A Mostly Failed Start

Friends–a little ways back I made reference to how impossible it was to jump back into something after you’ve been away from it for so long, and I made a sweepingly clever reference to starting to run, and then eventually training for a marathon. That all seemed well and good when I was just writing about the idea of getting back into something, but in actual practice, I kind of hate it.

Who are these characters I wrote about? Jumping back into this was like having lived in Denmark for eight years, leaving for twenty, and trying to come back and enter a Danish spelling bee… things sounded vaguely familiar and I could remember what the main point of whatever I was trying to do was, but sub-points were lost on me, and small, less influential characters bounced off my brain like small, inexpensive Superballs. So I guess what I’m trying to say is: I can’t write right now. I need to go back and read the entire book– a briefly daunting task, but probably necessary seeing how I did write it– and then make notes of where things need to change. And I need to print the book out, another daunting task in the age of interweb, and something I will inevitably do at my father’s house.

So the best way that I can rationalize things in the age of rationalization is by saying that at least I know where I need to start, and I know what I need to do, and my fresh eyes will probably wreak editing havoc on the weakest links within my book, destroying them, and making them flee their homes where they have complacently sat in rent-controlled comfort due to my lazy managing of the space.

Please tell me you fared better or at least fared in an exactly parallel manner, giving us something to talk about waiting in line for drinkz during the Comments reception.



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13 thoughts on “A Mostly Failed Start

  1. rayray

    I reread my novel prior to editing. It’s more of a rewrite, and it all seems really foolish and illogical and I don’t know whether I should trim it back to the main idea I had in the first place and there are some teally terrible sentences.

  2. Genevieve

    I admire Erin’s Herculian writing strategy and Olivia’s perverse breakfast. But what I’ve been doing lately is rereading my book while playing the music I had on while I was writing it. I usually write with music on, and hearing it again helps me get back into the feel of book. I remember you saying a while ago that you listen to music when you write so it’s food for thought.

  3. Tom

    Wow, Kev brings up rewriting/rereading and we grind to a halt? I’m suddenly left wondering how many of us are actually finishing what we start if we’re not all jumping on this with woe-ish tales of rewrites.

    Speaking of, there’s that giant rat story that still deserves attention. Ugh.

  4. Olivia

    Okay, here goes.

    Start your day with a good cup of coffee. Add whiskey. Sit down to your story and stare at it blankly for at least an hour. (You can go longer than that, but don’t even try to blink for the first hour.)

    Now go to your fridge and dig out some week-old pizza. Nuke it. Burn your mouth trying to eat it too soon, that gets the creativiy flowing. Once that’s done, get a beer. Anything Canadian usually works.

    Sit down to your story again, this time looking at the words you managed to write between the lines. Oh, there it is. The real story. Continue reading the imaginary words through buzzed vision for another hour or so, but don’t touch that keyboard yet.

    Now it’s time for a jog. If you don’t have anywhere you can do this, it’s all good. Run around in circles in your living room until you feel like you want to puke. Don’t actually puke, though, those are your story ideas in that puke.

    Sit down and stare at the screen again and focus on one word through the dizziness. That’s the word you’re going to change. You can make it plural or singular or turn it into a synonym or change it to something completely different that makes no sense at all. Confusing your readers is the best way to keep them turning pages.

    Pat yourself on the back and take a few victory laps, even allow yourself to puke this time. You earned it. An entire day of editing is now complete.

    Go to bed, wake up, repeat. In about fifty years you’ll have a novel worth reading….or burning to keep you warm cuz you’re gas was shut off, again.

    Works like a charm. You can thank me later.


  5. Anthony

    Danish spelling bee – ooh, I like that.

    Think of the poor editor who got your perfect manuscript and what he actually got is what you have in front of you.

    The reason you can do it is because you’re too green to know you can’t. LOL

  6. Wendy

    As much as it is something you do not want to do, you might come to enjoy it in the end. I have started many a novel (only one is near the end of the first draft) and have discovered that time away in the middle of writing it can be quite productive. The one I am working on now is that way. After a year away I took the three chapters I had, threw out the first and third, changed the title, a few minor characters, many points behind my main charcters and guess what – it is now ten times better. (Well the plot is anyway.)
    The tough part is knowing that I still have so far to go on it. I guess that for each writer it is different. Some need to write strait through then go back and edit, others need to edit as they go. Once you know which one you are you’ll find yourself more productive. It will not seam such a daunting task.
    On another note, I love to read so going back in a story I’ve been working on is fun for me. I love the rewrite. For me getting through the first draft is the hard part.

  7. Elaine

    Read. Edit. Repeat.

    This is the only way to get a clean manuscript.

    The upside is that you’ll have fresh eyes. The downside is that you won’t remember your rationalizations for any decisions you made previously. Make new ones.

    Once you get started, you’ll get back into it more quickly than you think. Good luck!

  8. Julie

    I’ve heard the formula "second draft = first draft – 10%." I’ve found that to be very true. I’m in a similar state, slowly trudging my way through my novel, deleting adverbs, restructuring, wondering why on earth I spent so much time describing the furniture …

    You’ll get there, man! As long as you have been writing the WD column (which I will mourn), your readers have been rooting for you. Good luck, and keep us posted!

  9. Deborah Leiter

    Yeah, this is why my revising process on my novel has taken so long. I really only have to revise in a major way the last 60 pages, but every time I find new, if smaller, things to work in the first part during the re-reading, and then inevitably only make it through the first half before I kicked back into working on something else (usually grad school-related).

    So the problem is that re-reading and revising, more than writing in the first place, requires a good chunk o’ time and sustained effort to get the thing done. And I speak from experience, since this is the 5th or 6th pass through revising the beast….

    Ah, but yes, the longer the revising takes, the clearer our eyes get about the manuscript, so all is well. 🙂

  10. Christine

    I’ve been on the rewriting train for a while now and wonder when my damn stop is coming up. I hear you on the rereading–time consuming but such a necessary evil. Just finished another round of revisions and am going to play with some short story contest stuff to get my mind off the original manuscript. Then I’ll probably go back and reread…again.

  11. Erin

    This might sound hella time-consuming, but I find a technique more productive (for me, at least) than just simply reading is to literally start copying it over again, either by typing it up into a new word doc (copy paste is cheating!) or handwriting it. You get back into the feel of writing again, and you become more absorbed in the novel. And when something trips you up, you can change it. I find doing this is the only way I can be thorough enough in my rewrites. But a lot of writers faint and go into shock when I tell them I do this.

    Good luck, Kevin!!!

  12. Tom

    "my fresh eyes will probably wreak editing havoc on the weakest links within my book"

    Dude, I do believe you’ve hit on a pretty valuable merit to your procrasterinatory habitz. (See? "Z" instead of "s." Brilliance!)

    I wrote a short story over the summer. I hated it in the middle, and really slowed down. I forced myself to finish it, but then I didn’t have much hope for it, and pretty much figured it sucked. It resurfaced when I had to turn in something for my fiction crit group. It was the only thing I’d completed recently. I was surprised it got favorable comments, but it was also pretty funny in that people liked a number of things I didn’t even remember writing anymore! They’d say, "Oh, I really liked this line…" and I’d lean over and look at their pages and say, "I wrote that? Where is it?"

    I’m still having trouble with the rewrite, though. Um – I’ve been away from it for a while.

    My heart bleeds for ya, homey. Print and read. I look forward to hearing about your ecstaticisms as you began to get back into the swing of things.


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