Thursday, May 27, 2010

'Put Me Down!' Getting Caught Up in Your Own Story...

Now, I believe that a rapid reread of your manuscript after a few weeks away from it is a great way to pick up on problems with plot, sequence of events, flow, pace, and characterization.  It lets you look at the big picture.

Once you’ve gotten all of those squared away, however, and you’re ready for the honest to goodness deep-sea editing, I find that Rereading is just about the Anti-Christ of Revising.

It happens more than I care to admit.  I sit down at my computer, eyes narrowed and finger posed dutifully over the ‘delete’ key.  I think 'Watch out adverbs, over used dialogue tags and passive phrases!  I’m comin to getchya!'

I begin to read aloud.  'Aha!  Got one!'  Tappity tap go my fingers.  I’m picking up on things every paragraph or so.  And then every other paragraph.  And then things begin to go awry. 

Instead of searching out those words I find myself caught up in the story.  Thoughts such as 'Oh, this is good!  I love this description.' and 'Ha ha ha! I’m so funny.' Start taking precedence over what I’m actually supposed to be doing. 

Then inevitably I arrive at the end of my manuscript, having barely changed a thing besides the odd tweaking of a phrase here and there.  I blink as realization dawns. 'Son of a CRAP!  I did it AGAIN!'  I sink into my chair and bury my head in my hands.  'What is WRONG with me?'

It doesn’t seem to make a difference if I’m reading aloud or not.  When I get going, my husband says it sounds like I’m speaking in tongues. 

Yesterday I got A LOT of great advice from the people who commented on different ways of editing but some of the biggest ones that will help me I think are:

-Get your manuscript to as many beta readers as you can.  They read it in chunks and are more likely to keep their distance from the story and catch more ‘mistakes’.

-Reading aloud can really help, for those of you who don’t have a tendency to turn into Speedy Gonzales.

-the ‘search’ button.  I have a list of annoying words that I plug into the search box.  It keeps me out of the story and focused on just those words I’m trying to get rid of or replace.

Thanks so much to everyone who took the time to give advice or sympathize with my plight! What about you guys?  Do you ever find that rereading is toxic to revision?


LAST DAY TO ENTER! Contest closes at midnight tonight! 


1st Prize winner will receive an over-the-phone publishing consultation from one of the accomplished authors/editors at The Writer’s Workshop!

2nd Prize winner will receive a 30 page critique from the members of the ‘3Critics Club’ (my critiquing group) on The Word Cloud

3rd Prize winner will receive a choice of champagne or gourmet chocolates shipped directly from yours truly (in France:)

34 comments:

Vicki Rocho said...

That's a good sign, though right? If YOU don't get caught up with your own story, it doesn't bode well for the rest of us.

Holly Dodson said...

Ha, yeah. I have to constantly remind myself I'm not reading for pleasure. Pay attention, Holly! hehe Having short sessions of edits makes it easier. Then I don't have time to get caught up in the story.

salarsenッ said...

Hah! I do that. A topic we fail to discuss often as writers is 'How does one distance oneself from the writing?' Our own writing, to be objective. Interesting forum, huh?

Got.To.Finish.Qu.e.r.yyy 4 U. Trying. *Hugs*

Slamdunk said...

I like the list idea of words/phrases that need to go. If I composed one for me though, I'm afraid I'd eliminate 50% of my vocabulary.

Laura Pauling said...

I think it's important not to keep rereading parts while you are close to finishing the first draft. When you go to reread the whole thing you'll have a lot more perspective than if you've been rereading it all along.

Jen said...

Holy crap I completely forget!!! Yikes! I don't even know if I can do it now... Hmm I'll be working late to try and get it in before midnight!!

I put my MS down and re-read it after three weeks. I saw so many holes, but I was already aware of the problem so it wasn't a shocker. I first had to create an outline so I knew where my story was going. Now I'm deep into revisions and crying for help!

Good Luck!

Ted Cross said...

I have trouble with fixing the big picture issues. I can often tell that they are there, but it is daunting because to fix them often means completely rewriting everything.

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

I try not to get sucked into the story, but sometimes I do. I have to stop myself and put it away again. Or I read some CP feedback. That usually helps focus me again. :)

Jaydee Morgan said...

I like to read over my entire manuscript before I start revising with the idea in mind of only marking pages/scenes that I think need work. This is also a good time to look for plot holes or things that don't make sense.

Only after I've finished the entire thing do I go back and find the marked sections. These I work on in scenes.

I love that you got totally caught up in your book. It may not be the best for editing, but it means that the story grabs you - and thus, it should grab your readers as well :)

Christine Fonseca said...

HA! I think it is easy to do so much rereading that we lose the distance we need to really be able to edit effectively. Great post.

Myne Whitman said...

This got me laughing cos it's usually how it goes with me too. So I tend to do my revising in little chunks and not get too carried away by the story.

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

You should try that reading backwards tip that was on Justines blog!

Jane Harmony said...

Oh yeah, I've been here before! I'm SO glad to know I'm not the only one!

In the end, I figured it did have some benefit by reorienting myself with the story. And the parts I did get really interested in - those were what I knew I needed to keep.

But yeah. What I did in the end was write a...numbered list of every scene in the book. Then I used that as my aerial view of the story to help me see plot problems etc...

mi said...

usually reading aloud is my trick of choice to keep me from getting caught up in the manuscript, but i guess that doesn't always work for you!

Dawn said...

YES! This is so very true. It's wonderful to get caught up in your story and even compliment yourself on your brilliance (of which I don't doubt is well deserved). But it *can* be detrimental to the revision process. I counter it like this: I read each scene out of sequence. For example, I read all of one character's voice and look for voice consistency, flushing out the details, etc. I keep a checklist by my computer for each chapter. When that's done, and only then, do I allow myself a thorough read through and by that point I've hopefully performed an exorcist on every adverb.

Green Monkey said...

just found you.... my plan is to stalk you, since i'm wayyyy behind. but I need to surround myself with writers who have FINISHED their book. reading outlaid does help me.

best, MOnkeY mE

Raquel Byrnes said...

I've sent a manuscript to a manuscript/line editor before and they were helpful...but my husband is the most useful by far.

He sits on the couch with a red pen and totally marks up my ms. Logic flaws, pacing, need more conflict...then I argue with him and plead my case and we split the difference.

Works well so far.

Theresa Milstein said...

That happens to me too. I decide to look for certain problem and at some point I read my own story instead.

I like the idea of have a lot of beta readers because they read in chunks.

And I agree with the commenter that if you're into your own story, it's a good sign.

Good luck!

bethhull.com said...

Thanks for the recap of yesterday's comments. I have the same problems and was hoping for more ideas. I do the read backwards thing. I also try to stick to one chapter for a couple days (or even a week) although it takes forever. Then each chapter gets plenty of attention.
Like you, if I try to read through the whole thing, I get caught up in my own brilliance. Sometimes it's rough being such a great writer. (Um, in case that tone doesn't come through, I'm making fun of us in a very nice way.)

T.J. Carson said...

I use the BAGEEZUS out of beta readers! lol. I have two currently and three on the waiting list to read my novel. WAITING LIST!! I know, right?!?! lol

Check out this site I got four of my betas there and my other beta I found through my blog (SHELLEY!!!!) lol.

http://yalitchat.ning.com/

They have all kinds of things! You can post your first 5 pages and people critique them! You can post your query letter and people critique it!! You can post a request for a beta and people respond! Then words spreads of your novel and people ASK you to be your beta!! It's pretty amazing!! I've had to turn down a couple people. BETAs are GOLD! GET ONE!

OOOOH YAYA can't wait to see these entries for your contest! Should be a laugh!!!

Candyland said...

I hate re-reading and I do the SAME things. In the end, I'm like "oohh good story, but I forgot to EDIT!"

Talli Roland said...

I get really anxious re-reading the MS the first time around. I need to go through it a few times before I can settle in. I also like reading it aloud - I find that more relaxing.

Watery Tart said...

i tend to do exactly what you do, and also find it inadequate. It is all well and good for the Adverebctomy, but misses the boat on the bigger stuff.

I have friends farther in process and two things I think sound great are mixing up your scenes--each should stand alone, so evaluate them out of order. Is it the strongest it could possibly be? Give it a grade and commit to rewriting anything that isn't an A or maybe a B, but only a B every once in a while--no long string of Bs.

I also have ntoes from my critique group that I will go to FIRST--then I will do the scenes (mixed up) THEN I will do the polish, which is making sure all that editing didn't mess up the flow.

WhisperingWriter said...

I've read my manuscript more times than I care to count.

Where do you find Beta readers? I could definately use some.

Suzanne Casamento said...

Those are all good tips. I especially enjoy the search function. I once used the word "bolt" 29 times in a manuscript. Thank god for the beta reader who noticed. And also for being able to search them out!

Creepy Query Girl said...

Vicky & Jaydee- thanks for the vote of confidence. I like to think it'll draw others in too:)

Sheri- yes, distancing yourself from the ms should get more attention

Laura- I made it a point to keep pushing forward with this one and I found it helped.

Jen- Get on it babe!

AA- I'll have to give that a try!

Jane- sounds like a great method.

Green Monkey- from one stalker to another- welcome!

Beth- It's rough being brilliant isn't it?:)

T.J.- Thanks for that link- awesome!

Watery Tart- That sounds like a good method. I heard once about another when you throw the ms up in the air and pick up random pages to edit.

WW- If you scroll up to T.J.'s comment, there's a great link for beta readers!

Thanks guys for all your input!

Cheree said...

I agree. I often find myself needing to remind myself that I'm supposed to be editing, not reading.

Tessa Conte said...

What I do...
- read chapters out of order
- read backwards (sentence by sentence, although letter by letter might be fun) ; )

other than being inconvenient when editing, being caught up is a good thing, though!!

Lisa and Laura said...

Oh, I ALWAYS do this. It's so frustrating. Have you tried using a text to speech program? You'll be amazed at the kind of stuff you catch when you hear a machine reading your words.

Susan Fields said...

That's great news - your book must be good! After I've read and reread mine a few million times, I begin to wonder why I ever wrote it in the first place. Thanks for listing the top editing tips you received - those are great.

Darlyn said...

LOL. I was smiling while reading your post. I can totally relate to your revision woes, because I have the same problem.

When I start revising a manuscript, I think: I'm going to delete as many words as I can... A few seconds later, I think: Oh, my God. I love this! I wrote this! *Snickers.*

Your tips are cool. I'll try them when I finish my WIP. :)

Solvang Sherrie said...

I'm there right now! Ugh.

notesfromnadir said...

You sure make a great effort, especially when you have lists of things to look for or avoid. Maybe you should only do this for short periods of time. When you find yourself getting caught up in the story, stop! Then return a little later.

Nishant said...

I like the list idea of words/phrases that need to go.
Adsense Alternative

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...