Posts Tagged ‘re-writing’

And it is gone

March 12, 2010

Short note, today has been a bit of a devastating nut crusher. Went to open up my file for the re-writes of my novel, called often here as The Novel, and found that upon closing my last session down my word processor decided to save it as a blank file. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Zero. Gone.

I’m fortunate in that I still have a roughly weekold copy of my re-writes. Loading the car and trekking home every other weekend, I’ve gotten into the habit of taking an updated copy of my re-writes with me so that I can keep working on them. So at least I didn’t lose the entire thing. But this past week has been an agonizingly slow week of tedious revision of a chapter I like but have found to be horribly sloppy with numerous and apparent shortcomings. But I’ve been trudging through it and could begin to see the light at the end of the chapter, as it were, and was looking forward to taking another big chunk out of it today with hopes of closing it up over the weekend but now, well, fuck.

that about sums it up. Well, fuck. Time to start over again. I’ll try to wear a cup this time.

Disorder in the House and Finding Motivation

November 5, 2009

Hitting one of my many lulls in re-writing The Novel, I find that one of the hardest things to come by is just time where I am left alone. The apartment I share with my girlfriend and kid is relatively spacious but it doesn’t exactly have different wings we can venture off to when we wish to be alone and undisturbed.  What makes the whole writing vs interaction thing more difficult isn’t when we just have conflicting projects to work on where we each need the computer but only have space for one of us. We’re moderately well behaved and well adjusted adults, after all,we can sort this out. Meaning she smacks me with her Webster’s II and I agree to wait until she’s done.

The most problematic times are the times when one of us is trying to work while the other wants “quality time.” Alright, yes, it is stereotypical here for it to be her wanting to snuggle and chat and blah blah blah, and I’m sure I occasionally fall into the nagging “spend time with me” mode, too. But, today, it’s her in that mode and all I want to do is what I am doing now. Sitting at my computer (after she sat at hers all morning and I sat in the bedroom reading or went to the living room and jiggled around with wii fit thirty minutes), doing a blog or two, maybe some email and, hopefully, some work on The Novel.

Of course, this situation didn’t come about through some frictionless negotiation. So she’s in a surly mood now, I’m going to pay for it later and, well, yeah. Fun. But this is something everyone deals with, right? But I think it’s something that is particularly difficult for people trying to do something artistic (though i still hate referring to my attempts to write as “artistic” as I don’t see myself as any sort of artist). Sometimes we just need left alone and, as anyone who writes a lot knows, we who write tend to spend more time than normal alone and entirely by choice.

Where is all of this going?

Well, it goes towards another problem I’ve had the past couple of days and that’s finding motivation to open up the word doc and start working.  I recently got done with grinding through two particularly rough chapters in the re-write and I’ve been hesitant to delve into the next chapter.  Maybe I just need a mental break from it for a couple of days, or whatever, I’m not sure, but I also feel horrible at not making more progress yesterday. So last night I was talking to my girlfriend about this and she suggested setting carrots out in front of me. For every so many chapters I get re-written we would go out to eat or get a book or something.

with how much writing is focused on being a delay of gratification (after all, unless we have a book deal none of us knows if our stuff will ever be published, regardless of how much time and effort we put into it), she thought that maybe this would be a good way of providing a little extra motivation to get through the particularly rough patches. And it seems like a good idea. But when we started talking about it, I realized that there also just isn’t a whole lot I want and, generally, what I want bad enough to really want, I’ll just go out and get.

but this has made me wonder: do external motivations work for writers in general? Or is it mainly an interior drive to get the thing finished that pushes us through to the end of projects?

Is This All There Is?

October 30, 2009

This has been a week of poor motivation.

At times it’s just hard to see how the writing will go anywhere, how all of the time spent on it will be fruitful.

This has been a week of doubt.

The more I read what I write, the less happy I am with it. The less I think anyone else will like it. The less I think it has any real positive qualities at all.

re-writing the novel, it’s just frustrating and time consuming. The words come easily enough but I can’t help but feel that I’ve said most of them before (I have, I’m re-writing after all) and I don’t know if I’m making it better or worse. And I don’t especially trust anyone to accurately tell me.

But I keep writing anyway. I keep plugging away at it. I keep putting the words on the page and hoping for the best. I keep keeping on. And I figure pretty much every other writer on the face of the planet does the same thing. They just keep going on. That we’re really a depressing, masochistic lot and I can see why people would rather enter university life than just try to write. At least a university provides structure, provides stability. I’m still thinking of trying to get back into the whole “college” thing. Would rather be published, though. Hah.

The Work Backs Up

October 12, 2009

at the very least I have been sitting down and working on The Re-Write every day. Some days it goes well, others it doesn’t. The more I work at the re-write the more I find myself taking the write part literally. Instead of just tweaking, the thing is being written all over again in total.  I don’t know if this is a good thing or not, it is definitely shifting a bit in pace and tone, but I think it is a good thing. It seems more complete than before, as if I’m finally not leaving as much behind in the mentral debris of my head as I try to mine the vein and send the ore to the surface.

What I’ve noticed, though, is that I have a growing amount of work on backorder. Another novel that I had started and was roughly half-finished yet hasn’t been touched in quite some time. Old ideas that I’ve been kicking around since they were new ideas have been rattling their canes and wondering why I haven’t visited them lately.

This bugs me.  But I also know that a problem I’ve had in the past is that Ihave taken too many projects on at once. So resisting the urge to open up a new word file and start hacking away at another idea while trying to re-write another idea and trying to finish writing the first draft of yet a third idea is probably a good idea. 

But it still bugs me. I hate the idea of work backing up or, more accurately, of ideas backing up. Because they’re still in my head, they keep popping up and saying hey. They’re not like a book I can put on the shelf and just come back to later. That will hopefully come later. Right now they are more like someone who calls every once in awhile, says hey, and wants to chat for a bit.

And knowit’s the knowledge that these ideas are sitting there, waiting, that I have more stuff to work on, that bugs me. I want to be working on them and seeing where they go. I want to know where the story goes. What world is in my head. I want to do the work. I want to get the ideas out of my head.

But I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I have other work to do right now, that I need to finish the other re-write before starting other work, and so, for now, the work will just have to back up for awhile.

Chapter Seven

October 7, 2009

I’ve never re-written a novel before. I’ve writtten a couple of novel length pieces that have just sort of vanished over the years and that I’ve lost interest in but I’ve never really seen a project through to it’s true end. So the work I’ve been doing lately is rather new to me.

And dreaded.

The entire concept of editing and re-writing has been largely foreign to me for most of my life.  Reports and essays for school were always just scratched out and handed in with no real revisions and no appreciable proof reading (the fact that I did well in school is something that still amazes family and friends). The same with fiction, poetry and anything else I wrote for fun or entertainment or assignment. I would have an idea, I would put the idea onto paper, it would be done and I would move to the next idea.

This has produced a lot of surprisingly solid work, some of which I even still enjoy reading.

But it has also produced a lot of stuff that I have felt was half-formed.  the problem has always been that I haven’t had the ambition, or plain blue collar fortitude, to sit down and truly re-write any of it.

There was also a bit of artistic arrogance to it that, before, might have been thought of as artistic principle. It was that the first take is usually the most honest and true to a vision and that altering whatever is written is destined to move the piece ever further from its most natural beginnings. And this might be true. After all, there is nothing to definitively say that it isn’t, but it is also something that likely requires an incredible amount of natural ability, of intense training in this form or, most likely, a combination of good helpings of both. I don’t believe I have either of these things, at least to the degree that would be required to pull off such a style.

So I stepped timidly into the world of re-writing with my short fiction, poetry and prose. and I couldn’t help but admit that it made my work better.

I also couldn’t help but admit that I found it all sorts of difficult, time consuming, and physically and mentally taxing. It wore me out. it still does. And it’s gotten twice as difficult with the novel.

Knowing how much time and effort went into the initial conception of the idea, there is a part of me that hates to admit how much work some sections need. And a larger part of me that simply does not desire to sit down and do this work.

luckily, the novel started off easily. The opening chapters required little work and I was able to breeze through and feel pretty good about it. I should get through this in no time, I thought, and then began setting all sorts of entirely unrealistic time lines for myself.

then I hit chapter six and things stumbled a bit. I wanted to change one  aspect of the chapter and this change forced me to re-work roughly the first half of the chapter. It was rough but I got through it and I felt the stronger for it.

And then came chapter seven. Chapter seven is a place where I introduce a new character/story line and it was something that I felt I had botched almost entirely with the first draft. But it was still something that needed to be salvaged in some way for the rest of the novel to work.

Figuring out how to salvage the basic character/store line was the easy part. Coming to chapter seven and actually seeing all of the work laid out before me was the beginning of the difficult part.  the entire chapter needed re-written from the ground up. Even the names were changed to entirely put the past mistakes behind me. Not only was I altering something that I had spent much of the past few years on but i was entirely changing it. I don’t want to say I felt awful doing it, that wouldn’t be true and it would be an overstatement. Closer to what i was feeling was probably a certain deflation. After all, spending so much time on something only to re-read it later and realize I had botched the entire thing  is a pretty big kick in the knee.

With a 1500 word sprint today, though, I got it done. Chapter seven is behind me and I’m now feeling pretty good about it. Not just the chapter itself, which I think is vastly improved over what it had been before, but about finishing the chapter at all.  I know I will have future chapters that will require similar work but, having gotten through this one, the chapters to come seem less daunting. Now it is a case of having been there and done that and knowing I will get it done again.

All writers likely go through something similar, most probably at a much earlier stage than I, but it still feels good. It feels as if I have cleared a hurdle placed before me and the track is now opening up a bit allowing me to just run instead of maneuvering over, around and through obstacles. Now for Chapter Eight.

You want to go forever…

September 25, 2009

Today has been spent delving into the re-write of the novel. The beginning euphoria of it, something that was roughly equivilant to the feeling of beginning a new novel from scratch -the limitless possibilities, the newness of the story, the curiosity over where you would be going and how you would get there, etc.- has quickly worn off and I just need a break.

The coffee maker has been getting pretty solid use. I’m feeling a little wired and queer. I’m not really thinking of anything but it feels like I am on the cusp of remembering something or thinking of something important. It’s odd.  My fingers feel disconnected.

I was somewhat unprepared for the reality of re-writes. I’ve re-read the thing once, made notes, etc. and now I’m effectively re-reading it again and then deleting/typing/arranging. It’s a continual re-working to get something closer to what I want to say.  It’s looking at something and know it’s not working and trying to figure out why. It’s reverse engineering someone else’s product to figure out how to put it back together with your own spin before realizing you have forgotten you built the thing in the first place.

then there is the re-reading of what has been re-written and realizing that it’s still not right and knowing I’ll have to go back and re-write what’s been re-written and wondering if, even then, it will be closer to what I want or at least closer to being readable.

so now I’m listening to REM and just trying to string myself out for a bit and let everything settle despite having chapter five open across the bar at the bottom ofthe computer screen, waiting to be maximized and finished and knowing that there isn’t even that much left of chapter five to go over and re-work but knowing what is left is what drove me to blog right now in the first place.

Then there was yesterday when I was at the library and noticed a book that looked to be bent along a similar line as mine and wondering if there was any point in going through all of this mess anyway if someone has already done something similar and, quite possibly, better. On the bright side, after checking said novel out of the library and beginning to read it at home last night and this morning found that it’s not overly similar and not even overly enjoyable to read. At least not as enjoyable as I hope my novel is to read, so I feel a bit better again on that angle. One, from knowing the novel isn’t remarkably similar to mine and, two, from being able to convince myself that mine’s better written.

Whether it actually is or not I have no idea but it’s what I’m allowing myself to believe. and now I’m starting to feel up to delving back into chapter five and continuing the march towards completion. there are messier chapters to come, more intensive re-writes to engage and maybe I can get a couple out of the way today.

It got longer

September 23, 2009

alright, I’m still plugging away on the re-write of my novel and I’m noticing something I’m leery of. It’s getting longer. Not only the parts where I’m tweeking but there are entire chapters that I’m adding now.  To be fair, part of it is that I intentionally left stuff out with the first draft thinking it wasn’t needed only to find it severely lacking in these areas through the course of the re-read. that’s where the extra chapters are coming in. but i’m just leery of the other chapters getting longer.

what this really boils down to is a lack of experience. Realistically, stepping back, I see that my first draft is largely an outline in spots. Places where I just kept writing to get down what was in my head but hadn’t fleshed out or communicated properly. So, going back over it, I’m picking those areas out and changing them and putting some meat on the bones.

But this also seems entirely contrary to the idea of “tightening up” a work. Every time I read of someone’s editing efforts, they are only looking for stuff to pare away. As if it is an absolute truth that leaner=better. 

It’s something that I have a passing belief in myself. I don’t like using a lot of -ly words. I try to get to the point of what I’m trying to write and not divert myself into several needless directions or use “flowery” language. An economy of language while not compromising the flow and the story is a goal for me.

So now I’ve added roughly a few thousand words while barely scratching the surface of the re-write. Looking at other novels, though, I’m wondering where the idea of Leaner=Better got its foothold, though. A look at the fantasy shelves in your local borders shows a litany of 500+ page novels, often a number of them stringing together to make up a 5+ book series. Roberto Bolano’s posthumous work 2666 is hailed, in part, for its daring breadth and scope. David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest is hailed, in part, for the undertaking that its girth represents while Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow is regarded as a minor deity with its considerable heft. Don Delillo’s best book is, also, arguably his largest, Underworld.  Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 is a sizable paperweight, also.

Then, of course, there are the heavies of literature’s past. Dicken’s wasn’t exactly short of words. Neither were Tolstoi, Dostoevsky, Austen, or Melville. Books have never seemed to have been hurt by their having too many words.

Is the mantra of editing to a smaller size our tacit acknowledgement that writing has gotten worse and we simply want to read less of it?  I don’t know but I’m going to continue to worry as I re-write and enlarge my novel.

Stand Next to Your Friends!

September 1, 2009

A hodge podge today.


I was looking forward to trying to get into Derrida but I’ve just hit a stonewall lately. This, along with seeing all of the blah crap g/f has had to do recently with her MFA program, has put a sizable dent in my enthusiasm for going back to school.  I’m not big on going for an MFA in creative writing but it’s what I would be most suited for. I would be slightly more interested in pursuing a PhD in culture studies but I think I’m far less suited for that.

As always, I’m hit with a big sense of doubt and lack of surity. It’s probably a character flaw. What I’m best at is just sitting in front of the computer and churning out lines. I excel at going over my own work. In the end, I’ll probably do it  just to do it and to keep moving forward in some way.

– –  –

This morning the kid was a hassle at the bus stop. Again. yesterday he pitched a fit because of a butterfly. One of the neighbors grew some butterflies over the summer after capturing some caterpillers. Last week, one hatched and they released it when all of the kids got off the bus from school last friday. Yesterday morning it was mentioned the other butterfly hatched over the weekend and they released it. And he pitched a fit because he didn’t get to see it.

This morninghe refused to stand with everyone. So the g/f went over and dragged him back to the group. First, because it was annoying that he was shunning everyone. Second, because it’s dangerous with him standing on the other side of a driveway by himself. He threw another fit. Screamed about how mean she was and she practically had to pitch him onto the bus so he didn’t get left behind while throwing this tantrum.

A wonderful way to start the day. And, of course, his teacher just raves about how well behaved he is. I think she’s full of shit.

– – –

I’m making good progress on some fill-in chapters for the novel I’m re-writing. While reading through the first draft, it became clear that there was a bit that wasn’t being mentioned that probably should be mentioned. Not to just flesh out the story but to also flesh out the characters and the world. Besides, if I don’t like it, I can always take them out again later.

But I like the bits I’m working on now and they are helping answer some questions I had in regards to how I was going to re-work some of the pre-existing chapters.

– – –

On the first draft of a novel I’m working on now, I’m pleased to say that it is going noticeably smoother than the first draft for the other novel. So for anyone that’s wondering, yes, I think it does get easier the more you do it.

Cel-a-brate good times come on!

August 16, 2009

i finished reading through the novel I’ve been writing today. It’s been read, crossed out, circled, noted and note carded.  so next comes the “fun” part of re-writing the thing. I think the re-write should go relatively quick once I get everything sorted out from the notes and what not. I’ll, essentially, have a checklist of what needs to be fixed and what works, what could be added adn what should be removed.

but that’s for the (near)future. As for now, there’s been a mini-celebration. got the drinks out, had a steak, and enjoyed this moment of triumph.

Baby Steps. Baby Steps. Baby Steps.

August 1, 2009

Lately I’ve been working on re-reading and editing my novel. This is before I start re-writing it.  the re-write process is something I’ve never been overly familiar with. My main process for writing has always been to sit down, open the wordprocesser adn start writing and whatever comes out, comes out, to hell with whether or not it makes any sort of sense.

As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve been hit by a need to perfect what I’m doing and have recognized the need for re-writnig and the effort that really needs to go into it. What also goes into it, for me, is a lot of note taking. I’ve gotten into the habit of keeping note books for my novels. In them I keep track of things like character names, character traits, plot points, thoughts/ideas on the story, themes/motifs explored in the stories, etc. Tonight, while writing this blog, my printer is busily at work spewing out its own work to be taped into one of these notebooks. It’s just a way I have found to lend organization to my work while keeping a certain chaos to it.

While going back over my novel, I have found myself working over it chapter by chapter. I read a chapter, make notes in the text and along the margins, and then I take a 3×5 notecard, title it with the chapter I’ve read, and jot some more thoughts onto it before paperclipping it to the chapter and then moving on to the next chapter.  I’m not exactly sure how this will work with my re-writing, but I’m expecting it to work well, and I’m expecting it to work in conjunctin with the notebook I’ve got going. Between the two, the multiple paperclipped chapters and the book of rambling thoughts and notes, I’m thinking I should be able to tear the original work down a bit more constructively that I would have otherwise.

Now am I advocating this specific practice for everyone? of course not. It has got to be specific for each individual. But finding an effective method for approaching re-writing your material is a necessity.