Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T = Take a Step Back


Once you’ve written your first draft, get away from it for a short bit. Some say a week; some say a month or two. I don’t know that the length of time matters as much as the distance itself.

When you’ve invested the time and effort into writing a story that your own mind created, it’s hardly surprising that you’re not objective about it. The story is great! The characters are great! Your working title is . . . yep, great! Everything is shooting out rainbows, unicorns are prancing across the page, and you can hear Morgan Freeman reading for your audiobook.

If you give it a little rest, though, you’ll find it’s easier to spot the things that need work. Something that sounds great at three a.m. often looks a bit less special by the light of day. Your manuscript is no different.

In the same way, if you’re struggling to make things “fit” in your story, walk away and focus on something else. If you have another story idea with characters in your head, saying, “Write me next,” then write up an outline and some basic points you want to cover. It might be exactly what you need to get the creativity on track once again. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, after all. You’ll go back to the main project ready to go with a fresh attitude.

46 comments:

  1. I definitely agree about taking some time away from a piece, getting some distance from it. I find that doing something else, whether working a different creative muscle, like creating art or cooking, or performing a more mundane task, like organizing or cleaning, can help clear my mind a bit, too.

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    1. Madeline, I use the same method as you do: I cook, or I shut my brain down and ride my bike, enjoying the scenery. There's something great about running on autopilot once in awhile.

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    2. I have this ritual I do that requires lots of massage lotion and privacy and that helps me relax and refocus on my work.

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  2. That is a good idea in anything. Step back and take a look at the Book, situation, whatever. I put down one book for a year before I went back to look at it. That not only allows you to look at it more objectively, it also allows you to read it without your brain automatically filling in blanks or reading over errors because you KNOW what it is supposed to say not What it says.

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    1. Different time frames for different people, but the goal is the same: every word isn't already stuck in your brain. My mind plays tricks on me all the time—but that's for a different day, different post.

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    2. Yeah, I am not saying a year is for everyone. I waqs actually working on another book (Blood and Steel) while the other rested.

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  3. Oh, yes! I got blocked halfway through a novel three years ago. The prose was evocative, the dialogue sparkled, but I couldn't find my way past a plot impasse, so I set it aside to work on something else. I just found it in a packed-away junk box. I think I'm going to blow right through the plot impasse... Right after I fix all the lame description and pithy dialogue!

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    1. Pithy dialogue? I don't know why, but I really love that description!

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    2. I once found a journal of mine from years ago and flipped through a variety of pages out of curiosity. I was stunned at how I actually sounded like I knew what I was talking about, so it must have been before the kids stole my grey cells. But more often than not, it's the opposite effect. I look back and wonder who sneaked in and changed my words.

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  4. As always, Lynda, excellent advice. I suffer often from three a.m. tunnel vision. I go to bed patting myself on the back for my clever prose and wake the next morning appalled. LOL

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    1. I think of it like the proverbial Beer Goggles. Everything looks great at 2 a.m....but the next day...whoa.

      *laughing* I can picture you heading off to bed with a little bounce in your step, proud that you've conquered the literary world yet again.

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  5. I'm walking away right now from my original comment. Them rainbows and unicorns are confusing me...I'll be back later after I've taken a break, re-read, and revised. I think this is a good advice all around. Clearly. (Also, I'm going to hunt down Morgan Freeman so he can read it to you.)

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    1. I knew I could count on you to use your connections to nab Morgan Freeman for me. You rock! And if he's not available, I'm okay with Alan Rickman. Either of them can read me the back of a cereal box and I'd be happy.

      "Whole grains...honey...gluten-free oats...raw sugar..." Sigh...

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    2. Morgan Freeman:
      "Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happens—that stillness becomes a radiance."
      Exactly, Morgan. Exactly. Now go do your thing, I'll catch you later.

      Lynda, he didn't want to read what I wrote...but I think we can still interpret that and apply it to your post.

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    3. Oh figures you'd reply at the same time Morgan is talking...shame on you! Alan couldn't make it in time from London, but he says hello.

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    4. I can't believe you got them to stop doing both my books to do yours. Wow, you connections are powerful, My Lady. (Bows in respect)

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  6. Maybe that's what I need to do right now, since I can't seem to get into it all. Thanks.

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    1. It's amazing how refreshing it is to just walk away for even a short while. I find there are certain tasks that I need the right frame of mind in order to focus. I can look at the same pile of clutter every day, but there's that *one* day when I look at it and everything sorts itself out in my mind. That's the day to tackle it. Same with writing.

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  7. I've stepped away and now all see are all fault lines. Blech. I keep telling myself that it will work itself out. As you say, maybe I should start working on something else so that I can gain perspective.

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    1. Do something silly like sorting through your recipe collection, brush your cat, mow the lawn, whatever it takes. The fault lines might still be there but you'll be ready to tackle them.

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  8. That's good advice. I finished the first draft of my WIP in October, so it was just in time for NaNoWriMo and I spent that month focusing on something else. By the time November ended, I couldn't wait get back to my book and start editing!

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    1. Oooh, you had a built-in distraction. That's probably the ideal situation.

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  9. My attitude always needs freshening after spending months wrapped up inside a story. It's kind of like having house guests for longer than you expected. You're glad to see them go away and give you a breather.

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    1. My attitude always needs refreshed after house guests. I love them, but it doesn't mean I want all of them snuggling in my bed.

      A little bit of distance can be a good thing.

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  10. I was thinking earlier today that the distance between myself and my book is probably a good thing in terms of whenever I look at it again.

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    1. It's always nice to approach your own work with an attitude other than, "Oh, great. YOU again."

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  11. Good advice! I like to take time away from the manuscript, work on another, and then come back when I'm finished.

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    1. I would think multiple projects would help, rather than hinder.

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  12. A manuscript, like revenge, is best done cold.

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    1. Oooh, the Dark Side of Elizabeth Seckman. I like it!

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  13. I think if you really want to know if your story holds up then you need it read by Christopher Walken.

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    1. I would be afraid to listen to it, even while feeling compelled to stick around for it.

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  14. Stepping back helps so often in writing. I do it for everything. Critiques, drafts, revisions. I need some time to sit with things.

    Brandon Ax: Writer's Storm

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    1. It really does help to clear your head!

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  15. I think I took too many steps back and can't figure out how to return to what I was working on!
    Real life sucks. :-(
    Thank you so much for visiting Crazy Town in Looney Land!

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    1. Oh, no! Get back on that horse. Or back to that desk. Or something like that.

      And yepper, real life does sometimes suck.

      I really enjoy your blog. It's always uplifting. :)

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  16. This month is forcing me to step back, but I admit I usually don't. By the time I finish, I've forgotten how it began.

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    1. I'm laughing here at the thought of you typing "the end" and going back to the beginning to read this "fresh new book" you found on your desk.

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  17. Hi Lynda,

    I do consider getting away from the writing, having some experiences out there in the great outdoors, gives me a new perspective on whatever I'm writing. Positive distractions are such an attraction. If all else fails, Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet superstar does my revisions. What a dawg! :)

    Gary

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    1. I love getting outside to clear my head. A nice long bike ride usually does me a world of good! I'll bet Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet superstar is great for revisions as well as distractions.

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  18. Are you saying that if I wait a while, then Morgan Freeman really will be the voice of my audiobook? Promise me.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. We'll book him to read a bedtime story to you, Janie. Pinky swear.

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  19. This is really good advice! I usually set stories aside for 1-4 months before final edits.

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    1. That seems to be a nice time range, Nicole. Long enough that it's fresh again but not so long that you've forgotten your characters' names.

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  20. I stepped away, but I forgot I was on the parapet of a high-rise.




    Luckily my safety line caught me.




    I can almost see the relief in your eyes.

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