Reflect and Reboot: Refining Your Writing
The last few days, as I wend my way through the remaining Elder Mysteries for Echo of Dead Leaves, I have been dealing with scraps of ideas left over during the outlining process. This happens from time to time when you’re working through a lot of material and trying to put a cap on the rough draft. I’m as guilty of it as the next guy. Working continuously on a large project can cause you to suffer some fatigue. Stepping away is always good. You’ve heard me say that before. What happens when you come back to it? What happens when you look at the work and are having difficulty with making the words flow in a particular section or passage?
While I don’t like to waste words, sometimes you have to mince them. If something doesn’t work for some reason, reflect upon what you’ve done and reboot if necessary.
Two separate examples detailing both follow.
For the first idea, I had a general outline and it worked, sort of. I needed to get in there and change some of the particulars around a bit and then it flowed quite naturally and one of them may, in fact, be one of the darkest scenarios I’ve written to date. My reflection got me through this (even though I was stubborn and wrestled with NOT doing that very thing for an hour or so).
The second instance, rebooting, is always much harder. In this instance, I was working with a blank slate aside from the name of the scenario. I turned it around and began writing an idea which, when I was done with it, was way more meandering than I liked. In other words, it was far weaker than anything I would put in public. I note that, in some instances (as this one), when I write long it means I’ve begun to drift from the central idea and I am, like a nomad lost in a sand storm, wandering around until I find the oasis of truth I am certain is hidden somewhere in the desert. I don’t want you to have to suffer through that. I wrestled with this for about an hour or so (an hour which is, evidently, a magical amount of time for me) and decided I needed to reflect upon what I had written and decided a reboot was in order. There were some good ideas in there. Ideas I was able to pull out and bring further to the fore with far less preamble than in the first iteration. Ultimately, it resulted in a powerful Elder Mystery.
Despite an unwillingness to lose work (not so much from a creative standpoint as the sheer expenditure of the currency of time), it is doing a disservice to yourself, your work, and your audience if you do not permit yourself the space to revise when it is all but screaming in your face to do so.
Now, go look at your latest work and reflect upon it. Do you need to cut away dead wood or is a full reboot in order?
Until next time, I bid you, dear reader, adieu!