Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Problem of Redundancy, Rereading, and Revising

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Confession: I almost never reread a work of fiction. 

Maybe it's the ADD in me, but the suspense is just gone. It doesn't even matter if it's the greatest book ever written. I've tried to reread Harry Potter but can't make myself commit. I can reread excerpts (and sometimes get swept up in the writing of a particular scene all over again), but there's just no way I'm going to read through the entire book the way I did the first time... ever again.

I think this makes me strange. I know other people who reread books over and over again (<-- redundant on purpose). But redundancy bothers me. It even bothers me sometimes when I'm reading a sequel and the author repeats information gleaned in the first book just in case somebody is new to the series. I know it shouldn't bother me. That's exactly what you're SUPPOSED to do as a writer of a series. But I'm just an impatient reader.

I'm also an impatient writer. 

This is why I've written six books that are yet unpublishable. My impatience with looking back makes revision awfully hard. Don't get me wrong; I do revise. But it's painful and slow and I put it off sometimes for years.

As the therapy cliche says, the first step is admitting you have a problem. But man, the idea of overcoming my impatience is daunting.

I keep hoping that if I just keep writing, eventually I'll turn out something that doesn't need a second look. *ROFL*
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Yeah, right.

I don't think the writing exists that doesn't need revision. Most of us write stuff that needs major TLC after the initial draft. I know this. So why is it so hard for me to look back? Why is rereading and revision something I dread?

I need your wisdom, Writerly Blogosphere. Tell me, how do you face the prospect of revising an entire novel, especially after receiving significant criticism? 

Is there a magic bean I can swallow?

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15 comments:

  1. No wisdom here. I'm just glad to have found another writer who is JUST LIKE ME. Haha.

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  2. :) So glad I'm not the only one! Thank you, ilima.

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  3. No magic beans, sadly.

    My problem with redundancy is with writing, not reading. Say I have a great description/character reaction to something in chapter 23. While doing rewrites on chapter 5, something will flow into this situation/description reaction that is Just. Exactly. Right. And I don't remember that it's already in chapter 23. Until I get to chapter 23, and then I think, "Hey, didn't I write this already?" and I have to go back and dig around, and then decide where it's better.

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    1. Oh my goodness...I've done that too...many times. It's gets frustrating!

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  4. I'm not a fan of rereading but I like editing. I'll replay scenes in my head and find ways to make them better - something I can't do for other people's books no matter how much they drive me crazy.

    One thing I'm doing now is going through the book backwards. I started on the last chapter and am moving up. The first chapter always gets a lot of attention but the ending is important too. It's giving me a new perspective.

    I also have to force myself to stick to it. Shiny new ideas will pop in to my head. I'll quickly write down a page or two and get back to editing. If they're as brilliant as I thought they were, I'll visit them again.

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  5. I'm with Janice on this one. I also started going through the book backwards and also reading it on my e-reader. This gives me a different perspective. It also helps to put the book aside for a few months before revising, otherwise I get bored.

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  6. What an intriguing idea! Thank you.

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  7. This post is something I'm going through now myself! I want to rewrite my novel this summer but before I begin I know I need to reread it and it's making me drag my feet. I want to just jump in and start writing again, not sit around and read and jot ideas! lol

    Maybe I'll give the backwards thing a shot. Can't hurt right? :D

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  8. I swear, reading this post was like reading my own thoughts. I've written 11 novels, the 9 of which haven't been revised. The first two books I wrote got revised A LOT. The first one got a complete rewrite about six times. After that, revision and me just didn't get along. The idea alone makes me crazy. But this summer, I have to sit down and tackle revision if I truly want to get this book published (which I do). Sorry I can't be of any help, but maybe somehow we can help each other.

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  9. Okay I seriously approach this a lot differently. I LOVE writing new stuff. I get all giddy and Dr. Evil-ish. So when I'm revising a story I force myself to do one chapter, then reward myself with writing something completely new. It gives my mind a break and keeps the endorphins flowing.

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  10. This is me too. I've written so many but haven't revised much with most of them. (Querying my first currently.) When that new idea hits, I want to do it. Hence, all the un-revised stories sitting there.

    I also never re-read books. So it's funny, that I tend to hang onto my books cause I'll never re-read them, but maybe one day I'll have my own personal library. (Wishful thinking.)

    So sorry, I can't give any advice on how to face those revisions, because I need it myself.

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  11. Sorry, no magic pill/bean. I try to look at revisions as a chance to get to know my characters better. During the first draft, they tell me their 'surface' story, but during revisions they always have a lot more to say - it's like having a conversation with really interesting people - you have to get the small talk out of the way first.

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  12. I'd love to reread books, the problem is there's no time. There are so many new ones on the market. So what I've begun doing is taking notes and reviewing these books on my blog. It keeps things "fresh" in my mind. I'm one of those ones that adore editing/revising/whatever you want to call it. This is because the more I go through it, the better I know my characters, and the sharper the story can become. I usually do 3-4 drafts before finished. I think the trick is to keep things "new" as you go along. There's always that scene that needs cut/edited/made new. Getting it to work with the rest of the story is a must. It's a challenge. I like tackling challenges, therefore, I like editing. Sorry, I wish I had some better tips to help you. Honestly, I hated revising when I first did it, but like I said, it "grows" the characters, plot, and story so much better than your first time around, it makes it newborn.

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  13. I don't mind re-reading my own work the first time to revise. Or the third or fourth or fifth. Beyond that, I just start to lose objectivity. I've found recently that rewriting a scene from scratch is helpful, though. It's amazing how certain phrases come back to you. I talked to an author at a conference who said she writes every draft over from scratch. The whole draft. Once she has three or four versions, she takes the best bits and pieces and weaves them together like a quilt.

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  14. Wow. It's so interesting to hear about the different processes of other writers. Rewriting a whole draft is a daunting process. Kudos to the authors who have the bravery and skill! Maybe the novelty of doing that would push me through. I'll have to try it... that's terrifying and kind of exciting. :)

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