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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Futzing. (Just one more tweak....)

   
Author Topic: Futzing. (Just one more tweak....)
History
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It is great to be published.
But, I too often find, better to be unpublished

My OCD (when it comes to my writing) truly enjoys futzing with stories I've held onto.

I'll relook at them a month or a year later, and sometimes I can't believe I had thought that paragraph, sentence, phrase or word worked. How could I think that drek was any good?

...snip....cut...move...revise...

There. That's better.

(Until next month)

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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extrinsic
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I'd like to suggest a way past doubt and tweaking minutia that goes to writer growth. Large scale features inform small scale features and vice versa. Though keeping the whole of a narrative in mind and being able to stay on task is difficult, more difficult the more words and complexity of plot, large scale features are easier to keep in mind and keep writing and revision on task than minutia. However, with large scale organizing principles working in tandem, like theme and plot, even the minutia are easy to keep on task.

Theme is a large scale feature. One of the paramount features if not the paramount organizing feature. Another, easier to understand and keep in mind though directly connected to theme, is dramatic complication. A central character has a desire that fulfilling is complicated by opposition or opposition incites a desire wanting fulfillment. Dramatic complication is a purpose-problem pushmi-pullya engine that drives plot movement.

Theme connects to the purpose-problem dilemma by way of a dramatic conflict, which is a diameteric opposition of forces, stakes, and outcomes related to the dramatic complication and the theme. Like acceptance or rejection, riches or rags, victory or defeat. Those are generic conflicts, though a little more development of the conflict details makes them sufficiently specific for revision purposes.

Like a familiar stranger insuperably struggling for a sense of belonging in an alienating and hostile society must sacrifice some of his independent self-identity in order to fit in. Acceptance or rejection are at stake and one or the other the outcome. Thus a theme of the individual in society, say a person's identity is determined by place in society. Insider belonging and accepted? Or outsider rejected and nonbelonging?

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EVOC
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I strictly limit how many revisions I make to four. Then I send it out and refuse to look at it until it is accepted. Otherwise, I will do exactly what you are referring to, Dr. Bob.

Needless to say on both my acceptances, I went back and looked at my MS and thought "Man I should have changed that." But, hey, something must have been right since someone bought it.

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Robert Nowall
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I've become the King of Nitpickety Revisions in the past few years, and am determined to cut back on it somewhat.

However...one of the nitpickety things I do is use the computer to search out "ly" adverbs, and then rewrite and get them out of there. I think it may be excessive---lots of writers I admire use those words---but, on the other hand, there have been less and less of them to remove from my work as time went on.

On the other hand...sometimes I still think I haven't spent enough time on it. About six months after I gave up on a story and submitted it, I spotted a whopping great grammar error...something I should'a caught but didn't. Frustrating.

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Merlion-Emrys
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It'll get better with time.
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History
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I love to play with words.
Perhaps instilled in me from my old undergraduate "literary" writing professors when I was an English Writing major long ago.

Story is important, but how a story is told is what brings me pleasure.
I find I treat stories of mine I enjoy most like bonsai trees. [Smile]

Yes, yes, for many of my fellow neo-writers who are far more prolific than I, progression is by "I write things down, I send them out". But I said I find I have OCD when I come to my writing, and I just have to polish and clean them every time I pick them up (like the protagonist in the Bradbury story THE FRUIT AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BOWL). [Smile]

Being a Hatracker helps, I find. Some here kindly offer to critique my stories and they will catch things for me [including simple punctuation or misspellings or, better yet, awkward phrasing that doesn't achieve its intent (thanks MD and NT)]. It's good to be in the Treehouse.

Now let me read this again before I post...

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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Merlion-Emrys
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quote:
Yes, yes, for many of my fellow neo-writers who are far more prolific than I, progression is by "I write things down, I send them out".
That's not always entirely true. There are folks here (on whose cases I sometimes get) who've been on here for ages and yet have never or hardly ever submitted...often because they don't want to do so till it's "just right." Now me, I'm sort of the other way around in a way...my thing is I want to get it how I want it the first time in order to keep the after-completion editing to a relative minimum. That often lead to it taking me some good while to do a single short story. But lately I've found, first off I'm better at planning stories ahead somewhat, and much better at making them work as they go, so I'm able to get a draft down, send it out for crits and then do a round of editing/polishing then it's off to the submission rounds.

My point being that falling into a regular rhythm that doesn't take forever and drive one into OCD induced panic attacks can take a good while. And you have to DO IT. A lot.

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History
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Hi, Merilon.

I also find outlining is a must. I create a framework for the narrative plot which is very detailed, but I loosen up on how my characters navigate it, letting my subconscious have greater reign.

It is this subconscious that takes the tale in unexpected directions that leads to reimaganing and revising, even as the tale is being written. (Though I find this process wonderful, though it takes longer to complete a story).

Thus, I never get entirely what I expected "the first time."

I concur that getting constructive "crits" is very helpful (I wish I'd receive more offers for them).

My recent tales are just too long (or don't quite fit) the available markets (I'm open to suggestions).

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

P.S. I don't get "panic attacks." I don't know why. Possibly because of my upbringing, my faith, or my military or medical training. While I'd like to publish (well, find a readership), I'm not driven to publish. I'll send my recent story out soon, however. Just waiting to see if anyone else at Hatrack wishes to read it before I do.

[ November 27, 2011, 02:09 PM: Message edited by: History ]

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extrinsic
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How many words? At present, I'm down to the wire on crunch time. I'll pass through the other side next week. I could take a look at up to 4,000 words over the holiday weeks.

As far as what the marketplace wants, it's what the readership wants, close and personal yet varying narrative distance, which means some degree of character emphasis, and fresh if not original voice, setting, idea, plot, and events; in other words, a variant on Orson Scott Card's MICE. Milieu is setting (time, place, and situation), idea is idea is theme, character is character, and event is event, though adding voice and plot. SPICED, setting, plot, idea, character, event, and discourse. What the readership wants: spiced narratives.

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Merlion-Emrys
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quote:
As far as what the marketplace wants, it's what the readership wants,
I have to disagree, at least as far as many circumstances go. What the marketplace wants is what the people doing the buying wants...which is to say, editors. Now, many editors probably feel they want what the readers want but in the end, they buy what they want to publish.

Either way, I think people's...whether editors, or readers-at-large-wants are too varied and to much based on personal perspective to read with any accuracy.


Dr. Bob, I definitely want to read some of your stuff sometime. I've found myself in the midst of a bit of a storm of critiquing this moment, but reading at least one of your stories is on my "to do list" so to speak. Your subject matter is of great interest to me.

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extrinsic
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The publishing culture is a complex, contentious array of personal sensibilities. No doubt about it. But what are the underlying first principles? First principles are by their nature simplistic.

What a digest wants is sales revenue. Toward that end, a digest selects products calculated to generate revenue. Be the product a recognized brand name or an especially fresh voice, theme, plot, character, perspective, etc.

What the readership wants is entertaining product and to trust that a favorite digest will consistently deliver.

What writers want is publication of their products.

It all comes together when a product merits all the above.

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Merlion-Emrys
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quote:
What a digest wants is sales revenue.
I assume by digest you mean magazine...and this is true of some, but not all. Strange Horizons, for example, is an SFWA recognized professional market...but its content is free and the magazine is funded by grants. So making money isn't part of their formula. Increasing numbers of publications are putting out their content for free, changing these dynamics considerably.


quote:
ut what are the underlying first principles? First principles are by their nature simplistic.
I think they'd have to be determined separately for each publication, and I don't think we as authors have any way to do that fully and correctly. I think, especially now, there really aren't any, or at least not many, that apply in any really broad way.


quote:
What the readership wants is entertaining product and to trust that a favorite digest will consistently deliver. It all comes together when a product merits all the above.
But, it's editors that actually buy the stories...and most publications have relatively minimal ways for readers to give feedback. So, in the end, I think most editors buy stories based on 1) what they like 2) what they feel is the best fit for their vision of their publication and 3) sometimes with some editors, their perception of what readers want.

It's my belief, most of the time, that it all comes together when a story fits a particular editors concepts of all three, or at least the first two, of those things. "Merit" in this situation is more or less totally a matter of perception.

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extrinsic
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Grant revenue or subscriber revenue or advertiser revenue or philanthropic revenue, still revenue, to some degree driven by readership interest.

Any individual digest's creative slant does need to be separately determined for a working conclusion to be reached. However, very few digests define their core slant anymore. Many are all over the landscape creative slant-wise. Part of the reason they're hemorrhaging subscribers and have been for decades. Digests that survived the technology putsch and thrive post Digital Age didn't move very far off their slants but have or are adapting and adopting to the technology.

On the other hand, a writer who's defined a digest's slant sufficiently has a greater publishing potential with that digest and then from name recognition with other digests competing for similar product.

Digest editors buy product that suits their best judgement what will sell. They're middlemen. Nothing more; nothing less. Though as middlemen are wont to be, they're a chokepoint between product and consumer.

Merit varies across a continuum of age, gender, lifestyle, culture, and politico-socioeconomic ranges that have infinite possibilities for writers, somewhat narrowed for digests. Those same ranges, though, for reaching a readership's perception are an even larger continuum for readers. Infinity times infinity. But publication success still comes down to basic, artful storytelling methods that have changed little since the first story ever told.

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Robert Nowall
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Didn't mention another habit I've gotten into. After I finish something, I try to let it sit for awhile before doing anything more to it. Sometimes it's a month, sometimes it's more than a year.

I'm trying to gain some perspective on it---I'm not sure I've actually gained any perspective, but at least I'm able to start revisions relatively fresh.

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KayTi
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Step away from the manuscript. Back off. Take three steps back. [Wink]

I read an article in the newspaper the other day talking about Stephen Sondheim, I believe, and about playwrights and other people who make things up for a living, and the resounding message was NONE of them EVER think they're 100% finished with a work. But the successful ones have all figured out when to stop futzing.

Good luck finding your no-futz zone. I'm looking for mine, it's right here behind this big pile of editing I've procrastinated...(oh, that's right, it's hard to get into the futzing zone when you've procrastinated even editing the work once for clarity/typos! Lol, we all have our challenges, eh?)

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Merlion-Emrys
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quote:
Grant revenue or subscriber revenue or advertiser revenue or philanthropic revenue, still revenue, to some degree driven by readership interest.
I have a hard time seeing them as the same. To me it seems like there's a pretty big difference in a magazine that depends on readers buying their issues, and one that's run off grant money applied for directly by and given directly too the editors.
Likewise, it seems I remember hearing that The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (or maybe one of the other "big three") is basically supported by a corporate sponsor and doesn't necessarily need to worry too much about paying for itself via sales.


quote:
Digest editors buy product that suits their best judgement what will sell.
If they are actually selling, that's certainly an element. Although, I think some take an attitude similar to my own: they produce the product they want to produce (a magazine containing stories they've chosen to publish in their case) and let it find an audience, rather than the other way around.
It really just depends. Again, I don't think there are any universal truths...each publication and each editor are their own thing.


quote:
Merit varies across a continuum of age, gender, lifestyle, culture, and politico-socioeconomic ranges that have infinite possibilities for writers, somewhat narrowed for digests. Those same ranges, though, for reaching a readership's perception are an even larger continuum for readers. Infinity times infinity. But publication success still comes down to basic, artful storytelling methods that have changed little since the first story ever told.
I don't understand all of this, but what I am getting seems to come down to demographic, market-study type stuff. I'm not a big fan of demographics, or trying to figure out what people want based on age, gender etc etc.
Merit of art is quite simply in the eye of the beholder. And I don't really think there's much way to get up much more than an educated guess of what sort of merit a given editor is going to see in a given story.

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extrinsic
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As an interested party, wherever revenue comes from matters so long as the stream is timely and enough to continue publication, the product as far as a digest publisher is concerned. I've investigated the revenue streams of digests. Journals tend to be sponsored in the main by grants and philanthropy. Commercial digests by some measure of subscriber-advertiser revenue. And some mix the measure according to their particular ideologies and sensibilities. Say 10 percent subscriber, 20 percent advertiser, 40 percent grant, and 30 percent philanthropy.

As far as the rest of the matter of publication, concern comes down to audience appeal. Real or implied, imagined or immediate or mediating, self or universal or ideal, audience appeal in my first and final estimation is what matters for publication success.

I stop futzing, tweaking when I'm confident I've appealed for the target audience accessibilty for what I want to write.

[ November 30, 2011, 02:46 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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LDWriter2
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Finally have the time to respond.

I futz also. By that way is that a yiddish word or made up?

Anyway, even in the one story that sold I felt like futzing with. When the whatever that term is-galleries? DUH, it's been too long since I've discussed them-- came back for me to check over I found two maybe three sentences I couldn't believe I wrote. I wanted to change them so bad but you're not suppose to at that point. As one write says you have to trust the editor at that point, they bought your story as is after all.

But I find myself changing at least a couple of sentences whenever I go over a story no matter if it's to look for a name or while spell checking etc. And at one time whenever I learned something new about writing I would go back over my stories to revise them with that new thing in mind. Never made a difference.

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