Attack Plans on Editing.

“25 Ways To Unfuck Your Story:”  Perhaps one of the best-timed essays over on terribleminds since I started reading the blog in September of last year, I’d spent the majority of February wondering how I’d take the thing apart and make it sing.

…here I go again with the mixed metaphors.  Oh well.  Bugger it.

The first draft of Genesis—the actual first draft of Genesis—was pretty thoroughly fucked.  That was why I took a hammer to it, busted it up, and harvested only the parts that worked.  The rest didn’t see the light of day until yesterday, and that was just to do a side-by-side comparison.  Bits and pieces of it made sense—but that was exactly the problem.  Bits and pieces of it made sense, but only when you took them as bits and pieces, disassociating them from the whole.  That’s fine in short stories, but in something that was planned to be a novel-length undertaking, that just won’t do.  Nope.

After that was put together again, the story could progress.  Of course, being a first draft, there are serious problems that I didn’t bother immediately to fix…

Please don’t look at me like that.  This makes perfect sense.

Why this makes sense:

Suppose you have a draft coming up.  You’re editing as you go, and putting things together bit by bit as you go.  Suddenly, once you’ve finished, you realize a change that you made somewhere around page—oh, let’s say 53—totally conflicts with the information you’ve provided on page 82.  In the spirit of bringing together things as fast as possible, you’ve managed to create a big, yawning plot hole.  Once you notice it, you patch it up and soldier on—except that by page 134, you notice that the facts established originally on page 53 work better than the solder-job that you’ve done to mesh it with the hole on 82.

The lesson’s simple enough, but took me this long to learn:

Finish, then edit.  Don’t edit as you go.  (That’s how my first first draft wound up a total mess and I had to brick it.)

Otherwise, as Mr. Fox would put it, you wind up with a real clustercuss.  Especially if you’ve spent the entire time in the document that you started with, which leads to the second Lesson Learned™:

Backup everything.  Seriously, once you finish, backup your drafts.  If you’re as paranoid as I am, then backup your backups.  Which connects to Lesson Learned™ number three:

TRACK ALL OF THE CHANGES.  Yet another lesson learned from terribleminds.  Honestly, I’ve learned more practical writing tricks there than I did in school.

Now, it’s time to backup my backup and get started.

First Impressions.

There are quite a few things percolating in the project pot.  I can’t stare at it for too long, however; after a while, the fact that everything is MADE OF WORDS! begins to befuddle, and the vertigo sets in.  (Not helping: the fact that I should actually be sleeping right now, and the fact that I should not have skipped that dose of Antivert.)  So I turn my attention to specifics.


Right about now, I’m looking at a bunch of stuff.

It includes:

  • a Scrivener doc—a recently finished and iced draft that needs to chill before I begin to edit;
  • a WIP that has stalled;
  • a second Scrivener doc that has had a year to chill; and
  • a third Scrivener doc—but this one’s for the fun of it. Fanon.

Let’s push the ‘just for fun’ one aside for a while.

The two Scrivener projects are intimately related, both drafts of a project that seems to want to become a trilogy, but the division is starting to feel like it might go in a slightly different direction.  True, the story encompassed three clear ‘acts’ when I was working on it initially, but the more I work on that, the more artificial that the structure feels.  I felt the first flaws in this structure when I hit the half-way mark in the second project.

(For reference, the projects are in chronological order: Genesis, Exodus, and RevelationsRevelations is still only in the outlining phase, and nothing in it is solid.)

Exodus began life as a clear-cut five-act outline, but the narrative no longer fits the outline that I gave it.  The story was still told, but the outline morphed and reflowed, sprouted new limbs and new characters (geesh, mixed metaphor much?) and became something a little bit different than what I had planned.  Of course, this is one of those things that isn’t to be disliked: when the changes happen like that, it’s often a better result than the original plan.  One-and-done doesn’t often happen in writing.  I’ll be working the wrinkles out of it, but before I can do that, in roughly 48 hours, I start ironing Genesis out.  It’s had a year to cool off, and the holes that it was riddled with have started to fill—oddly, from things that came up within Exodus, which happens chronologically later.

…hey, no one ever said that this would be fast.

The stalled WIP happened seemingly out of nowhere.  It isn’t as though I’m not in love with the concept anymore—I still want to hold it close to me and make it all happy—it’s just that my motivation stalled a bit.  This tends to happen when something comes up—I finish something else, I get sick, or life comes up.  In the spirit of charging madly forward, I’ll put a little bit of effort on it at a time until I’ve finished.

It really is a nice idea: an alternative imagining of how angels are born.  It’s in a rough state, but it does have its moments of pretty.

I’ll admit it: mad dives into fandom help keep me sane.  My own work makes me want to pull my hair out at times; jumping into fandom for a while acts like pushing the pressure-release valve on a cooker, making it a little easier to keep going in both realms.