Deb Joanne Fears Death by Shoehorn

This week’s theme is ‘Preserving It: keeping the flame alive for a WIP’ (Note to my Mom: WIP is short for Work In Progress). I’m sure anyone here reading this knows that writing is work. Hard work, and that means sometimes it’s a frustrating slog and you just want to chuck it. I’ve definitely been there. As you may have gathered from last week’s post and how many unpublished projects I have languishing under my bed, I’m a work it and move on kind of girl, so it’s not really my style to work and work and work on a project (although I finish more than I don’t, something I’m pretty proud of). I bore fairly easily, which also might explain why a lot of my books are about very different things (except the romance stuff, because I NEVER tire of love stories). So digging in and working on a WIP over several drafts can be very tough for me.

And it’s not that I tire of my characters, because I love them all, even the rotten ones (maybe I even love the rotten ones a tiny bit more). But I get tired of reading the same stuff over and over until it feels like my eyes will start bleeding and I no longer have any sort of distance or objectivity. And there’s this weird imprinting phenomenon that seems to happen to me, where when I write a book, it imprints in my head and later on, if I cut out scenes, I still remember them as being in the book. So going back to edit seems extra hard because I honestly don’t know what’s in there anymore. A few weeks ago, I had to ask my husband if a particular scene was in SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE because I couldn’t remember if it made it into the final cut of the book—turns out it was in the YA version, but never made it into the MG one, but I still remembered it as being there. How crazy is that? you say. And it is crazy, but my brain just ain’t what it used to be. This is my writing handicap and might explain why I hate shoehorning stuff in and out of drafts—it totally screws with my head. Anyone else have this problem?

So how do I keep the flame alive when I’m struggling with editing a WIP (because I almost never struggle when drafting—to me, that’s the VERY BEST part of writing, where all the joy and discovery are)? Well, I think the brightest and hottest flame that burns inside me isn’t for a particular WIP or even for a character or scene, but for my dream of being a career author. When I think about how much work writing and re-writing and editing is, I remind myself that it’s still the only thing I want to do, the only job I’ve ever had that I truly love and have a passion for, despite how freaking hard it can be. That gets me going. That keeps me going day in and day out. And like they always say, if it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing. Now, I really need to get back to that WIP, so I’ll leave you with a question: what part of writing makes you lose your flame or makes it flicker?

13 Replies to “Deb Joanne Fears Death by Shoehorn”

  1. As much as I enjoy the excitement of the first draft, I love editing even more. I’m a born tweaker — I love fiddling with a scene until I get it just right. In fact, the hardest thing for me is to stop fiddling, and just let it go. It’s really tough for me to admit there’s nothing more I can do with a WIP. Yeah, I do get sick of reading the same thing over and over sometimes, but a week off usually helps.

    I do have a scene like the one you’re talking about. It’s in my In a Fix “outtakes” file (I can never throw anything away, so when I edit stuff out of a WIP, I save it in a file, just in case…) and, man, I do love that scene. Unfortunately, it just didn’t work with the rest of the book. Oh, the choices writers must make… *sigh*

    1. I love hearing about how other people work, especially when their methods, like yours, are so different from my own. Maybe you can use that scene elsewhere (didn’t we just talk about scene recycling?) or that can be one of the fun ‘extras’ you can put on your website for your fans to read.

  2. Linda, I’m with you. I love the editing process–I love seeing the story and characters transform–but yes, this week’s theme isn’t all shiny and happy. As you so rightly say, Joanne, writing is work–albeit the best kind of work and work we are grateful to get to do, but I think when we stop seeing it as work, we aren’t able to make the kind of choices (darling-kills, for example) that will make it stronger, and us stronger as writers.

    (And there should be a TV show for writer-hoarders. I can easily clean out a closet in ten minutes, but I–like Linda–have a fat digital file folder where I put EVERY bloody word I cut from draft to draft. Even though LITTLE GALE GUMBO is on the shelf, I STILL have a cut file of all the “outtakes.”)

    1. Oh, good — I’m not the only neurotic writer. Or is “neurotic writer” redundant? Oh, and I’d love to give you a crack at MY closets. I seem to have the same problem with them as I do with my books. 😉

  3. Darling-kills – yes. The big part of editing that just cuts to the soul, but has to be done.

    I have the big fat digital file folder, too. I was in there yesterday, looking at something old that I had cut from SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE and was astounded at how many cut files and complete drafts I have of that book (I save dated versions for backup and never go back to delete them, just in case). It’s horrifying, really.

  4. Thank you Joanne for explaing WIP to your Mother (saves you a phone call asking what the is WIP, see I was good).
    What keeps the flame burning, well it does not matter what line of work you do everyone has the flame, for me it is being deversivied in Real Estate, doing my Weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvah’s and all other aspects of Parties (the best one to come is almost here your right Joannes Launch. Guess what I to have a large folder with a lot of junk from years ago (when I finally learned how to do a folder on the computer, thank you Joanne).
    Well Writers all I can say is do your thing what ever it is for writing the wonderful books that you write to entertain the world. See you all next week.

    1. Thanks, Mom. You have always been very diversified and keep yourself extremely busy, which means you’re the perfect person to help me plan my launch. Tomorrow at our weekly planning meeting/dinner, we’ll be discussing menu. 😀

  5. Like Linda, I also prefer revising/editing to first-drafting. In fact, I kind of hate first-drafting. To me, revising is a wonderful mental puzzle, a game of filling in the bigger picture, switching things around, and tinkering with all the moving parts until the whole machine is up and running smoothly. Mixing metaphors, but whatever. I’ll fix it in revisions. 🙂

    1. Ha! Your process would hurt my brain, Molly. In fact, your description of your process is hurting my brain a litle. Do you storyboard or are you able to keep track of all this stuff?

  6. Amazing that you never struggle with drafting! Fascinating to see how different we all are. I think the flame starts to flicker for me when the first rush of thoughts are on teh page. Once I’ve poured into the intro and first couple of chapters all the thoughts I’d been stockpiling in my brain for this next project. My brain looks like a hoarders closet, full of random sentences and thoughts I’ve planned for the next project. But once those are out, and then I really need to sit and think and do the hard part of “ok, what comes next? where does this go from here?” … that’s when I want to bust out the remote control and watch another rerun of Friends.

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