View Full Version : Need encouragement to finish this stupid thing

05-22-2008, 08:05 PM
I've been working on The Ghost Machine for over two years now.

Here's a brief list of the working process:

Wrote first draft, let sit for three months.

Revised first draft on paper, revisions/rewrites in pen.

Transferred all rewrites to the Word document, further revising as I went.

After completing each chapter, went back and further revised previous chapter.

After second/third computer revisons on previous chapter(s), I printed out that chapter and further revised on paper. Then later, transferred revisions to the Word document and further revised.

Continued this way until just this past week when I finished typing in the changes and further revised the last few chapters, posted the Afterword in SYW Horror forum.

NOW, I've printed out the last 25 pages and am further revising them on paper because they Just Aren't Good Enough. Many portions still need fleshing out and more "flavor." I had subplots to wrap up and loose ends to tie up. Now I'm still reworking it. And reworking it. And reworking it.

I'm trying to make this draft either Perfect or Very Very Good. And it's taking forever.

I'm soooo close to finishing this draft (so I can start over and revise yet again), but it's bogging me down. I'm getting to the point now where everything looks bland and underdeveloped that I'm starting not to care.

Encourage me. Make me finish it, because I'm starting to not want to.


05-22-2008, 08:10 PM
It won't be perfect, but perfection as a goal can sure make you not finish. As long as you don't finish, you didn't fail to make it perfect. Make your goal achievable--a finished, polished ms. Claiming perfection/setting it as a goal has stopped more folks than death.

05-22-2008, 08:12 PM

Here, you encourage me to finish mine, and I'll encourage you to finish yours.

It's a pact.

Now get to work. I'm off to write some more now.

05-22-2008, 08:16 PM
If you finish it, publish it, and I like it. I'll buy a copy!

05-22-2008, 08:23 PM
I'm trying to make this draft either Perfect or Very Very Good. And it's taking forever.

There's your trouble right there.

Finish those last 25 pages and send the damn thing out.

You don't need encouragement to finish, you need confirmation that it's ok to send out work that you don't think is perfect. Let the editors and/or agents tell you what need revising instead of whisking out all the life of your story through incessant revisions.

05-22-2008, 08:29 PM
Somebody posted a novel check list somewhere here not long ago--argh...
--Aside from punctuation, grammar, spelling, etc.
--does every chapter have a hook & does each ch. end with something dramatic needing to be resolved?
--Are the characters differentiated? Do all the names sound appropriate and are they varied?

Got this from another site many years ago:

Critiquing Lexicon

"Said" Bookism: Artificial, literary verb used to avoid the perfectly good word "said." "Said" is one of the few invisible words in the language; it is almost impossible to overuse. Infinitely less distracting than "he retorted," "she inquired," or the all-time favorite, "he ejaculated."

Tom Swifty: Similar compulsion to follow the word "said" (or "said" bookish) with an adverb. As in, "'We'd better hurry,' said Tom swiftly." Remember that the adverb is a leech sucking the strength from a verb. 99% of the time it is clear from the context how something was said.

"Burly Detective" Syndrome: Fear of proper names. Found in most of the same pulp magazines that abound with "said" bookisms and Tom Swifties. This is where you can't call Mike Shayne "Shayne" but substitute "the burly detective" or "the red-headed sleuth." Like the "said" bookish it comes from the entirely wrong-headed conviction that you can't use the same word twice in the same sentence, paragraph, or even page. This is only true of particularly strong and highly visible words, like, say, "vertiginous." It's always better to re-use an ordinary, simple noun or verb rather than contrive a cumbersome method of avoiding it.

Eyeball Kick: That perfect, telling detail that creates an instant visual image. The ideal of certain postmodern schools of SF is to achieve a "crammed prose" full of "eyeball kicks."

Pushbutton: Words used to evoke an emotional response without engaging the intellect or critical faculties. IE: "song" or "poet" or "tears" or "dreams," supposed to make us misty-eyed without quite knowing why. Most often found in story titles.

Bathos: Sudden change in level of diction. "The massive hound barked in stentorian voice then made wee-wee on the carpet."

Brand Name Fever: Use of brand name alone, without accompanying visual detail, to create false verisimilitude. You can stock a future with Hondas and Sonys and IBM's and still have no idea with it looks like.

Countersinking: Expositional redundancy. Making the actions implied in a conversation explicit, e.g., "'Let's get out of here,' he said, urging her to leave."

Telling not Showing: Violates the cardinal rule of good writing. The reader should be allowed to react, not be instructed in *how* to react. Carefully observed details render authorial value judgments unnecessary. For instance, instead of telling us "she had a bad childhood, an unhappy childhood," specific incidents--involving, say, a locked closet and two jars of honey--should be shown.

Laughtrack: Characters give cues to the reader as to how to react. They laugh at their own jokes, cry at their own pain, and (unintentionally) feel everything so the reader doesn't have to.

Squid in the Mouth: Inappropriate humor in front of strangers. Basically the failure of an author to realize that certain assumptions or jokes are not shared by the world at large. In fact. the world at large will look upon such a writer as if they had a squid in their mouths.

Hand Waving: Distracting the reader with dazzling prose or other fireworks to keep them from noticing severe logic flaws.

You Can't Fire Me, I Quit: Attempt to diffuse lack of credibility with hand-waving. "I would never have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself." As if by anticipating the reader's objections the author had somehow answered them.

Fuzz: Element of motivation the author was too lazy to supply. The word "somehow" is an automatic tip-off to fuzzy areas of a story. "Somehow she forgot to bring her gun."

Dischism: Intrusion of author's physical surroundings or mental state into the narrative, ie: the character who always lights a cigarette when the author does, or is thinking about how they wished they hadn't quit smoking. In more subtle forms, the characters complain that they're confused and don't know what to do--when this is actually the author's condition.

Bogus Alternatives: List of actions a character could have taken, but didn't. Frequently includes all the reasons why. A type of Dischism in which the author works out complicated plot problems at the reader's expense. "If I'd gone along with the cops they would have found the gun in my purse. And anyway, I didn't want to spend the night in jail. I suppose I could have just run instead of stealing their car, but then..." etc. Best dispensed with entirely.

False Interiorization: Another Dischism, in which the author, too lazy to describe the surroundings, inflicts the viewpoint character with space sickness, a blindfold, etc.

White Room Syndrome: Author's imagination fails to provide details. Most common in the beginning of a story. "She awoke in a white room." The white room is obviously the white piece of paper confronting the author. The character has just woken up in order to ponder her circumstances and provide an excuse for infodump.

Infodump: Large chunk of indigestible expository matter intended to explain the background situation. This can be overt, as in fake newspaper or "Encyclopedia Galactica" articles inserted in the text, or covert, in which all actions stops as the author assumes center stage and lectures.

Stapeldon: Name assigned to the voice which takes center stage to lecture. Actually a common noun, as: "You have a Stapledon come on to answer this problem instead of showing the characters resolve it."

Card Tricks in the Dark: Authorial tricks to no visible purpose. The author has contrived an elaborate plot to arrive at a) the punchline of a joke no one else will get b) some bit of historical trivia. In other words, if the point of your story is that this kid is going to grow up to be Joseph of Arimathea, there should be sufficient internal evidence for us to figure this out.

The Jar of Tang: "For you see, we are all living in a jar of Tang!" or "For you see, I am a dog!" Mainstay of the old Twilight Zone TV show. An entire pointless story contrived so the author can cry "Fooled you!" This is a classic case of the difference between a conceit and an idea. "What if we all lived in a jar of Tang?" is an example of the former; "What if the revolutionaries from the sixties had been allowed to set up their own society?" is an example of the latter. Good SF requires ideas, not conceits.

Abbess phone home: Takes its name from a mainstream story about a medieval cloister which was sold as SF because of the serendipitous arrival of a UFO at the end. By extension, any mainstream story with a gratuitous SF or fantasy element tacked on so it could be sold.

Deus ex Machina: Miraculous solution to an otherwise insoluble problem. Look, the Martians all caught cold and died!

Plot Coupons: The true structure of the quest-type fantasy novel. The "hero" collects sufficient plot coupons (magic sword, magic book, magic cat) to send off to the author for the ending. Note that "the author" can be substituted for "the Gods" in such a work: "The Gods decreed he would pursue this quest." Right, mate. The author decreed he would pursue this quest until sufficient pages were filled to procure an advance.

"As You Know Bob": The most pernicious form of Info Dump. In which the characters tell each other things they already know, for the sake of getting the reader up to speed.

I've suffered for my Art: (and now it's your turn). Research dump. A form of Info Dump in which the author inflicts upon the reader irrelevant, but hard-won bits of data acquired while researching the story.

Reinventing the Wheel: In which the novice author goes to enormous lengths to create a situation already familiar to the experienced reader. You most often see this when a highly regarded mainstream writer tries to write an SF novel without actually reading any of the existing stuff first (because it's all obviously crap anyway). Thus you get endless explanations of, say, how an atomic war might get started by accident. Thank you, but we've all read that already. Also you get tedious explanations by physicists of how their interstellar drive works. Unless it impacts the plot, we don't care.

Used Background: Use of a background out of Central Casting. Rather than invent a background and have to explain it, or risk re-inventing the wheel, let's just steal one. We'll set it in the Star Trek Universe, only we'll call it the Empire instead of the Federation.

Space Western: The most pernicious suite of used furniture. The grizzled space captain swaggering into the spacer bar and slugging down a Jovian brandy, then laying down a few credits for a space hooker to give him a Galactic Rim Job.

The Edges of Ideas: The solution to the Info Dump problem (how to fill in the background). The theory is that, as above, the mechanics of an interstellar drive (the center of the idea) is not important: all that matters is the impact on your characters: they can get to other planets in a few months, and, oh yeah, it gives them hallucinations about past lives. Or, more radically: the physics of TV transmission is the center of an idea; on the edges of it we find people turning into couch potatoes because they no longer have to leave home for entertainment. Or, more bluntly: we don't need info dump at all. We just need a clear picture of how people's lives have been affected by their background. This is also known as "carrying extrapolation into the fabric of daily life."

The Grubby Apartment Story: Writing too much about what you know. The kind of story where the starving writer living in the grubby apartment writes a story about a starving writer in a grubby apartment. Stars all his friends.

Infohiding: Withholding crucial information from the reader that the POV knows. Used to create cheap tension without having a necessarily tense plot. "Bob felt all his energy focused as he pried off the heavy lid from the sarcophagus. Bob knew from the hieroglyphics what he'd find. Upon seeing its wondrous contents, he suddenly knew how he would wreak his revenge on Anne. He heard a noise. 'Keep back; you know me -- you know I'll shoot,' Bob warned the advancing figure." This jars the reader out of the POV's view, reminding them there's an Author out there pulling the strings. Solution: tell the reader outright anything the POV sees/knows that is of relevance; if it's not a tense item in itself, chances are it will be a letdown when the reader does find out, so make the thing itself tense, and let the reader share it with the POV. Alternatively, if you need to keep something hidden, present it from a POV who can't find out what's in there either; then the reader is not reminded they're not the POV (though the hidden thing itself should still be interesting and worthy of being hidden).

Author Needs You to Know: Dialog or action that blatantly has no purpose other than to educate the reader about some important story detail. Usually a failed attempt to smoothly work in an infodump; cousin of the As You Know Bob. "'Do you really need it spelled out?' Bob ranted. 'We [followed by explanation]..." Or, "So, boss, remind me what time I'm supposed to whack the president?" Or, "Say, Captain, do we have enough fuel to reach Tau Ceti, our destination, in our scheduled time of six months?"

The Capitalization Syndrome of Death: This is where the author, for some reason or another, feels like every Word deserves Capitalization so to heighten its Importance. Found most often in fantasy novels.

Random Hunting and Pecking: Writing words that are not pronouncable. Like Lymlpsfdash in a mock foreign language.

MacArthur: A bad manuscript which "shall return."

The Idiot Plot: This is a plot which can only work if every character is an idiot.

The Rug Jerk: Any gratuitous plot or character twist tossed in solely to jerk the rug out from under the reader for the sake of surprise or shock, without sufficient foundation, foreshadowing or justification (retroactive or otherwise). Essentially any story twist that violates Chekhov's principles: "If you fire a gun in Act III, it must be seen on the wall in Act I; and if you show a gun on the wall in Act I, it must be fired in Act III." The Rug Jerk fires the gun without showing it first or explaining where it came from afterwards.

The Reset Switch, aka The Reboot: Any device that allows a writer to completely erase any already-occurred events of a story and bring the characters back to a predefined starting point, with little or no changes to them or their universe. Time travel ("It never happened"), parallel universes ("It never happened *here*"), unconscious duplicates ("We're all just clones/simulations/androids of the REAL characters!") and dream-sequences ("It was all a dream!") have all been used this way. To be avoided unless the existence of such a phenomenon is, itself, the story's or series' central plot point (as in *The Man Who Folded Himself* or *The Left Hand of Darkness*).

05-22-2008, 08:31 PM
Less posting, more writing.

In other words, make a pact with yourself--NO MORE INTERNET UNTIL IT'S DONE! Then get your BIC and finish the damn thing.

But wait! Before you do another revision, get a few beta reads or a hard line edit done by someone else. We all have our standards of 'perfect' or 'very very good' and they are usually unattainable with our own work. It doesn't sound to me like you'd ever be willing to stop revising this piece because you aren't willing to set a reasonable boundary. Perfection is impossible. I'm doing a final proof on one of my books right at this very moment and I'm still finding a few (very few) little boo-boos that have caused me to hyperventilate severely.

Get fresh eyes to look at it. THEN consider your options. And if you need any help, pm me and let me know.

Good luck--and GET TO WORK.


05-22-2008, 08:33 PM
Yes, what James said.

It doesn't have to be perfect--it just has to be good enough for this stage. If it was perfect now, your agent and your editor wouldn't have anything to do.

There's a story in one of Alexander King's memoirs (he was an advertising artist and writer who published a couple of memoirs in the 1940s/1950s) about one of his first jobs. He did an ink-and-watercolor drawing for an ad of a big party or something--very detailed. He labored over it until it was perfect.

The art director from the agency came over to see and said, "H'm. That looks great. It just needs one thing." He bent over King's illustration and altered one of the women's hands so that it looked huge and deformed.

"You've ruined it!" shouted King.

The art director smiled. "No. I've just given the client a way to feel involved. If you went in there with a perfect drawing, he wouldn't feel like he was part of the process, so he might just reject the whole thing. This way, he can say, 'Well, that's great, but that one woman in the front has a huge, deformed hand. If you fix that, it'll be perfect.'"

05-22-2008, 08:36 PM
Take a break. Then finish it.

Soccer Mom
05-22-2008, 08:57 PM
Ray and Allen? Both of you had better finish or there is no dessert tonight. Got that mister?

:takes off mom hat:

Give yourself a specific goal. You aren't allowed the internet until you've met that daily goal.

05-22-2008, 08:58 PM
If your goal is to make it 'perfect' then go ahead and give up.

Nothing is ever 'perfect' and even if it was, you wouldn't believe it.
So, give it up, or finish it.

05-22-2008, 09:28 PM
Work on something else for a few days - a short story, a synopsis, another novel in a drawer, anything - and then come back with a fresh pair of eyes.

05-22-2008, 09:45 PM
Encourage me. Make me finish it, because I'm starting to not want to.

Finish it or I'll come kick your ass.

05-22-2008, 09:50 PM
Finish it or I'll come kick your ass.

either that, or we'll come and T P your house :)

05-22-2008, 09:57 PM
I was always told to piss or get off the pot. Make it 'your best', not 'the best'. Have faith in yourself. Know when to say when and stop and do something with it. Get a new set of eyes to read it for you and tell you that it's not as bad as you think it is. Just get to the end and stop yourself from jumping back into the loop. You can only do so many edits. Piss or get off the pot.

The best of luck to you.

Says Kevin, who has a three year old novel himself.

05-22-2008, 10:07 PM
If I did things your way, I can't say I'd want to finish it either...

But whatever works for you.

05-22-2008, 10:16 PM
Can't fix a blank page.

05-22-2008, 10:32 PM
Make this the last draft and send it out, not perfect and all. You'll feel better. If it gets only rejections, do another rewrite. Send it out again. You've worked on it enough times that you risk ruining it trying to make it better. Sometimes you just have to stop adding to something or the whole structure will crumble. Trust your skill.

05-23-2008, 12:08 AM
Thanks for all the encouragement. I had a nice long response written, but it's gone.

So, I'll quote the last thing that got saved.

If I did things your way, I can't say I'd want to finish it either...

But whatever works for you.

To tell you the truth, I will not write the next book this way. I'm doing the paper revisions chapter by chapter because I'm revising them at work during my breaks and entering the changes at night. I guess it's working, but it kind of sucks.

Earlier I said I wanted the manuscript to be perfect. I guess I meant that I wanted it to be the best I can make it. And I didn't want to submit it anywhere until it is the best I can make it. The last 25 pages or so have some parts that are underwritten and need more work. Meanwhile, there are some older chapters that I can read through and not change a thing, and enjoy while I read them.

And I am open for a beta reader or two, I think it's getting near that stage. If not for the whole book, maybe for one or two of the last few chapters.

Thanks! I'll see what I can get done.

After I cut the grass.


05-23-2008, 12:57 AM
Dammit...I missed out on all the threatening. *pouts* oh well.

05-24-2008, 09:33 PM
Try my method it's called POP followed by the technique call WAM and POH. In order to do POP and WAM, you must try the AFK. These three techniques also help prevent distractions.