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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Revisting sans tweaking

   
Author Topic: Revisting sans tweaking
Antinomy
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Do you ever go back and reread some of your stories? And if so, how do you resist tweaking?

Revisits always fascinate me, like reunions with old friends or favorite relatives. Sometimes itís like reading them for the first time, but I canít help meddling with a word here or a phrase there under the guise of making small improvements, especially on my earlier pieces.

Itís a major irritation with me, like chewing finger nails or picking at a scab. How can I learn to just enjoy them without changing them?

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Christine
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Why don't you want to change them? If you're feeling the urge, it sounds like they need it. Unless it's already been published, if you think you can do something better, then I say go for it.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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OSC has even done it with books that are already published.

I think it's a pretty normal thing for a writer to do. If it irritates you, though, it might be safer to just print out the story (single-spaced so it's harder to edit) and just reread the hard copy.


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JeanneT
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I was recently forced to re-read a short story I sold about a year ago because it was picked up for an anthology and just cringed. I did edit out some of the more annoying things like an excess of exclamation points, but mostly I let it be. I'd rather work on my new stuff than go back to fix the old.
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Robert Nowall
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I keep having the feeling that I could make it better if I just took one more pass at it...but when I do, and let it out, I get the same feeling. So my stuff is not so much finished, as abandoned.

Then, usually, the feeling is right, because, months or years later, I'll browse through things and see something I know I shouldn't have done, and wonder, "Why couldn't I have spotted that the first time out?" Some of them haunt me ever after, too...


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Rommel Fenrir Wolf II
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well you could try to find more interesting things to keep your mind off of it. i like drinking and smocking as much as i can, then clean my guns.
maybe you need something like that to eaase the urge to rewright something.
or have someone you trust do your eating.

RFW2nd


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Elan
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quote:
OSC has even done it with books that are already published.

Thanks for that, Kathleen. That makes me feel sooo much better.

My creative background actually began as an artist via watercolor painting and drawing before I ever got serious about writing. What I learned as an artist was that there is a point at which a piece feels "almost done" but not quite; you aren't quite happy with it. That is the point you need to STOP. Further futzing with it at that point will simply ruin it. I have consigned myself to realizing that nothing ever feels completely perfect.

It's a sad but true fact that the perfection of the story in our minds never completely translates into the written word. Sort of like the elusive end of the rainbow... it's always just ahead of us but never within our grasp.


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Jeff M
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Everytime I re-read something, I make (or have the urge to make) some kind of change, no matter how minor. And then I start to wonder whether the tweak has made the story better or whether it's just made it different. Once the grammar/syntax/structure have been fixed, I suspect my changes fall more into the latter category.

And this worries me, because I fear this endless tweaking leads me further away from whatever original 'magic' the story had. In genre fiction, often the only thing setting your story apart is your own unique voice and vision, and your own twist on familiar scenarios. I worry that endless revising will dull the spark and make the story blander and more generic.

I think you have to give yourself permission to live with something that's not perfect (whatever 'perfect' means to you). You chose those words in the first place. Once you've established they're the correct words for what you want to say, accept that you've done what you've set out to do, and MOVE ON to something else

(I know... easier said than done...)


[This message has been edited by Jeff M (edited March 23, 2008).]

[This message has been edited by Jeff M (edited March 23, 2008).]


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Christine
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Elan -- I think that fuzzy place where it feels "almost done" is true for writing too, at least to a certain extent. There is a point at which editing and revising becomes obsessing and it's tricky to find the balance. But I think the trick is NOT TO REREAD IT IF YOU'RE CALLING IT DONE because you can ALWAYS find something to tweak. Move on to the next thing, send it out into the world, and see what happens. If you're between projects and it doesn't sell then maybe a year or two or ten years later you can revisit it again, but there's two differences -- 1. You will be removed enough from the piece to recognize flaws more from a reader's perspective than a creator's. 2. You will be improved enough as a writer that changes could take it to a new level.
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Avatar300
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I was re-reading a story that I'd written about eight years ago, as I was thinking about redoing from scratch. I had to force myself from working it over as I read. I did all right until I got to the last sentence and spent ten minutes wondering if it needed a comma. After much deliberation I did add the comma.
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Elan
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quote:
I did all right until I got to the last sentence and spent ten minutes wondering if it needed a comma. After much deliberation I did add the comma.

I love it. It's nice to know there are others out there who share the pain... and the obsession....


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Robert Nowall
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I should say that I feel embarrassed enough at what I post right here, but, except for obvious errors, I try to resist the temptation to revise after a few days...embarrassed by the grammar and spelling, that is, not the content...

[This message has been edited by Robert Nowall (edited March 25, 2008).]


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Rhaythe
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Most of my writing is done in paperback journals to prevent the urge to go and re-write. This is mostly because I want to use these to track how I progress as a writer, and also because I want these journals to always be draft material. Anything I want to publish, I want to have to re-write on the computer to ensure I go through the full editing process.

It is extremely interesting to go back over old journals and see how I've developed character progression, dialogue, and so forth.

quote:
I was re-reading a story that I'd written about eight years ago, as I was thinking about redoing from scratch.

A powerful temptation, isn't it?


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