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Thread: The problem of attachment

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW kaylim's Avatar
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    The problem of attachment

    Hey all. Long time, no see.

    I finished my first novel about three months ago and have just recently started revising. However, I've encountered a problem that I think I should have probably expected but wasn't prepared for.

    I'm way too attached to my writing.

    I mean, if my opinion counted in any sense, I would say my story is awesome and I love it. It isn't hyperbolic either. I am literally in love with my writing. But I also know objectively, especially since this is the first novel I ever completed, that there has to be universal problems within the plot and the characters. But somehow, the fact that I enjoy my own writing so much makes me concerned that when I give it to the others to read, they are going to knock me down so many pegs that I may just give up on writing completely.

    I was wondering if anyone has had similar problems in the past and, if so, how they managed to overcome it? Thanks in advance for all replies.

  2. #2
    practical experience, FTW Maze Runner's Avatar
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    Haha, a few rejections and you'll be cured of that. No, I do understand the attachment thing, but the way I see it for myself is lack of objectivity. You wrote 'em, so that's how you think the words should read--otherwise, you'd have a written them in a different way. Distance might help. Don't look at it for a while.

  3. #3
    practical experience, FTW kaylim's Avatar
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    I think I just need someone to tell me politely that my novel sucks. In all probability, they'll be right.

    I did take three months off after I finished it though. Maybe I should've taken more time.

  4. #4
    practical experience, FTW Maze Runner's Avatar
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    Well, three months is a good amount of time. Hey, maybe it's as good as you think. Such things happen, you know.

  5. #5
    practical experience, FTW Shoeless's Avatar
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    I think an important step forward is to not get attached to the words, so much as get attached to the entirety of the work. If this really is your first novel, you might be in that top 0.001% that somehow manages to nail it right on the first try ever. But in most cases, your first novel probably means there are ways to improve it. You may be right, and you may love your words, but your words not ALL of the novel. Your novel is also pacing, characterization, motivations, plot structure, and a bunch of other things, all of which are only tangentially contingent on the quality of the words. Once people start pointing out alternatives to a scene, or more believable plot developments, or even more interesting character arcs or character moments, you may completely fall in love with those suggestions, and realize that even if they're not words, they are still things that can hugely improve your novel.

    Your words are just a part of what makes a story good, and you should enjoy putting them together one after the other, and feel proud of what you've done. But you should also understand that there's a whole huge, underlying framework beyond just a particular turn of phrase that truly determines whether you have a story where people want to know what happens to these characters next, or just like the way a sentence sounds, but couldn't care less about what's actually happening.

    So I'd say, if you really love your writing, then take pride in the fact that you're good at stringing together sentences, and then look into seeing how you can improve what those sentences are actually trying to communicate. If your style is strong, you've won part of the battle, now make sure you've got a story underneath all that worth putting those pretty words around.
    Last edited by Shoeless; 10-18-2017 at 04:38 AM.

  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW kaylim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maze Runner View Post
    Well, three months is a good amount of time. Hey, maybe it's as good as you think. Such things happen, you know.
    If that's true, you can call me Ernest Hemingway ... Actually don't because I really don't like his writing as much as people tell me I should.

    Nah, but I was exaggerating a little bit in my original post. I know there are problems and I can even identify a few of them on my own. I probably just need a fresh pair of eyes so I don't completely overlook the obvious.

  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW
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    Quote Originally Posted by kaylim View Post
    I finished my first novel about three months ago
    Define "finished".

    caw
    Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.

    -- Terry Pratchett

  8. #8
    practical experience, FTW cornflake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kaylim View Post
    Hey all. Long time, no see.

    I finished my first novel about three months ago and have just recently started revising. However, I've encountered a problem that I think I should have probably expected but wasn't prepared for.

    I'm way too attached to my writing.

    I mean, if my opinion counted in any sense, I would say my story is awesome and I love it. It isn't hyperbolic either. I am literally in love with my writing. But I also know objectively, especially since this is the first novel I ever completed, that there has to be universal problems within the plot and the characters. But somehow, the fact that I enjoy my own writing so much makes me concerned that when I give it to the others to read, they are going to knock me down so many pegs that I may just give up on writing completely.

    I was wondering if anyone has had similar problems in the past and, if so, how they managed to overcome it? Thanks in advance for all replies.
    What else do you like to do or have you ever done?

    Ever watched a little kid play a sport? They are *so excited* and work hard and think they are the best and you, watching them run into each other, miss things by a mile, get distracted by something and forget what they're doing, know better. Most are terrible, but with practice and learning and playing with other kids, they improve.

    Some kids are really good from the start -- a friend of mine coaches 7-9 year olds, has for years and years, and has had two players make the major leagues. He knew they would, a decade in advance, no question, and they're the only ones he's thought would -- but they're not as good as they'll be after practice and learning rules, tricks and tips and honing skills.

    In my experience, kids who are serious about playing learn much earlier than most people how to self-evaluate. They're evaluated by coaches, other players, they evaluate their own teammates and competition, and the more they learn and improve and learn how to assess everything, the more they see what they do in a clearer light. Serious players watch tape of themselves playing, to help them see what they do wrong and improve. I've met 14-year-olds whose parents will wax on about how incredible the kids are while the kids themselves can correctly place themselves in a category.

    People who just play for fun play for fun -- it's not necessary (or generally fun) to constantly be evaluating how well you're doing at something. If you just like to play baseball, you're not watching tape of yourself to improve your stance.

    If you just want to write for you, you don't need to grow a thicker skin w/re criticism. If you want to write with a goal of trade publishing, imo, you're better off thinking of your writing not like your baby, your soul, whatever, but as a thing you do, like a sport. You can improve upon it, you can get good coaches, you can strive for the majors, but you have to accept that good coaches don't just tell you you're doing awesome. They will point out every flaw they see, in an effort to improve your skill -- they will sit you down and make you watch tapes of yourself fucking up. It's a positive. Eventually, you get to a level you put in the game tape yourself.

  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW
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    Archive it. Now your beloved draft is intact and there when you want it. A new revision is a different work, and you can convince yourself that there is no loss.

  10. #10
    practical experience, FTW neandermagnon's Avatar
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    Yes. *raises hand* I don't think it's a rare problem at all. You do need to overcome it though, because in order to improve you need to be open to feedback. (Unless, as stated previous, you only want to write for yourself and no-one else.. then you can do whatever you like and think whatever you like about it.)

    First of all, I would say leave it for a month or two, don't even read it in this time, then come back to it and edit it again. This distances you from your work and enables you to pick up more issues than you do when you edit anything directly after writing it. It also removes some of the emotional connection and makes it easier to think rationally about it (including both your own ability to spot problems, and your ability to take criticism from others on board.)

    You can start gently with getting feedback from others. Maybe post a small part of it in the share your work section - you can ask critiquers to go gently on you 'cause it's your first time being critiqued. If, after reading some critiques, you have strong emotions, remind yourself that it's totally normal and okay to feel like that, but don't respond to the critiques or even try to make sense of them at that point. Wait until the emotions subside and you can view the critiques rationally before responding or doing anything to your manuscript. (This also applies for positive emotions like excitement - sometimes people get excited and hastily try to fix the issues and the edit ends up making things worse because they're all rushed.) At that point you usually then find that there's a whole load of really useful advice and help in the critiques and it's there to help you make your story even better. You don't have to follow all suggestions if they don't fit with what you're aiming at. And take your time in fixing any issues. Give your brain time to properly absorb the feedback and figure out how it's going to fit in with your vision of where you're going with the story.

    You passionately love your story, right? Critique is going to make it even better. And make it easier for others to fall in love with your story and characters. Also remember that whatever problems are identified - you can fix them and make the story even better. If you go into critiquing with that in mind, it stops you from getting discouraged and wanting to give up.
    my blog - cave people and stuff - an imaginative look at palaeolithic life: http://cavepeopleandstuff.wordpress.com/

  11. #11
    practical experience, FTW kaylim's Avatar
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    Deleted.
    Last edited by kaylim; 10-18-2017 at 11:17 AM. Reason: Nevermind. Probably wrong place to voice this.

  12. #12
    figuring it all out
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    Hi Kaylim, I know how you feel! It just means you're at the beginning of a long journey, and it's largely up to you where you want to go. If you want to improve as a writer faster, you should study books you love and/or that have some similarities to what you write, study the techniques you need help with, approach your story like it's a thing outside of yourself -- like an antique walnut table -- that needs repairing, varnishing, polishing. The advice above loving your story but not the words is excellent too. The words may change massively as you revise, but the heart of the story, the things you love about it, should stay the same. I learned that the hard way with my first publishable novel, which needed major revisions to refine it though the writing itself was generally good.

    So maybe this is the moment when you go through the book identifying what you feel its weaknesses are, not in the prose, but in the other bigger elements (plot, characterization, focus, pacing etc). Focus on those, and let the prose evolve as needed until you feel ready to analyze the story at that micro level. After that, if you haven't had anyone look at your writing before, it'll be time to take the plunge and get a critique on this site or from someone who will be honest about the writing regardless of how they feel about you as a person.

    Did I mention this is a long journey?

  13. #13
    practical experience, FTW cornflake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kaylim View Post
    I'm a serious writer and I've had a ton of negative critiques in the past that I didn't get offended by. But honestly, I was offended by some of the things you said when you critiqued my side project in SYW. Saying something like, "and you call yourself a journalist" I thought was very inappropriate because it had nothing to do with my writing but my chosen profession. I definitely should not have been argumentative about a minor point in the story but there you have it. This might not be the right place for me to voice this and if the mods want to delete this they can, but its the reason I stopped coming on this forum for several months.
    I can't find where I said that, nor would I say that to a poster here. I also can't find where I posted on any SYW excerpt of yours anyplace close to the last time you posted. I did find this thread, in which I -- and several other posters -questioned what you were claiming, and I did bring up that you wanted to be a journalist and thus clarity was important to stories, but it's not in SYW and I'm certainly not the only poster who had questions so...

    If you have a problem with someone's post, you can click the triangle and report it to the mods.

  14. #14
    practical experience, FTW kaylim's Avatar
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    I used to get a lot of negative critiques at different forums and in-person writers workshops. To be honest, the harshest ones I've ever gotten were on this site. It's not like I can't handle a critique but then again I've had long lapses where I didn't write or share my work for awhile.

    I consider myself a serious writer though. I'm studying to be a journalist but--like a lot of journalists I think--I really want to write fiction.

    Thanks for all the replies though. It's very helpful.

  15. #15
    practical experience, FTW kaylim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cornflake View Post
    I can't find where I said that, nor would I say that to a poster here. I also can't find where I posted on any SYW excerpt of yours anyplace close to the last time you posted. I did find this thread, in which I -- and several other posters -questioned what you were claiming, and I did bring up that you wanted to be a journalist and thus clarity was important to stories, but it's not in SYW and I'm certainly not the only poster who had questions so...

    If you have a problem with someone's post, you can click the triangle and report it to the mods.
    Cornflake I wouldn't mind showing you the thread via PM but I deleted my original post and I think it would be a good idea if you did the same, lest we derail this thread.

  16. #16
    please distract me mccardey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kaylim View Post
    I am literally in love with my writing. But I also know objectively, especially since this is the first novel I ever completed.
    Disengage. You will benefit from critique, but you can't be in love with your writing (um - no you are not literally in love with your writing because that isn't possible) and benefit from critique. You just can't. And this isn't a vicious slam because I haven't read your writing. It's just that yanno - being proudly in love with your own writing at this stage of the game won't help you.

    I say this with love.

    Well - affection.

  17. #17
    practical experience, FTW kaylim's Avatar
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    I was using the term love very loosely. And yeah I guess I can't literally be in love with my draft. It isn't Moby Dick.

  18. #18
    please distract me mccardey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kaylim View Post
    I was using the term love very loosely. And yeah I guess I can't literally be in love with my draft. It isn't Moby Dick.
    Even if your writing was Moby Dick, could you be literally in love with it?

    Unrewarding, I would think.

  19. #19
    ....... Harlequin's Avatar
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    I've been in a lot of crit groups and AW is among the harsher ones, yes.

    It's also the place where you tend to find the most actual writers, as opposed to aspiring writers who are still learning craft, and actual editors.

    So there is a huge difference in how the feedback should be weighted.
    Deferential, glad to be of use,
    Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
    Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
    At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
    Almost, at times, the Fool.


  20. #20
    practical experience, FTW SciSarahTops's Avatar
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    I get where you're coming from, I'm dipping in and out of chapters now and I feel proud to read certain bits, surprised at how well I wrote in others. However I'm on draft 8 and have some work to do still taking out filtering, tinkering with plot structure and pacing issues, amping up antagonists etc. Like you I know where the problems are. I know it sounds arrogant but do think the bones of the story are great, I would have lapped it up as a young girl. I get emotional during the sad bits, swoony during the romantic bits. It's nice.
    Not much grows under the cloud of perfectionism.
    @serensavara

  21. #21
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Hmm this is a very good and useful thread, thank you for posting it. I feel the same way about my story and writing really, and it's also my first novel, but the thing is I never stopped questioning it. From the very beginning a month ago I went with a certain mindset ; will readers understand the message, are the motives of the characters clear enough.. hey this castle is here, but the city is over there, there's no way that this army can make it in time for a certain event.. I see 5 "he's" in last 3 rows let me try change that.. these words sound tongue twisting, maybe I'll make it simpler or in other parts more complex etc.. or does this part make sense when I go few chapters back and read what led to it? ..and if the answer is, it doesn't, then keeping that part unchanged only makes even less My biggest fears are not the harshness of critique but rather not finding a way to improve the weak spots adequately and replace the mistakes in a right way. In other words I fear that in an attempt to change certain parts based on the feedback, I might screw up more than I originally did lol ..also that someone will steal my idea because I dear to say it belongs to more original ones out there.
    My strength, if you can call that a strength lol .. is that I forget about it easily, cause I don't just enjoy in this. No matter how excited I am (and I've never been this excited) there are plenty of other things I enjoy in, and when I'm doing them I very easily forget about it, what was written and everything, so when I get back to certain parts I wrote few days ago it almost feels fresh and like reading something new. Another one is that I'm very much in touch with my feelings and I recognize the different shades that I feel when reading my work which serves me to detect the stronger and weaker parts of my novel. Ultimately I'll post a piece, probably. What I wanted to say is .. analyze, question, and when you're not sitting before it, forget about it. Also look into yourself for a clear vision of what your story and everything surrounding it should look like, so that when you receive a feedback and choose to implement it, you make sure it doesn't destabilize anything. As for the fears, they may be ever-present, but you govern their power. Rock on and good luck ^^

  22. #22
    Friendly Neighborhood Mustelidae The Otter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mccardey View Post
    um - no you are not literally in love with your writing because that isn't possible
    I dunno. If you did a brain scan on someone in the ecstatic creative throes of a first draft it might look similar to infatuation.

    In any case, I think it's healthy to start out with a little overconfidence. I have the opposite problem in that I tend to constantly second guess myself and hold back out of sheer gutlessness; I haven't had the uninhibited "oh my god, did this amazing thing just come out of my brain?" since I was like, 13.

    Don't worry, the critters will take you down a few pegs. In the meantime, enjoy the afterglow.
    Available in February 2018, my YA novel: WHEN MY HEART JOINS THE THOUSAND

  23. #23
    practical experience, FTW Shoeless's Avatar
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    I think it's important to realize that there's a difference between enjoying writing and loving your writing in particular. I am definitely not the most confident writer out there, so I don't do any self-affirmation stuff in front of mirror, where I snap my fingers, point at my reflection and say "HOT DAMN, YOU'RE AN AWESOME WRITER! I'M GLAD I'M ME!!" I just get on with telling whatever story happens to be occupying my mind at the time. On the other hand, I try to avoid being paralyzed by a nagging voice that asks, "Why bother? You suck. You know you suck, so just slink into your corner and go play more video games."

    The way I get around questions of loving my work or hating my work is by concentrating on the fact that I actually LIKE DOING the work. I don't worry too much about whether the writing is amazing, or whether everyone will say it's terrible, and instead focus on the idea, "Well, this story seems like a good idea, and I want to know how it turns out in the end for these characters. So let's just keep writing so I can at least find out if they come out of this okay." For me, personally, it's more productive to not concentrate on making sure I have a great book that people will love, or angsting about having a terrible book that no one will want to read. Instead I focus on having a story that interests me, that I enjoy seeing unfold, and then just trying to nurture that feeling of enjoyment until I type "--End--" on the final page of the novel.

    Then, once it's done, I start letting trusted readers show me how I can make what I just enjoyed writing better than what it originally was.

  24. #24
    please distract me mccardey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Otter View Post
    In any case, I think it's healthy to start out with a little overconfidence.
    Oh, it is, or it would all be impossible. But the OP says there's a problem because of being
    way too attached to my writing.
    I've known people - some of them good writers - for whom that was quite literally* true.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Otter View Post
    Don't worry, the critters will take you down a few pegs. In the meantime, enjoy the afterglow.
    This may also be also true
    Last edited by mccardey; 10-19-2017 at 12:55 AM. Reason: *see what I did there?

  25. #25
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin D_Shalayek's Avatar
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    Oh hey, Future Diary.

    I'm with you. I love my writing. Here's how I view it: I write for me. If other people like it too, awesome. If not, I can still say I put something out there.

    Just know that any critics that you have before it gets published are there to help you make it better. Listen to them, because they're looking at it with a fresh pair of eyes.

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