRST CHAPTER, it might say REWORK OPENING SCENE or MOVE X SO THAT IT FALLS BEFORE Y. And then I do another edit, make another list....

  2. Chocolate and the occasional glass of wine (now I can see why some writers become alcoholics).

    Time helps me. When I hit that 'pull-my-hair-out' point I take a week or even a month (or even months as I've been doing lately) away from the project and try something new. When I come back, the problems and solutions are much more clear.

  3. Liz covered some of what I do. I make lists. I have a system, largely derived from taking an amazing class on revision by Holly Lisle (if that sounds like an good idea, email me and I can tell you more about it) when I reached a similar point you have, and knew there was something wrong with the book but had NO IDEA how to fix it.

    I think it depends on what sort of person you are, as to what you should do at this moment. Are you a control freak who feels overwhelmed at the large task in front of you like I often do (and I suspect Liz does)?

    Then lists are your friend. Or notecards. Or something to break it down into smaller pieces.

    Are you more emotional and it's purely a self esteem thing? Then find your favorite parts in that MS and read them. Find other favorite parts in other books you've written. Do whatever you can to stroke your ego (that sounds dirty). Interview yourself, talking about how awesome the book is. I sometimes do that, and I find myself talking about the revision in past tense, like a war wound. "Yeah, that was a hard revision. Sometimes it felt like crawling over broken class, but I managed to get through it with the help of my friends and lots of chocolate. And now it's a bestseller!" (And then I imagine myself flying away on my private jet to the Bahamas). For some reason, talking about it like it's something I know I will get over puts me in that same mindset.

    It's sort of like bullsh**ing your way through a conversation. Eventually, you start to believe your own arrogance, and feel confident about the subject at hand.

    You could take some time off if you think you can, but that almost never works for me. The more time away the more interested I get in other projects. I have to stay really focused or I loose interest. But lots of people leave stuff and come back to them in a week without a problem, so purely up to your methods.



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