Friday, July 10, 2009

Breaking the Code

This was my week for making a serious dent in my writing. For the first time in over a month, the kids are busy all morning, and I figured I would disappear into my local coffee shop and write, write, write.

Of course, the best plans of mice and men....

The problem has been part just getting back into things, and part the struggle so many of my friends seem to be in: do I revise as I go or move on?

I've advised all of them to move on. My code: Keep moving forward. You can get stuck forever trying to get what you've already written right, and never write anything else. Move on. Get it done. Then revise.

I think that's the best plan of attack. Except when it's not.

Sometimes, revision is about making the writing tighter, better, more vivid, more detailed, deeper. Sometimes revision is making it better. And that can wait until it's done.

But sometimes, revision is about a major overhaul. Sometimes, part way through writing, the story or character take over, and then suddenly you have a different story altogether. Or the structure of the story changes.

In that case, I think it's wise to stop and go back. If you know big things need to change, rather than changing it all midstream, it makes sense to go back and fix what's wrong so that there isn't a complete switch in the middle of the manuscript. If for no other reason, I think mentally it makes a difference when you are writing.

One of my writing partners recently had to do this, and now I find myself in the same position.

When I went back after my hiatus and looked at my book, something wasn't working. To be truthful, it was never working, which is why it was so easy for me to suddenly find less time to work on it. When I sat to write in those few stolen moments here and there, something was wrong. I knew what it was that didn't work, but I didn't know how to fix it. And I couldn't keep writing knowing that everything I wrote was eventually going to have to change in the face of major revisions whenever I figured out what to do with it.

Then, one of my brilliant writing partners said something which suddenly cleared it all up.


Now I have a new structure for the book: a more unique and creative one which will totally support the plot and serve to fix every problem I had as I was writing.

It means I need to go back and start rewriting now; I won't have to dump everything I've written, but I will have to completely revamp it. If I weren't so excited about it I'd be frustrated. But I think it's a great change, exactly what this needs. So I am back at square one; or square two maybe.

Lessons learned?

Sometimes it's okay to break your own code.

And also: writing groups totally ROCK!

And also: writing sometimes is really hard. Even when all the pieces are there, and when you're excited, and when you know the whole story in your head. The writing itself is hard.

Which makes me admire every single one of you who have put enough words to paper to be able to type the final words: the end.


  1. Woo-hoo! I'm so glad you're feeling it again. I'm excited for you.

    Breaking the code . . .awesome.

    So now, here I am, wondering if I should do the same. I'd made my mind up to continue the end, finish it and then revamp the thing. I may start over at the beginning.

    Good luck!

    And yes, anyone who has ever written a novel completely .. . .whether it is published or not .... deserves my praise!

  2. "Now I have a new structure for the book: a more unique and creative one which will totally support the plot and serve to fix every problem I had as I was writing." that should make things easier.

    I love my writing group. Without them I don't think I'd still be writing. At least with them I have an audience.

  3. Even though my initial reaction to revising resembles a petulant child, once I get into it the fun starts.

    I'm glad you're finding the time to write and figure things out. It's all about finding solutions to problems- that's what keeps me moving =)