Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Minor Renovations

So there's this Taco Bell I pass on my way to work. One day, a sign goes up saying, "Closed for minor renovations." They then proceed to tear down the building and build a new Taco Bell from the ground up.

I found this hilarious, each time I drove past an empty, razed lot with that little sign out front still declaring these "minor renovations."

I'm feeling like that at the moment. I have minor revisions I want to make. I want to make them quickly. Little things like cleaning up the typos, formatting the pages correctly.

And yet, each time I sit down to correct the typos in the next scene, I end up sitting there and rewriting the entire scene from scratch. I'm razzing my Taco Bell to the asphalt parking lot, here, when all I really want to do is swap out the green pleather booths for blue.

Of course, there are two explanations here. One is that the total destruction and re-write is necessary, so really, why bother with typos and formatting? (This WIP is my thesis novel for school, and I have to turn it soon in order to graduate. I can turn it in as soon as I clean up the typos, so there's something to be said for getting it turned in at school, even if it needs more revisions later for an agent or editor).

The other explanation is that I'm crazy (who didn't see *that* one coming?). I just keep tweaking and keep tweaking. And suddenly, my story is rewritten again, even though my sign still says "minor renovations."

This week we've celebrated Chance's release and Terri finishing her revisions. Both exciting end points, where we can stop and celebrate. I admit -- I've lost sight of any end points myself. But in this writing business, even end points come with something else to jump into next.

So where are you? Do you have an end point in sight that you're hoping to celebrate soon? Or do you find yourself stuck on the same step, doing endless rounds of revisions? Can you limit yourself to minor revisions and call it done, or do you find yourself toppling a whole building?


2nd Chance said...

They did that to a Taco Bell I frequent.

Yes, I like the Bell. And I'm not ashamed to SHOUT it. Even if they don't really use meat. Meat is over-rated. I doubt their beans are really beans, too. Don't care.

Anyway! What was the question? Oh, yeah!

As I discovered this week in looking for little things to tweak in the MS before it goes to the print side of things...given a chance, I'd do a lot of renovation. Good thing I didn't have the chance. I did tweak, and correct and substitute a word here and there...

But yeah, after re-reading the sucker...I don't know, six times in the last few weeks... I wanted to tear it apart and do it all over again. But I think it was more from the near point of boredom with it because I'd read it six times or more the last few weeks.

Something to consider. Does your MS really need major renovations or is it just that the honeymoon is over? And though you still love it and imagine spending the rest of your life with it, as're just a little, just a smidgen...bored.

I wish I'd come up with a better word for it than bored...but it's the idea, not the absolute definition of what I think creeps in.

Quantum said...

Hal, I'm intrigued that you are submitting your novel as a thesis (for a higher degree?).

If I could have written a SciFi novel for my PhD thesis I would have been over the moon. So much easier than Unitary groups and Lie Algebras.

You youngsters don't know when you're well off!

Or am I misunderstanding something. :?

Seems to me that there are many roads to Nirvana. The hard road is like a fly traversing the surface of a sphere and getting back to the beginning periodically (rebirth).

A better road is to spiral upwards towards a distant summit of perfection. You never get there because its a limit. But you can stop when its good enough for fulfillment.

Having a deadline is a great way of stopping the spiral.

I would submit the damned thesis now and drink a few celebratory pints! *grin*

Donna said...

This is really funny. I wonder if they couldn't find the "real" sign to put up, so they figured, "Aw, heck, nobody will notice if we use this one we have on hand". LOL

I think we'll always want to change our work. When we get some distance, we can view it differently, but we've also gained a little more skill, so we know other ways to make our books "new and improved". I'm sure the goal will always be to make "minor renovations" but the temptation will be to start over from scratch.

Hal said...

given a chance, I’d do a lot of renovation. Good thing I didn’t have the chance

Chance, this is what I need - someone to take it away!

I think bored is a good word. You get to that point where, while it's still a good story, you just don't care anymore and want to move on to something fresher, more exciting, etc. And after a while, if you've read the same thing over and over again, it loses its power. I think it's normal to want to change it then, because it doesn't read as powerfully, though we forget that to a reader seeing it for the first time, it likely IS still powerful. It's just hard to know how different your reaction is from what a first-time reader's will be.

Hal said...

Q - don't panic. It's a Masters of Fine Arts in creative writing, so the thesis is...well...a creative writing project. They're not handing out scientific degrees and allowing fiction to fly in place of research. My boss keeps pushing me toward getting my PhD (social sciences), and I have to say, it would be much more appealing if I could do a novel there too!

Hal said...

Donna, that's a good point too. I've been working on this for two years, and I'd certainly like to think that my skill has improved in those two years. So sometimes when looking at a scene, it is a matter of seeing now what I couldn't have seen originally, just because I've improved as a writer.

Hal said...

Oh ugh. Sorry scapgoat (though now I'm curious what you wrote :))

Scapegoat said...

ASK! I wrote a hell-a long comment and it got eaten! Give me a few minutes to try to recreate my former genuis...

Scapegoat said...

Ok - totally scraping trying to recreate.

Hal - Have you given off your manuscript to a beta reader or critique partner? Giving it to them will give you the chance to step back. Plus, hearing their thoughts on what changes are needed could help you focus in on the real revisions and not nit-pick stuff.

Bosun said...

I love the image of a completely flattened building with a sign reading "minor renovations". LOL!

I realize I threw a party, but I'm not even close to the end point. LOL! Ironically, Hellie's issues were mostly in the first 50 pages, which are the only pages sent for the GH. LOL! But it's all stuff I can see and feel good about fixing. So far.

I would definitely submit this puppy for a grade now. You've worked and reworked, gotten feedback along the way. Now you just need a little faith that she can stand on her own, and I believe she can.

You want to tweak it before seeking publication, then you have time. But your brain cells are about to be totally sucked out of your brain, so I'd use these last remaining days to get this thing on the teacher's desk. :)

Hal said...

Scape - I wonder if I've gone too far the opposite direction. I have professor's feedback, critique partners, beta readers....there may be a line *g*

I think most of what I'm doing now isn't even really making changes, it's just re-writing scenes to make them "just a little better." Which is all good and well, except at some point, I have to STOP! lol.

Hal said...

Ter - that's my goal. I'm off work now, and likely have a few more days, so I'd like to just plow through and get it turned in, so that I can concentrate on more important things *g*

I think it's important though, to throw parties when we get to a milestone. Cause if we all waited for the actual end, we'd be waiting forever to party, and we definitely need the parties!

Janga said...

My impulse is not so much to tear down and rebuild as it is to add on a wing here and remodel the kitchen there. However, "endless revisions" is a fair description of the greatest part of my writing process. I found that as true with my dissertation, Hal, as with my fiction. I'd probably still be revising if my director hadn't said quite firmly, "End this now. Don't look at another source; don't recast another sentence. Just end it." LOL

Bosun said...

I did find with a short story I wrote years ago that my first efforts to revise it only made it worse. Grant it, I'd yet to take a revision course so had no idea what I was doing, but the harder I tried to make it read and sound better, the more damage I did.

It's quite possible that what you have is perfect as it is. I think you need Janga's director's voice in your ear. "End this now."

*shoots steely eye at Janga* That goes for you too.

Hal said...

Janga - sometimes we need that person to just take it away *g* I love the description of your director. I do a lot of writing with my boss, and he's one of those how, when I'm trying to do the final editing, pops up with, "I found one more source!" Or "I found one more person to survey!"

I think knowing our own writing processes, and knowing how we approach revisions (whether it's hating them, or not being able to let go) is an important part. I know next time, I need to plan extra time for revisions, cause it doesn't look like a "quick fix" is something I'm capable of *g*

Hal said...

haha, Ter. You can be our revisions police. We'll get you a little badge. You get the fun task of wrestling things out of our hands!

Hal said...

I'm off to run some errands -- I'll be back in a bit!

Bosun said...

I get a badge? So now I'll have a whistle AND a badge?

I'm so excited!

Donna said...

Terri, I hope to finish PLAYING FOR KEEPS today. I'm enjoying that small town, and I would be thrilled to have my very own Nate. :)

Then I hope to be swept off into the world of THE KRAKEN'S MIRROR. I got to read the first few pages before I was forced to return to reality.

I also got to work on my book, and hope to get more revisions done today. I can see snowflakes outside, but there may be a chance for a short escape too.

Marnee said...

This cracked me up, Hal. Minor renovations, indeed. I think I did this when I cut a quarter of my MS last year. :(

I wish I had a better plan of attack. Planning isn't really conducive to my life right now, though. LOL!! Maybe next year (in five years????). LOL!!

I would like to finish a book this year. I'd like to enter the GH in the fall, if possible. That's kind of my end date right now.

Bosun said...

Donna - So relieved to hear you're enjoying it. And it helps that you are my fellow manicorn lover. LOL! I tried wearing my contacts for two days and the eye burning returned with a vengeance. Vengaence? That doesn't look right.

Anyway, didn't read last night because it hurt. But yours is the only book I'm reading right now. Kraken is next and then hopefully I'll get my B&N gift cards I won. Still haven't gotten those yet, which is saving me from downloading more guilt. LOL

Bosun said...

Marn - I'm with you! I'd love to have the next one done in time to enter the GH again. Should we make some kind of pact? I don't have the distractions you do, but you're way ahead of me as I've barely started plotting. We can do it

Marnee said...

Bo'sun, you're on! Maybe you don't have my "small distractions" but you work full time on top of doing the mom thing. I suspect that keeps you busy. *understatement alert* LOL!

So, way I figure it, if I have the first draft written by mid-summer, that gives me time to revise. Think 6 months is enough time to write a first draft? Anyone else wanna jump on our bandwagon?

Donna said...

I'm not jumping on any bandwagons right now, but I'll be happy to give advice! LOL

You should do a NaNo thing for one month this spring, so you can have a 50k first draft to work with. It keeps you moving, on a daily basis, and it's nice to know you have that kind of word count at the end of a month, rather than several months.

Terri, I haven't been able to wear my contacts since mid-December. It's almost like the prescription changed in those little boxes or something. Drives me nuts to wear my glasses all the time, especially since I can't wear my sunglasses when driving w/o contacts.

Donna said...

Robyn Carr just showed up at my blog, so if you'd like to stop by, come on over!

Bosun said...

I'm going to alter Donna's advice a little. I say we shoot for three 30K months in a row. This first book came in at 80K, so that seems like a good target.

It also prevents the self-mutilation of not hitting 50K in a month while allowing for unforeseen circumstances. Like colds that run through every member in the house, teething, and a pre-teen making the drama club. (She made it for call backs today so fingers crossed!)

Donna - I was diagnosed with blepharitus in December. Sounds totally made up, doesn't it? Viscus fluid (?) on my eyes is thickening, causing burning and pain. Didn't wear the contacts for six weeks and they finally started feeling better. (There are other treatments I'm supposed to be doing, but I'm lazy and skeptical.)

After putting them in for two days, it's like I'm back to square one. Stupid eye balls.

Julie said...

Sigh. Snow daze has me way behind in the conversations so …
First of all Hal, I’m sorry that the job interview didn’t go the way you wanted. But I do agree with your friend … things usually work out. Often times for the better.
Second, good luck with the final stages of your pregnancy. The end point in sight and you’ll be able to celebrate soon!

As far as having an end point in sight …
Well, I second Quantum sage advice. Just submit the damned thesis now and drink a few celebratory pints … of … of … umm milk.
Its time to move on. So Set a deadline. Say … two days from now. Then stop tweaking. Tell your inner critic that you know that your WIP isn’t perfect. But that is Perfectly okay. The point is to finish. And turning in a finished manuscript, one that is polished, but not necessarily perfect, was your assignment. So Finish the darn thing. Turn it in. Do not dwell upon you manuscript’s supposed imperfections. Perfection was not the assignment. Finishing was.
So … set that deadline to stop tweaking. Stick to that timeline. Submit the damned thing. Then?
Celebrate the fact that you accomplished The Goal you were trying to reach … which was finishing your thesis.
That’s is what is important here … you accomplished The Goal !

Bosun said...

You guys have to read this.

Donna said...

Terri, that was hilarious -- especially the part about everyone who praised her work was wrong. LOL

Julie, you are so right about the goal being to finish, not to achieve perfection. I remember seeing that in an interview with Francis Ford Coppola (I think) -- it was the same thing about "you're never done, you just run out of time".

2nd Chance said...

Great link there, Bo'sun!

I did hesitate to use the word bored, but if the flavor works... And Hal, you're right, it isn't that it isn't still magical for a new reader. I'm just...done.

I say, yes! Hand it in! Before Monday! ;-)

Bosun said...

I know, #27 cracks me up. LOL!

We need to make that our mantra. Perfection is NOT what we're shooting for here. Perfection is UNATTAINABLE.

Shoot for telling a good story as well as you can tell it. That's the real goal. And pray for the ability to know when you've done all you can. Toughest part, right there.

Hal said...

Ohh Marn and Ter are going to do 30k a month? That sounds like an awesome goal, guys. And doable for a first draft. I'm excited to be a cheering squad for this!!

Hal said...

Julie, excellent advice! And you're right - finishing is the point right now, not perfection.

I need to follow Ter's advice as well, and write "Perfection is UNATTAINABLE" somewhere really big where I can't miss it *g*

Bosun said...

To be clear, I need to plot this bad boy first. LOL! 30K marathons can't start for me until March at the earliest. Considering last year I wrote the final half of my book in March, April, and May, I think this is the perfect time for this endeavor.

I need a new posterboard and a couple good markers. And to find all the images I printed of Ocracoke Island.

2nd Chance said...

Uh oh...Posterboard, colored markers, post its... It's an attack of SCAPE!


Bosun said...

And I have lots of Post-its. LOL! Hellie loaded me up! I even have star shaped ones for the really important stuff. My current storyboard has one orange star. It says, "Dance & Sex".


Bosun said...

Nah, I'm nowhere near her level. I just need tools to turn the stuff in my head into something that makes sense that I can reference. It's like having a giant snapshot of your book.

Hal said...

It’s like having a giant snapshot of your book.

I love this idea. I'm such a visual person, I love having something to "see." I have big dry erase boards where I make charts/notes -- I just need to do something with actual pictures.

Bosun said...

I printed off a ton of pics of Ocracoke Island, since this time my setting is a real place. I also have a map with all the street names. Fortunately, the island is only three miles long with only 1 mile actually populated.

A lot of the storyboard and pics come about after I've written what inspires them. But I need the visuals to keep me coming up with new bits. And to keep me excited about the story. There's one tiny scene that happens on a ferris wheel in the current MS, but seeing the pic I have of one reminds me even when I'm 200 pages away.

When you're focused on one scene and you feel it's not working, it's easy to think the whole thing is crap. But seeing visual elements you know are in there, reminds me that I have a lot of good stuff between those pages.

Bosun said...

That is such a rambling, non-sensical comment. LOL!

Short version - I need the visuals. LOL!

Scapegoat said...

I think Hal's comment sounded an awful lot like she's caught my uber-organizer virus!

Protect yourself or it will take over your life!

Side note: Finally found out I interview tomorrow for my own job bascially. Wahoo this should be tons of fun, but I'm glad it will be over and I can figure out what's going on. Crossing my fingers!

Hal said...

Oh yeah, I've definitely got the uber-organizer virus too. I literally have a room with huge dry erase panels on the walls, and they're all covered in plotting charts. It's absurd :)

Bosun said...

Maybe it's good I don't have that kind of wall space.

Good luck, Scape! Though, are you competing against other applicants for your own job?!

Hal said...

Ter - it made perfect sense to me! I love seeing the collages on Jenny Crusie's blog, because they give you such a *feel* of the book. She somehow manages to capture the emotion in the mix of pictures, and I think that does amazing things for helping a writer keep in that mindset and tone. I haven't been able to pull it off myself (WHERE does she get all those pictures????) but I love the concept. I know she sometimes does workshops on collaging - I need to track one of those down at a conferece.

Julie said...

“Oh? I like visuals too”
*Julie stops doing her Dorothy Hamill impression on her hardwood floors*
“And did Terri say Stupid eye balls? Where’s Hellion? She hates eyeball talk … especially talk having an end point in sight … Or should that be a pointy end? “Hooks Hellion. HOOKS!” LOL
“Hooks are in books. And in eyeeeeee…”
Don’t ask. And maybe I did go overboard with my descriptive phrasing in our last convo. But it was worth her reaction.
“Hooks,” Hellion “Hooks!”

Bosun said...

I think Crusie does those collages before she writes the book. And for me, those are too chaotic. Clearly, they work for her! Mine are like my writing, sparse. LOL!

Mine morph and come about as the book comes about. I need the post-its because it's constantly changing. My current profile pic on Facebook is what I'm calling my Inspiration Wall for Playing For Keeps. All of it came about as I went and none of it was there before page 80. :)

Bosun said...

Hellie seems to have contracted narcolepsy. Who knew a snowstorm could bring that on?

Julie said...

Back to books,
Turn it in, Hal. that way you'll have time for fun stuff ... like those story collages!

Julie said...

Maybe she is a Vampire ...

2nd Chance said...

Polar bear?

Bosun said...

How in the Hell could it only be 10 til 3? Seriously? I came in late and it still feels like I've been here ten hours.

Marnee said...

I'm not sure I can do 30K a month. I might be able to do 20K a month (5K a week). It's been hard for that. But I guess there's no reason for me to have the same sort of set up as you, if we're going toward the same goal. And honestly, I can probably start with my goal here this month and just get a jump on you so we can finish at the same time.

That's what I'll do. 20K a month for the next four months. Shoot for 80K by end of May.

Okay.... And.... Break!

Go Ter, Go!!

Bosun said...

I knew you had a head start. LOL! And in all honestly, if I hit 30K a month, I'd be uber surprised. But having that as a goal might get me close.

It's kind of like how Chance has to trick her muse into plotting but not let her know she's plotting. I'm tricking my brain into thinking it has to hit one number just to make sure she works a little harder.

And I'm not sure when my brain became separate from the rest of me but since she's typing this, I'm guessing the jig is up already. Damn.

Hellion said...

Bo'sun is obsessed with my sleep habits. I honestly think she could live on about four hours sleep--and being she has a kid, she probably considers it second nature to live on four hours. Me, I took my appreciation for SLEEP into consideration where kids were concerned.

And I am a vampire, thanks.

It's like my clock has been reversed. I've been going to bed at three; and not really waking up fully until about three. It's crazy. And then there are all the weird ass dreams I've been having.

As for Taco Bell--love it! The meat is no less fake than the meat in a Lean Cuisine. Have you READ the ingredients list for a frozen meal? They boil the meat, press it, and reshape it into chicken like pieces. WHAT?

As for my revisions (or writing) being like a Taco Bell, um, I'm more like to have a "Taco Bell Coming Soon" and the sign has been there fifteen years. And then across town is a similar sign, "McDonald's Coming Soon" and it's been five years. Pick a horse and ride it already.

Hal said...

They boil the meat, press it, and reshape it into chicken like pieces. WHAT?

Ewwwww. I knew there was a reason I couldn't stomach those. I kinda like the vegetarian ones, but the meat creeps me out.

(though I adore Taco Bell nachos bell grande....mmmmm)