Not every part of the creative process is enjoyable. It’s certainly a lot more entertaining to daydream about the six-figure deal you’ll get, or the contract for an original show you sign with Netflix than it is to go back through your manuscript for the hundredth time trying to hunt down out of place commas or lurking filler words. While those tasks may not be enjoyable, they are necessary. Thankfully, there’s something to be said about having the right attitude to approach something.
How you think about something can have a vast impact on how you feel about it. Rather than focusing on how much you dislike doing a particular part of editing, think of how easy it is to get done. Alternately, remind yourself how much it’s going to improve your writing and your story. By shifting your thoughts from the negative ‘dislike’ of the task at hand and onto the postive aspects of it, you’re also shifting your feelings. This won’t mean you necessarily enjoy searching for every instance of ‘that’ or sprucing up your descriptions, but it will make it less of a chore.
Another way you help change your view on something is to adjust your enviroment accordingly. These don’t need to be huge changes either. If you can work with music on, try putting on tracks that are upbeat and exciting. Music has been shown to affect your mood, so having something that cheers you up and energizes you can help make a daunting or tedious task go a little easier. If you find sound distracting or need to work on your focus, try a scent such as lavender or lemon to help calm and focus your thoughts. This might make distractions less tempting and help you ward off procrastination.
What are some ways you make difficult tasks easier?
Currently in my writing projects, I’m knee-deep in a rewrite. In this instance, I’m talking about completely scrapping the initial drafts and notes and starting over again. I’m keeping the characters and the basis for the conflict, but everything else has been moved to the ‘junk’ folder. In a lot of ways, as much as rewriting is a significant part of my process, it’s also the most frustrating.
There are multiple reasons for needing to rewrite something. Perhaps the plot makes too many illogical leaps. The characters might not have solid motivations, or they lack development. Maybe the setting creates problems. Individually, the problems might be solved by rewriting one or two sections. The main reason I’ve found for needing to rewrite an entire manuscript is because the problems have all added up to need multiple different sections rewritten.
As I mentioned however, it’s frustrating. The idea itself may be good, but the execution and the work already put in may not be enough. Having to throw out the time and effort I’ve already expended to start over can give doubt a reason to creep in.
In some ways it’s a good thing. Rewriting gives me the chance to explore the story again, to find new places to look for mystery and wonder. It also gives me the opportunity to bring an old idea up to par with my current skills. Although it doesn’t always help, reminding myself that a rewrite is just another opportunity to learn can curb some of the frustration stemming from needing to start over.
How do you handle rewriting?
I’m one of those people that keeps almost obsessive track of my word count. I like seeing how much I’ve added at the end of the day. Some portions of the writing process take time, and that time often feels like it’s wasted when you’re plodding through something the size of a manuscript. Marking the progress helps curb some of that frustration by giving you a mark of how much you’ve accomplished. While writing something, keeping track of that is easy. It’s during editing that it gets a little harder to measure progress.
With editing word count does work to some extent if you’re tracking the number of words changed. It’s easy enough to note how much your word count changes from when you start editing and where it ends at the end of the day. One problem I’ve encountered while doing that is during early edits, when entire sections can be cut and rewritten resulting in a negative change. During later drafts when there’s mostly fine tuning to be done instead of big changes, the change coming up can be minimal.
Another option might be pages. They’re easy enough to number and counting the number of pages you’ve edited through today negates any inconsistencies incurred when dealing with word count. The problem is with formatting. A double-spaced manuscript will have a lot more pages than something single-spaced, and certain fonts and font sizes will get more words on one page than others. As long as your formatting is consistent during your editing, the problem is solved. If neither pages nor words works one final option is to measure the amount of time.
Counting the minutes and hours spent revising a piece makes it easier for you to set goals and deadlines for yourself. Keeping track does become an issue if you don’t have the option of setting down a given amount of time for editing.
Regardless of what option you use, selecting a measure can help if you find yourself frustrated with your writing process.
At the end of last month I admitted I hadn’t gotten as much editing done as I would have liked to this year. Although the first couple of days were hard because I have a ton of ideas for stories and projects I want to work on, now that I’m at the other end of August, I’m happy with my decision to work only on projects I’ve already started.
I also managed to get the second draft of one novella done. It’s only a start, but I’m headed in the right direction.
With August closing out however one project I need to get a solid answer for is still…you guessed it, Crimson and Gold. Because of it’s length so far, the best option I’ve turned up is a self-publishing route, likely through Amazon. There’s still a lot to figure out but now that I have a semi-solid answer for what I’m doing with it, I’m feeling a little more confident and secure. There’s a lot of work ahead and I’m excited to start tackling the next step.
I did realize the other day that I hadn’t been reading as much as I would like. I’m going to try and set a goal for reading more this September. I also still need to decide on my main project for the next month.
How’d your August go?
Most people would probably refer to it as ‘eavesdropping’ but frankly, that sounds a little rude. Overhearing might be a little bit nicer, but if we’re going for honesty, listening in to other people’s conversations is rude. As a writer, it’s one of the best places to find ideas, both for stories and characters.
Out-of-context snippets are filled with questions, largely because of the lack of context. When you don’t have any information on a conversation besides one piece, it can ignite a lot of questions. When you need something to spark idea however, the almost nonsensical things you overhear provides a lot of good sparks and probably more than a little fuel.
I make it a habit to keep a notebook with me. Usually it’s just a small one I carry in my purse so I can jot notes down (usually right alongside my shopping list). Notebooks being what they are however, they do eventually get filled, and I finally got around to transferring most of the notes in my previous one to the computer, which is what brought up today’s post. Sometimes the best way to find an idea is to listen.
Overall, I have about two hundred lines so far. Some of my favorites:
- “What’s she up to today, besides basking in her own glory?”
- “The frozen broccoli is only for emergencies.”
- “He strikes me as a decent fellow for a penguin.”
- “You do not have a good selection of funeral attire.”
- “Well I had her veil so they knew not to shoot me.”
- “My blood pressure disagrees.”
- “Tell Santa I don’t give a damn what he says.”
As an exercise: The next time you’re out in public, listen to the conversations around you. Don’t intrude on them, but take note of interesting lines. Without the context of the original conversation, what lines and snippets inspire new stories?