Take that, Chapter Seven.

It’s no secret that Chapter Seven has been kicking my arse for something like three weeks now. Not only has it put me behind in my self-imposed schedule, but it’s taken a lot of the enjoyment out of my rewrite to date. I haven’t been enjoying the M/M groups on facebook, I’ve only been to goodreads to reply to messages, and the only thing I do on this blog is fixate on how I need to finish Chapter Seven as soon as possible.

Well, it’s done. About 7 hours ago, I finished Chapter Seven. I was so pleased with myself, that I continued on and went through Chapter Eight in no time at all. Then I rewarded myself by catching up on game tags, cooked lunch and caught up with some of the housework that I have been neglecting. The buzz still hasn’t worn off, and since I am so ridiculously pleased with myself, I thought I’d make a note of some of the techniques I used to get myself past the bumps in the hopes that other people find this as interesting as I do (and also that when I inevitably get stuck again, I remember what worked for me this time!).

1. Realize that works for writing might not work for rewriting/editing.

When I write, I like company. I usually have the M/M sprint group open in a browser tab, my beta in an IM window, music or a podcast playing in the background. I was having a lot of trouble making any progress with the changes to Chapter Seven, until I had a free period at school and decided to have a go at it on the staffroom computer. No music and a limited amount of time = progress! I discovered that if I maximized word to fill my computer screen I had similar success at home! Finally we were getting somewhere.

2. Keeping up morale.

I am a goal-orietated person. I like to achieve. It doesn’t matter that my goals here were self-inflicted and my deadlines arbitrary. The fact that I wasn’t achieving them really brought me down. As Chapter Seven dragged on and on it was really easy to feel discouraged and tired. However, taking a break from writing to achieve other tasks, whether they were as simple as making a facebook post, taking a walk or doing the dishes boosted my mood and kept me going. Another time, I might try breaking down a big chapter that has to be entirely rewritten into smaller scenes. Crossing items off a list, no matter how easy or basic the list is, makes me happy. When I am happy, I am more productive.

3. Trying new things.

I am coming to this with a pretty good background in fanfiction. I have written and shared a lot of stories, some of which I even finished! I generally shared what I wrote as soon as I’d finished a chapter. If I used a beta, it was usually for basic grammar/spelling/clarity things, since neither of us knew where the story was going next to worry about the big picture stuff. Rewriting like I’m doing with Thorns and Fangs is a first for me. I’ve tried it once before, but never made it beyond the opening chapters.

Already I’ve made progress. The LL Event has given me valuable experience of working with betas and editors to really hone a manuscript, and I’m more determined this time round. However, it is still new and I’m learning. So trying new things is essential. Most useful in conquering Chapter Seven, were these three tricks:

First, when I reached my first sticking point, I made a summary of the chapter so far, devoting a few sentences for each significant moment, the setting and characters emotional state. This helped me see where I’d been, where I was going and how that differed from where I wanted to go. Finally, I used these notes to make an outline of where the chapter was going (which I promptly misplaced and didn’t stick to anyway, but strangely having made it I found that the feeling of knowing what I wanted to do carried me through).

Secondly, I started with a completely blank screen in front of me. Rewriting/editing, it’s hard to move beyond what’s already on your screen. I was agonizing over how to keep certain passages in. When I couldn’t see those passages, I wrote better. I found this technique worked for me because I am a hoarder and can’t bear to say goodbye to anything. The bits I did end up cutting, however, found a new home in a document I titled ‘bitscutfromTaFforlater’ — it’s not really goodbye if I can find them again (don’t ask me why this worked while knowing that I have an excess amount of copies of my earlier drafts did not).

Finally, when I felt like I had a really good grip of where the chapter was going, I cut and pasted the remaining sections of previous Chapter Sevens into my working doc, and went through, pasting them into their new order, working out what could be recycled and what could be cut.

4. Me-time.

I have really awesome, supportive writing friends on facebook, goodreads and also here on wordpress, but for some reason, I found it really hard to say ‘hey, I’m really not making progress here and am at a loss,’ especially since everyone else seemed to be making progress in leaps and bounds. There were other time-consuming factors that monopolized my online time, so I let facebook posts go unread, goodreads thread go unlooked at and my reading page ignored until I felt that I was ‘behind’ and ‘would never catch up.’ I don’t know what is with my brain and turning ‘fun’ into ‘work’ or ‘competition’ but this was probably a side-effect of slugging away without much headway for so long. Recognising that I needed to spend some time away from social networks, indulging myself doing fun non-writing things was one of the best things I did!

5. Lonely.

Re-writing’s very much a one-person past-time for me, so no surprise that I spend a lot of the past three weeks on my own! It was really easy to question if what I was doing had any worth, wasn’t just a waste of my time and if anyone would care. Were my improvements really improvements? What if I was just ruining my story? I decided that if I am serious about finishing this story, I need to develop the internal resources to do this.

At least I knew that I was not alone in this! Paradox? Sort of. A few years ago, I read The Diaries of Virginia Woolf followed by The Diary of Katherine Mansfield. Both these women writers who today are recognised as indisputable masters of the novel and the short story respectively, struggled with doubt and insecurities about their writing. Not occasionally, either. I told myself that this is the sort of worry that all writers have and that if I want to be a writer I have to keep going.

When that didn’t work, I would send the passage that was worrying me to my most trusted beta via e-mail with a plea for a second opinion. That woman has the patience of a saint, I swear, and having the input of someone not inside my head was amazingly helpful and motivating.

6. Coffee.

Lots and lots of coffee.

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