Cleaning Out Post Drafts

So I’m putting off real work again, but discovering that I have 60 drafts hanging around on WP is as good an excuse as any. I’m down to the last three chapters of what was supposed to be the final edit of Camp Expendable. But so many notes have accumulated that I need to evaluate and decide whether they’d be worth the trouble of adding in. That would mean another round or two of edits. Can I face that? As long as the book isn’t what I hoped it would be, I’ll have to. Maybe somewhere in those notes is the detail that will be the magic key.

Procrastination!  While I’m in the process of weeding out some of those old drafts, I might as well pass on a few of the thoughts they began with.

  1. Golden halos don’t really brush off. When you’re writing that all-important blurb, comparing your book to x, x, and x is the surest way to signal that you have no voice of your own.
  2. How much can your hero suffer? People stop reading books for all kinds of reasons. Bad writing, cardboard characters, dumb plot. But I’ve learned that they may also stop reading because you’ve given them a protagonist they like and sympathize with — and then hurt so badly that they just can’t deal with it. Do you need to find a balance, or should you just put your hero through whatever suffering fate seems to be decreeing, or the story needs?
  3. I am, by temperament, a bridge burner. Sometimes that’s a very good thing, and other times, it doesn’t work out so well. What’s most important is the willingness to accept the consequences.
  4. To what extent does the trackable data about our lives enable interested parties to determine who we are and what we want, and use that to their advantage? And how can we manipulate the image that is supposedly who we are, to our own advantage? How can we, as writers, explore the implications of data collection and interpretation in our fiction? The important question: Should we manipulate our data, if it’s to our advantage?
  5. I don’t write books that will ever be best sellers. I don’t aim to earn a living as a writer. I’m not, in any sense of the word, a professional writer. I write for the love of it — translating ideas into stories, bringing characters to life. But I don’t write just for the love of it. I want readers. I want to see some concrete benefit from spending hours and brain cells creating the books. Above all, I want to be a better writer than I am today, and even better on down the line.

11 thoughts on “Cleaning Out Post Drafts

  1. So, you’ve dumped that NaNo thing, and now you’re procrastinating. Tsk, tsk, tsk. (You’re supposed to imagine me wagging my finger at you.-) Just fooling with you. I don’t seem to have a problem with unplanned procrastination. Maybe that’s because I allow myself plenty of planned procrastination. I have no trouble getting in 500+ words every weekday, possibly because I write first thing in the morning before I allow myself to do anything else (except make coffee, of course.) Then I give myself every weekend off. And when I finish a chapter and type it up, I give myself the rest of that week off. When I finish a section of the novel — what I call an extension — I give myself some time off there, too. And of course there’s a big break when I finish the book. I admit to myself that I’m lazy and will always be a slow writer, so there’s no need for angst.

    Sorry for the wordiness. Thanks for the post.


    1. You’re calling yourself lazy? You sound disgustingly disciplined. Hate people like that. Just kidding, of course. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to set up some kind of writing routine and failed. And it isn’t just writing. I’m chronically disorganized and always have been. I suppose I can blame the ADD, but even the techniques suggested to work with that problem don’t make a dent. I do get things done, but it probably takes me several times as long as any normal person. You’re doing great to crank out 500 words a day. I wouldn’t call that lazy at all.

      1. Thanks, Catana, but I’d say what you get done against the odds is greater than what I do, given how disgustingly easy it is for me.-) Of course, I’m comparing that to what I could get done if I weren’t so lazy. 🙂


        1. I don’t really think there’s any way to make comparisons — or any need to. We each do what we can. If we can find a way to accomplish more, that’s great, but it should always be on our own terms.

  2. The way I write now, there are no drafts. I gather ALL I have that’s going into a scene, and it isn’t written until the whole thing is right – and then I never go back.

    All that angst comes at the planning stage, not the writing stage.

    We’re all different, but I find that my things have ONE way to be, and until I find it, I can’t move on. I think that’s getting easier, except that worrying about the election’s consequences had me paralyzed – until I figured it out yesterday, and decided to let better and better-informed people do the worrying. Today I got back to writing – so much easier on my soul.

    1. I’d love to write the way you do, but I have a sieve for a memory. I do lots and lots of planning and notes, sometimes years’ worth, but still have to add, revise, shift things around. Still, at least I can get a novel written now, unlike all those years when I had no way to get the material organized and keep it organized. I owe most of it to Scrivener, rather than increased discipline and experience. Without it, or something similar, I’d still be unable to complete anything.

      And yes, try to let the politics go. We can’t do a damned thing about it. One advantage of old age is that I can look at it as a more or less objective observer whose life isn’t going to be affected much, however it comes out. The grandkids, though…

      1. The trick is: I don’t use memory. Mine is also a sieve.

        But I work in chunks that are small enough to function in: a scene, a beat within the scene, a part of a beat.

        After I have located all the pieces that go in a scene – and it may take me days or longer – I stick with it, because the gathering and arranging and wording (putting in the words) take so much of my time that I don’t want to have to go through the material ever again.

        My mind does the curious thing when I’ve reached the right point: it decides this is how something actually happened. It becomes canon. It crystallizes. And it becomes as real as life.

        So of course there’s no further dithering – you can’t change life.

        Very black and white.

        1. I like that. I really do. If you had told me that a few years back, I would have given it a try. Maybe I still could. I can think of one piece right now that could benefit from that approach. Because my problem is the dithering. I can always see more than one possible outcome to a story, and it’s making that choice that gets in the way. That’s where I get stuck. I think it may be a problem of temperament because I almost always see more angles than are apparent to most people, in any situation, and how it actually turns out seems so random. So I’ve wound up as a planner who becomes a pantser whenever it comes down to the nitty gritty details, reluctant to say, until I’m forced to, that this is the way it has to turn out. That’s been the holdup with Camp Expendable. I’ve finally worked my way through it, but it’s been a real pain. I’ll have to do some serious thinking about this. Much thanks.

  3. I’ve gotten so used to being the only person who writes as I do that I know of, that when you even think of trying my methodology, I got startled. Huh. Being taken seriously.

    I do the dithering in the gathering phase – not in the writing phase – because once the dithering is over, I know exactly what happens, and I can bring out the pretty words, and the character decorations, and the connections to themes, and the dialogue.

    DURING the dithering, as pieces get settled into concrete, I may write chunks of dialogue – and almost always use most of the chunk in the actual scene. But I only do that for things that have locked into place, because it is a lot of work, and I don’t like to throw out good work. I have a few scene pieces saved, and never go back to them (even though I say to myself I can if I want to). One of these days we’ll do ‘deleted scenes’ like they do on the DVDs, on the book site. I think, though, that when you remove a piece, it’s usually because you know darn well it is interfering with the story flow. Every deleted scene I’ve EVER seen on a DVD was quite forgettable. They shouldn’t even get to the filming stage, but should be discarded before all that work goes into them from costumers, cosmeticians, cast, and crew.

    But some people write movies as disorganizedly as others write novels. Good directors storyboard – which is the same as me filling in all those boxes in Dramatica, and my FIF lists of places in a novel you can increase suspense and tension (The Fire in Fiction, Donald Maass, lists them in Chapter 8 – I just turned it into something more formal for myself).

    When I finally go to the beat sheet to start fitting all my little tiles into this section of the mosaic, I have an awful lot of pieces – and the process starts allocating them into the beat structure. THEN I write.

    Obsessive – but it works for me, and I kind of like it, because the scene-writing process has distinct phases which END – and then the whole thing is done and satisfactory.

    Also, I hope some day to make the whole process much faster – and that’s only true if I am not open to revision forever, but only in the dithering phase.

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