intothewood: (Default)
[personal profile] intothewood posting in [community profile] writerslounge

I’m going over my second book because it needs some fixing, and it’s definitely been awhile since I’ve read it through. But I’m in that state where I can’t really see anything for what it is.

Have you been there? One minute you look at something you’ve written and think ‘hey, that’s pretty good’ and the next minute you’re thinking ‘oh god that’s fucking awful!’ Or you get an obsession with, say, commas, and suddenly every fucking comma looks out of place. You’re reading unnaturally, halted by all the commas and the sentences don’t read like sentences any longer, they’re just a string of words separated by awkward commas!

I really need to do this, but I’m second guessing everything. Everything. The logical answer would be to put it aside, but I don’t wanna. Yes, I’ve turned into a stubborn four year-old who can’t read properly.

Stubborn four-year-old antics aside, have you had this happen and is there something you do to break from it? Because I really want to work on this today.

Date: 2011-10-24 05:27 pm (UTC)
owlectomy: A squashed panda sewing a squashed panda (Default)
From: [personal profile] owlectomy
Read it out loud.

Read it backwards. (Last page, then next-to-last, and so forth.)

Read a couple chapters of a book written in a completely different style, as a palate cleanser. (Not a book that's so good it's intimidating; you may prefer a really lousy book, or you may prefer something that's just different.)

Sometimes completely changing the font or text color or background color is enough to disrupt the can't-see-anything-for-what-it-is state.

Date: 2011-10-24 06:02 pm (UTC)
scarylady: (Default)
From: [personal profile] scarylady
Don't you have a beta? They are the ones who get to give you a reality check in that situation. A good beta will be totally honest with you.

Date: 2011-10-24 06:20 pm (UTC)
scarylady: (Default)
From: [personal profile] scarylady
*nods* I can totally understand why you are struggling then. You know your own stuff too intimately to have any perspective on it. Do you have an intelligent reader you could turn to, if you aren't comfortable trusting another writer?

Date: 2011-10-24 06:13 pm (UTC)
smw: A woman sits at a typewriter, pages flying, a plug in the back of her awesomely big-curly hair. (Default)
From: [personal profile] smw
Yes, yes, a million times yes. This is not helped by the fact that I sometimes do write shit and don't know it at the time.

That being said, are you reading this as an electronic document? I find reading my own work goes much better if I can look it over in hardcopy, since I don't have the option to immediately edit whatever makes me cranky. It also helps distance me from the fact that this is something I'm responsible for -- for whatever reason, words on paper don't belong to me in quite the same way electronic text does.

Date: 2011-10-24 06:22 pm (UTC)
smw: A woman sits at a typewriter, pages flying, a plug in the back of her awesomely big-curly hair. (Default)
From: [personal profile] smw
Aw, broken printer. They do get a serious workout when they're owned by writers, don't they?

Date: 2011-10-24 07:07 pm (UTC)
nightsfury: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nightsfury
I'd like to echo what owl said with the addition that if you can find someone else to read it aloud (while you listen) that might be useful, too. Especially for picking up dialogue that might not seem to be working, but you can't quite pin down the issue.

Having someone else read it might also make it easier to judge the flow and pacing, catch awkward or redundant phrasing, etc.

Hope this helps.

Date: 2011-10-24 07:35 pm (UTC)
nightsfury: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nightsfury
You're welcome. It was suggested by the instructor at a writing workshop I took.

Date: 2011-10-25 01:08 am (UTC)
holyschist: Image of a medieval crocodile from Herodotus, eating a person, with the caption "om nom nom" (Default)
From: [personal profile] holyschist
Edited for having skimmed the comments above...

Sometimes I record myself reading to play back, which is sort of the poor writer's version of getting someone else to read it.

It's VERY awkward to do, but quite helpful.
Edited Date: 2011-10-25 01:09 am (UTC)

Date: 2011-10-24 07:19 pm (UTC)
callainlove: (love is... [lf])
From: [personal profile] callainlove
I definitely second, or third really, the reading it aloud advice.

Also, it might help to simply take a breather from thinking about it, rest your mind in some way, and then go back to it later with a fresh perspective.

Date: 2011-10-24 10:42 pm (UTC)
niniane: belle face (Default)
From: [personal profile] niniane
I do a couple of things.

The first is to let it sit. This allows me to get some distance from the story and really ask "is it working?"

Then I read it very slowly, making line edits. I also ask myself questions about it, such as "is the POV for this scene the correct one?" "Does the order of scenes make sense?" "Are all of the scenes needed to comprehend the story?" "Did I leave out an important scene?" "Does something happen in each scene, or did I throw in some just to provide continuity that I could get by with a line or two of exposition somewhere else?"

Once I think I have that all figured out, I turn it over to a couple of different people. I have maybe 4-5 different betas that I work with off and on. Not all always have free time, but usually at least one will give the work a look over and tell me if there are any ways of fixing it. Some of their suggestions are pretty minor - a line edit here, a comma there. But often they'll suggest major overhauls to the entire story. If the story gets an overhaul, I tend to submit it again, until they're content.

I also tend to use (if you don't write SF, F, or horror, I'd recommend instead. Also, Absolute Write can be helpful) as a final set of "eyes". The problem with most of my betas is that we tend to see things more or less the same way. So while they'll catch stuff that I should have caught, they often won't catch completely and totally different things. And having a bunch of other people look at my story and say, "That didn't make sense" or "that seemed a little off" or whatever can spare me from submitting something really awful. (And, again, if major changes are made, I submit again.)

It's a long process but! It seems to work, and keeps me from getting too complacent, I think.

(Note that I try not to inflict super rough stuff on either my betas or a critique group as it tends to make their eyes glaze over to where they're correcting typos and doing line edits rather than catching fatal flaws with the manuscript.)

Date: 2011-10-24 11:17 pm (UTC)
niniane: belle face (Default)
From: [personal profile] niniane
Eh, I've been busy.

It takes a long while to form a relationship with a beta, I agree. Also, it tends to happen (in my experience) with someone you've already been working with. I have best friends who I would not beta (and who I don't want to beta my work), and I've met people I barely like in real life who do a great job. So it's tricky. I've met pretty much all of my from critique groups, though, so I'm not sure where else you'd find one.

I agree that there is a certain level of trust involved. But in many ways, I see it more as sending a kid to elementary school. They may not like the teacher. The teacher may be a jerk and I may request that they be moved to another class. But me and all the loving aunts and uncles are unlikely to be able to teach them everything they need to know to get along in life.

There's also the challenge (and this happens with my regular betas too) that we all think our stories are little geniuses. Every last one of us thinks we have a prodigy. But when we send that little Einstein off into a group of his peers and suddenly he gets a C, we think, "Huh, maybe not." Or maybe it's the teacher's fault...but then after the next one also gives it a C or a D, we start thinking that perhaps Jr. needs some remedial tutoring in certain areas. (That's the other advantage of somewhere like Critters. I've found it's easy to write off one "your ending isn't working", but when 10 people tell you the same thing, you take notice!)

That's part of why I stay active in the critique groups. Most of my current betas and I get along. We want each other to succeed and think that each others' work is pretty good. But that also introduces a level of bias that someone at Critters (or whatever) won't have.

The nice thing is, while some people are brutal or unfair or just seem to be wrong, the most genuinely seem to want to help. Which is good. (Although some are better at helping than others.) Plus, ultimately, the worst that happens is that it stings a bit, you have a drink, and then get back at it.

(And the more you're critiqued, the less it stings. Me and a beta actually have a running contest as to who can get the most awful critique. We think I've far.)

Date: 2011-10-25 12:16 am (UTC)
niniane: belle face (Default)
From: [personal profile] niniane
I think it's rather improbable that anyone will steal (beyond in the peripheral way in which we all steal).

For once, most other writers are convinced that their stuff is the best ever, so see no reason to steal your "inferior" idea.

For another, the sites are password protected. And most include a long list of legal disclaimers as to what happens if someone does steal an idea.

So I won't say that it can't happen - or that it never happens. But I suspect that it happening is pretty rare. (At least on reputable sites.) There's not a huge amount of financial gain, and there's a lot of potential risk.

Plus, it's a risk you take anywhere, with any story. An agent could steal it. A publisher could. So either you keep them all hidden on your computer or figure, "I take my odds" and go for it. (And sue anyone who does steal. The penalties are crazy harsh - far more than most of us will ever make for selling a story!)

Date: 2011-10-25 04:36 pm (UTC)
niniane: belle face (Default)
From: [personal profile] niniane
Eh, you only discover that you're mostly safe by interacting with writing comms. Which, of course, you can do without sharing work. (Although it's often hard to get a beta without doing so, as betas often don't want to agree to read more than a very little bit unless they're fairly convinced that they won't be agreeing to a novel worth of misery.)

You can definitely sue if someone shares your copy righted work without permission. From the Critters Website:

Absolutely not! No way! Big trouble awaits!

All works submitted to Critters are copyrighted, and you have no authority to share the work with anyone, at all, period. And if you have the urge, keep in mind that the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) carries really stiff fines (minimum $2500 -per violation- up to millions of dollars) and up to ten years in jail. Yeah. Heavy stuff.

Don't mess with the copyright law.
(Note that maximums are unlimited as far as fines go.)

This, of course, relates only to the US. But similar laws exist in most other countries. So if you shared something with someone and they spread it all over (or pretended it was theirs), you could technically sue them under this law for any damages. Of course, you'd have to figure out where they were (which could be tough) and prove that it was yours (pretty easy, as I'd assume that there'd be an enormous digital trail).

And this really wouldn't apply to fanfiction, seeing as your legal rights to it are nebulous there at best.

But if someone stole your original fiction, you could definitely sue and get them into a huge amount of legal trouble. (And this is beyond finding where they shared it and getting them into trouble there, too. I suspect that magazines, etc. don't look too fondly on plagiarism.)

Regardless, the penalties (both legal and also, do you really want to be known as the person who stole someone else's work and pretended it was yours?) are significant enough that most people tend to be pretty good. No guarantees - of course - there are none in life. But most people's fears are rather over blown. It's not that hard to prove that your work is your own. It's not that hard to make a plagiarist's life miserable. And most people really aren't out there to steal other people's stuff, anyway, as they're having a hard enough time promoting what they write themselves.

Date: 2011-10-25 07:27 pm (UTC)
niniane: belle face (Default)
From: [personal profile] niniane
Oh, not a problem. You can't learn if you don't ask questions. (And I believe that damages can be as high as $30,000 even if you can't prove any actual damages, which is a pretty tidy sum if someone runs off with a story - not bad, really.)


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