Loose as a Goose Daddy-O!

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Chill baby, just let it flow y'know?

Whilst editing more of the never-ending manuscript last night, I became aware that some of my writing was tight. As tight as a publisher’s wallet in fact.

I can clearly discern which sections I wrote during free-wheeling, word-flowing time off when I spent a couple of hours jotting down stream-of-consciousness, vaguely-related meanderings, which eventually morphed into a further couple of hours of deftly-written, not-to-be-deleted, killer copy ending with sore fingers and a stone cold cup of coffee beside me.

Equally, and far more distressingly, clear are the passages penned in a snatched Tuesday-evening hour between putting the bins out and de-fleaing the cats. (Never let anyone tell you the life of an aspiring writer is anything less than a free-for-all of bohemian glamour!)

What to do is the question? How to untighten the screws and loosen up those stilted, laborious paragraphs? Whole chapters in some cases.

I have tried the Oscar Wilde approach of poring over them for hours, changing the occasional word for a more flowery word, only to replace the original word an hour later. All it did was give me a headache.

I have tried the approach of chopping these bits out like a gangrenous appendix for the overall health of their host. Do appendixes/appendices get gangrene? Don’t know, but it’s a good image huh? Yep, thought so.

No. That won’t do at all. I fear there is only one viable solution my dear friends. I am becoming convinced that I need to find some of that valuable free-wheeling time mentioned in the first paragraph (do keep up at the back…) and… *small gasp*… re-write these passages entirely.

Those of you who have pored over manuscripts several dozen times will appreciate the dread with which I am filled at this notion. I have to re-read the whole thing. Then I have to re-read the offending sections. Then I have to free my mind like a lone seagull whirling in the wisp-blue skies of a seaside town and re-write those passages with the same freedom of flow and yet keep their original significance.

Or I could just burn it.

So dear readers (51of you and counting), what do you do at times like this? What’s your trick for loosening up the bits of your writing that are wound like a clock-spring?

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14 thoughts on “Loose as a Goose Daddy-O!

  1. I’ve tried various methods to ‘shatter’ those pesky passages that appear to be so tight, they’ve fossilised.
    My more extreme methods include revising them backwards – reading sentences from the bottom up. This way, the brain doesn’t just skim over the words like a flat stone – it’s forced to read each word individually. This can give you that valuable ‘in’ that you need to break into the narrative. Another method is to separate all the sentences of a paragrah (or chapter) onto individual lines, then hit them randomly. Again, this breaks up the flow and it can become obvious where the problem lies.
    I don’t know if these will help to break your particular ‘wall’. I only know that they work for me on the tricky days.

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  2. I actually just do the “dreaded” approach in instances like this. I tend to be more connected to the scene than the prose, so sometimes it takes me two or three tries before I feel like I’ve gotten it right. It’s kind of like painting for me, I guess. The first attempt, which is horrible and rocky and makes me want to never write anything ever again, is like the foundation. Usually, it will at least block in the scene and help me clarify it in my own head. Then from there, I hit delete, and holding on to that clearer vision of the action, try again. It always comes out a million times better! The original scene is intact, but the prose is much more polished and I’ll actually let people see that version. Then, it’s just a matter of fine-tuning the details until it’s done. This layered approach has worked very well for me; maybe it will for you too. ๐Ÿ™‚

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      • I think you’ll be surprised at the result. As scary as it is to hit that delete button sometimes, it’ll save you hours and hours of trying to wrangle a section that’s derailed into submission.

        But I could also be weird in my approach. I realize not everyone is as fearless about hacking and slashing their baby into bits. One thing I advise is to copy the original sections into a new document and save them, that way you still have them if you aren’t satisfied with the re-write. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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      • I NEVER delete anything (not on purpose, anyway). I use either a page-breaked (!) section at the end of my WIP or a separate document and drop any unused sections into there. That way I don’t have that mind-mangling, hair tearing ‘How did I phrase that again?!’ situation.

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  3. I do two things when I’m trying to fix up certain scenes (and bear in mind that I haven’t done a full-fledged revision on my WIP yet, just bits and pieces here and there). The first is I read it out loud. When I’m actually speaking the words and can hear how they’re awkward or stiff, I can often come up with a more conversational, natural way of saying it on the spot. This works well for oddly phrased passages. When an entire scene feels forced or the dialogue is off or lacking, I shut off the lights, lay down (best done on the couch or bed, less so at the desk) and daydream the scene in movie form from beginning to end a few dozen times, trying out different scenarios until I find the one that fits best. Once I have the picture in my head, converting it to words becomes a lot easier. The worst scenes for me to write are the ones that I haven’t done this ahead of time with. And probably most importantly for me, I don’t write when I’m not in the mood, because that’s when I end up with work that has the above problems.

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    • I think the movie visualisation idea is a great one. I’ve not tried this before, but it makes me realise that the scenes I’m least happy with are also the ones that seem ‘thinnest’ in my head. They don’t have depth or life to them. I tend to be bad at picturing in advance how a scene will look, I sort of let it develop through the words, like a Polaroid. This approach could help to fix that – unless I just doze off instead ๐Ÿ™‚

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  4. Well ‘I could just burn it’ made me laugh. I have felt like this on many occasions. And once I lost my mojo and deleted a whole manuscript putting its hard copy into the bin. The bin men came and away it went.
    Nothing is ever totally lost though.
    I did re-write it, it is tighter than before. And I know that some of my more flowery phrases still wormed their way back.
    But – it still needs a lot of work!

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    • Oh no!! I now have a vision of you chasing down the street after the bin men yelling “Come back! Come back!!” ๐Ÿ™‚ Glad it turned out for the good though. I know exactly what you mean about the flowery phrases. I also have a tendency to get flowery – when I read them back I try and chop them and they end up harsh and flat. Generally best to move them to a holding file and start again I find.

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      • Nope – didn’t chase it – let it go and then wished afterwards I hadn’t.
        But things usually happen for the best. Even those flowery phrases might end up somewhere!

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