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scarletpeaches
05-25-2009, 05:28 PM
So. My current project involves me taking a crappy 'manuscript' I wrote a few years back, rearranging some events, adding lots and lots of sex, refining the characters' motivations (the most important aspect of this draft, I think) and generally making it slightly - well, a lot - less bad. Not an edit; it's more than that. Not quite a rewrite. We'll call it an overhaul.

The way I'm working is, I'll type a few chapters and then graft in one or two from the earlier draft of this project, edit them to fit in with the novel's current genre and carry on writing new chapters.

Trust me; it works. I think. Well, I hope.

What amazes me is the earlier draft of this WIP - I wrote it over and over again. At least three times. I think four. And the chapters I'm grafting into the new version...ACK! While the story's sound, the writing style is just...abominable. Telling not showing, dialogue attribution, you name it.

Oh, and my characters echo each other.

"We echo each other, you say?"

Yes. You echo.

But, as tt42 and Adzmodeus very kindly say, "That's a sign you've improved."

I'm certainly seeing all the mistakes I made before. Even after joining AW! The scales are falling from my eyes and I'm like..."How could I ever have imagined this sort of crap was acceptable?"

So...what tells you that you've improved? Do you feel good when you read old works, or bad?

Me? I feel embarrassed...and relieved that, while my projects need work, at least they're not that bad any more. The amazing thing is, my first drafts from 2009 are far superior to my third and fourths from even three years back.

*sigh*

On with the WIP, now...

thethinker42
05-25-2009, 05:34 PM
Trust me; it works. I think. Well, I hope.

It does.


So...what tells you that you've improved? Do you feel good when you read old works, or bad?

When my first drafts don't make me cringe anymore. That's always a good sign. It's when the "OMG, I wrote that?" reaction is one of "SWEET!", not "dear God, WTF was I thinking?"

When I read my old crap work, I'm conflicted. Part of me groans aloud and is certain the entire world is reading over my shoulder and laughing their asses off (it's that bad). The other part of me nods and quietly says, "Yep, that was a learning experience...lesson learned, moved on."

scarletpeaches
05-25-2009, 05:36 PM
When my first drafts don't make me cringe anymore

Ha, yeah. I know that feeling. My first drafts no longer get a 'this will make me bulimic' response...

Wayne K
05-25-2009, 10:00 PM
Not a edit and not a rewrite?

A revamp?

One day for fun I'm goning to post the first draft of A LIfe Gone Awry for all to enjoy. The wife and I bring it to funerals to cheer people up.

Barrett
05-25-2009, 10:37 PM
What tells me I've improved? Reading the WIP outloud.

That and reading "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" over and over...

Mr Flibble
05-26-2009, 12:05 AM
When my first drafts don't make me cringe anymore. That's always a good sign. It's when the "OMG, I wrote that?" reaction is one of "SWEET!", not "dear God, WTF was I thinking?"

Lol, yup. Though maybe not with the first, first draft :D But I did dig out an old first draft MS the other day. And I could tell the difference. Mainly because I was sitting thinking, oh yeah, that bit large chunk of tell could make a great scene, just whip out that boring part, add in X and....

Reading old stuff makes me feel good, cos I realise how much I've learned! And that the old MS lurking on my hard drive could be salvagable now. :D

NeuroFizz
05-26-2009, 12:16 AM
It starts out with the obvious things, like you've mentioned in your difference between the old and new. Later, it may come as more subtle improvements, like in giving a richer tone to a scene and better integrating that tone into the flavor of the overall story, or in putting in better, but subtle, dialogue tics that make each character even more unique and three-dimensional. Characterization is another area where big leaps can be seen initially, but later, subtle little things creep into the writing (without effort) to add just that little extra bit of depth.

Another way you may notice is when your first draft looks more and more like a polished draft. In other words, you no longer have to give yourself permission to write crap in that first draft, but your experience inflates your expections to where you can put together much better work on the first go.

If you compare your work at the end of each year to that of the year before, and you don't see any improvement, it may be time to look for something else to do or to reconsider why you stopped working hard to improve. There are so many ways to improve one's writing, the search for writing excellence can last several lifetimes, and it should last for each of ours.

Izz
05-26-2009, 12:17 AM
So...what tells you that you've improved? Do you feel good when you read old works, or bad?Recently i sold the first short story i wrote after i decided to seriously pursue writing as a career (yes, that's kinda funny all on its own, right) to a pro mag.

But i was actually embarrassed to have it published in its current state, especially in a mag with the readership this one has. I'd planned to do a proper rewrite after it got rejected this time around, but it didn't and all the editor wanted were some nitty changes. The story was written in March last year, and my prose writing has improved exponentially since then.

Sometimes i read old stuff and think 'that's not quite as bad as i remember it being' but not very often. Usually i cringe--yucky prose, wooden characters, terrible pacing, nonsensical plot--and quickly file the piece back where it came from lest it ruin my writing now. But on the plus side, a lot of the short stuff i'm writing now gets thumbs-up from critters and long waits at magazines before they reject it, which is good. However, in a couple years i'll probably look back at this stuff and cringe too.

Hey, it's all part of the learning curve, right?

Linda Adams
05-26-2009, 12:47 AM
So...what tells you that you've improved? Do you feel good when you read old works, or bad?


The biggest thing I've noticed is that the story has come together very differently. With my last one, any change to a chapter seemed to automatically generate a massive rewrite to everything that followed. With this one, it's far more compartmentalized. A change is often only in the chapter itself, and not elsewhere.

I also make less of the dumb mistakes, like repeating myself in the next paragraph or using the eyes too much. I actually had to go through the last manuscript and just look for those elements. This time, I don't think I need to worry about it.

SPMiller
05-26-2009, 01:21 AM
When editing my first-draft prose, I no longer have to cut anywhere near as much flab as I used to. Instead, I often have to add prose, because my first drafts still read more like outlines than narratives. The upshot is that what is there is good.

Suzan
05-26-2009, 02:05 AM
So...what tells you that you've improved? Do you feel good when you read old works, or bad?
Old, new or in the works, it doesn't matter; I can't be trusted to gauge my own writing. My good fortune is that I have a secret weapon: my brutally honest teenage daughter who loves to read. She reads everything from Khaled Hosseini to Bram Stoker and has no qualms about telling me what's good, bad or just plain boring. The good news is that if you polish anything long enough, even a rock starts to shine like a diamond. That's the great thing about writing. As far as the old stuff, I love my old stuff. See why I need my daughter? ;-)

Parametric
05-26-2009, 02:10 AM
I can now recognise repetition on a plot level before I write reams of unnecessary drivel faxed straight from the Department of Redundancy Department.

My second novel was a 220k monster from hell, and the amount of slashing and burning I'd need to do to carve out a decent novel is shudder-inducing. That was written in 2005-6. Third novel? A dinky 80k. Finished 2009. I'm editing it now, and while I need to fix the many huge and unrelated structural errors I made, I'm not needing to condense.

Somewhere between the two novels I beat the overwriting habit.

Wayne K
05-26-2009, 03:42 AM
I redundantly repeat myself over and over, and I've done it more than once.

bettielee
05-26-2009, 05:03 AM
I feel much better now when I read some of my horrid old crap, because I see how easily to fix it. After reading a whole lot of work that uses the passive voice, too many adverbs and wacky prepositional phrases, I see how they look and sound, and that's helped me a lot. I don't know why...

Matera the Mad
05-26-2009, 05:42 AM
Yesterday I looked over a tentative chapter I wrote last year for the novel I finally got going this month, thinking I might find a few bits to recycle. Eeeeww. Not much I could just paste.

wannawrite
05-26-2009, 06:02 AM
I can read my first drafts now, without vomiting. That's an improvement.

Wayne K
05-28-2009, 02:04 PM
I can read my first drafts now, without vomiting. That's an improvement.
I can vomit without writing a book about it, that's progress.