Editing + Delete = Nightmare

14 May

This is where I am today – I have almost thrown my laptop out the window twice, had a freak-out over at least 6 chapters, felt like packing up and going home and am close to losing faith in what I have written. I have deleted and re-written so much that I am frightened I am losing the essence of what I  wrote originally. I am trying to work scene by scene through the chapters, but maybe I have deleted too much, maybe I have misinterpreted what is my good writing and what is my bad writing…my gut instinct seems to have abandoned me. My structure is now all over the place, I think I have diluted some of my themes…..aghhhhhhh

Crisis of Confidence is officially in full swing 😦

I think I should leave things for today…..


23 Responses to “Editing + Delete = Nightmare”

  1. Jilanne Hoffmann May 14, 2012 at 4:41 pm #

    Don’t hit the panic (or delete) button yet! I’ve found that you really need to put space between your first draft and rewrites. Space means not a day but often a good month. Start a different writing project. Divert your interest elsewhere. Read writers you would like to emulate. Read books about editing and revision. Then go back and look at your manuscript with fresh eyes. You’ll be glad you took the time off, and you will be able to go more deeply into your manuscript. And remember to keep all your deletions in a separate file should you ever want to recover them wholesale. Stay the course!

    • What's it All About and Other Stories May 15, 2012 at 10:26 am #

      Thanks Jilanne – I left about 6 weeks between finishing the first draft and beginning editing. The scary thing was was that so much of what I wrote initially seemed like fluff, especially the ‘background’ piece of the structure where I tried to build the main character. I think I need to take an entirely different look at the structure, which means a lot of rewriting and re-structuring – hence the major panic!!

      Thanks for the advise – I think I will go buy a book on editing and revision – any suggestions??

      • Jilanne Hoffmann May 15, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

        Yes, I can recommend two: Writing Fiction: A guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway, and Narrative Design: A Writer’s Guide to Structure by Madison Smartt Bell. I used Burroway’s book throughout my MFA program (and now use it whenever I feel stuck). Her book discusses craft issues and analyzes pieces of many famous stories. Bell’s book walks you through linear and modular designs, analyzing the plot, character, tone, point of view, dialogue, imagery and description and design of a variety of fictional works. They both cover similar territory in two different ways. Burroway focuses on an element of craft and discusses it thoroughly, using multiple stories as examples within each element. Bell comes at it from the other side, focusing on every craft element of a single story, doing this 6 times each for both linear and modular designs. I think you would find both of these books helpful.

      • What's it All About and Other Stories May 16, 2012 at 6:25 pm #

        Thanks so much for the recommendations! I went into the city today to my two book stores, and neither had either of your suggestions – soooo, I’m gonna order them of Amazon. They sound like exactly what I need as I feel so lost, despite all the work I did throughout on structure and plot, I don’t think I got it right!

        Hopefully these will give me the direction and confidence I need to keep going and perhaps they will encourage me to look at the various elements of storytelling differently.

        Many thanks again Jilanne for the recommendations, and your encouragement 🙂

      • Jilanne Hoffmann May 16, 2012 at 6:49 pm #

        Let me know how it turns out!

      • What's it All About and Other Stories May 16, 2012 at 7:05 pm #

        I came home with this book by Robert McKee – Story – Substance, structure, style and the principles of screen writing. I am ignoring the fact that it’s about screen-writing and trying to take the principles as related to storytelling. Small town Ireland is not the place to find books on novel writing it seems (yet well equipped for screen-writing apparently!!!)

      • Jilanne Hoffmann May 16, 2012 at 7:13 pm #

        Ha! Too funny. No matter, it should still be instructive for your purposes. And who knows, you may end up with a screenplay, too. :o)

  2. Aphotic Ink May 14, 2012 at 11:08 pm #

    Alright, it feels odd to *like* that post, but it seemed the best shorthand to say I thought it was well-written and needed to be said?

    Maybe back up everything you have, store it somewhere (or some two wheres, or some three), take a breather, and then look again at the editing? If nothing else, you will always have what you have now.

    • What's it All About and Other Stories May 15, 2012 at 10:32 am #

      Maybe yesterday was a day I needed to go through – the sheer panic and thinking most of what I wrote should be flung in the garbage?? I do feel the last 50k words of my book are ok, it’s the first 10 chapters that caused the panic attack – the background to characters. It all seemed so, well, useless.

      I have been keeping copies and versions of everything I wrote, so that I don’t lose anything, in case I have a change of heart in 5 years and think the stuff would be useful!!

      I don’t want to fluff out the 50k words I think are good, as I think at least 20k could go — so I am essentially left with a first novel that is way too short 😦

      (note to self – try not to panic today)

      • Aphotic Ink May 17, 2012 at 1:04 am #

        It might be an unusually short first novel, but still a workable long story or novella. And 50K words is actually short for many novels anyway, so I’m not sure you’re any worse off, if that makes sense?

        I hope you’re feeling better.

  3. mskatykins May 15, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

    Space is definitely a good thing when it comes to editing. You’ve gotta reflect on your work, but you need the time to distance yourself from it. I wrote my first (as of yet unpublished) novel in March 2008- March 2009 and I’m still contemplating doing a 4th edit. I have my original. I have a resaved document which started as my original but became my second draft. I’d be loath to delete anything too quickly. You might change your mind at a later date. At least with different copies of it, you keep your options open and allow yourself the opportunity for new perspective.

    I know how frustrating editing is. Can be a total nightmare! I’m sure you are doing a really great job! 🙂

    • What's it All About and Other Stories May 16, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

      Ah thanks Katy – I am working well with my different versions – I can’t bare to delete anything I wrote, so I have all my original chapters safely tucked away. If you are interested, would you like to read my Prologue – you can tell me if it is complete PANTS or not!!! I’ll swop you for something you wrote!

      • mskatykins May 24, 2012 at 10:13 pm #

        I am so sorry for not replying sooner! I didn’t hit the ‘notify me of a reply’ button and am only just accessing the comment through the new update feed. I would love to swap you some writing! How exciting, thank you so much for the offer! My e-mail address is k.alexander.kirk@gmail.com
        Yay! 🙂

  4. mskatykins May 15, 2012 at 4:31 pm #

    Not to add to the stress levels, but I’ve nominated you for a blog award, hope you’ll take part. 🙂

  5. John S May 15, 2012 at 11:58 pm #

    Quite often the first draft is the best, so always save it!

    • What's it All About and Other Stories May 16, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

      Thanks John, yeah, I am almost thinking that the stuff I delete (as in delete from version 2 of my MS) may be what proves most insightful down the line! Either that or it will serve as a reminder of how dreadful I wrote at the start!!

  6. Joe Pineda May 16, 2012 at 12:53 am #

    The best advice I can give you here is to find somebody to help you with your writing. If you can’t trust your judgment, it’s easier to rely on someone to help you polish the best points of your work and improve the weaker ones.

    • What's it All About and Other Stories May 16, 2012 at 6:51 pm #

      Indeed Joe – I am saving my pennies in the hope of having my MS professionally reviewed in August, once it is as best as I can get it. Right now, I know there are areas I can vastly improve. My biggest issue is structure. At a top level the story is a study of how the subconscious and conscious psyche deal with issues on a personal level in adult life while still processing unresolved issues from early life that directly impact the specific issues in adult life. Telling the story chronologically, I think, would be ineffective and asking too much of the reader, so I need to find a structure that is both emotionally effective for the reader, compelling in story development, character revealing and has all the basics of a good novel!!

      I think I have a mammoth task ahead 🙂

  7. Joan Y. Edwards May 22, 2012 at 2:58 pm #

    Dear What It’s All about,
    Keep in your head this promise: You are on the right path to publication! Believe in your story with unwavering faith. Then you will know that your instincts haven’t gone out the window. You’re just hiding your instinct with too many strong emotions. Let go of the emotions. Relax. Be calm knowing you’re going to get there with this story. Get the books or information you need. Educate yourself. Inspire yourself and go forward.
    Putting a positive spin on where you’re at like you’re doing is a great step towards your success. Never Give Up
    Joan Y. Edwards

    • What's it All About and Other Stories May 23, 2012 at 11:09 am #

      Dear Joan, thanks you so much for your lovely supportive comment. And you are absolutely right – I have been allowing too many strong emotions hamper my instincts – my instinct being that I needed to let the story develop itself within me while I fueled it with with practical research in both the art of story-telling and sound knowledge of how the human mind works. I can already feel my story breathing with this knew approach — my notebook is full of new ideas, story paths, structure analytics and above all, a new sense of vigor!

      The entire project may take much long than I hoped, but I am now ok with that.

      Thanks for reading Joan 🙂

      • Joan Y. Edwards May 23, 2012 at 3:15 pm #

        You’re welcome. Keep putting a positive spin on your writing. It’s going great!
        Never Give Up
        Joan Y. Edwards

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