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My latest book is a huge mess and I don't know how to fix it?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by TheCrystallineEntity, Feb 22, 2017.

  1. I've got a reality warping, literally warping, paradoxical character [who is in fact the author, but not me] looking for another paradoxical character [a living heart] and a family of shapeshifters caught in the middle of it all with their youngest daughter in a mysterious coma [who is actually a magical clone of the living heart], and to top it all off I'm trying to connect it all to my first book [which was supposed to be a stand-alone]. Oh, and there's twin beings of love mixed into the mess as well.

  2. Butterfly

    Butterfly Auror


    Perhaps you need to organise what you have of the story so far...

    Maybe look at your structure, make a chapter and scene map on a spreadsheet, write down each problem you find as you read through it, and work through the list one item at a time.

    maybe even work on one POV character at a time, then weave them together in your final draft.
  3. ^That might work, I guess. Thanks.
    My main 'problem' is that I have no idea where I'm going with this, and that my first book is already as complicated enough as it is!
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2017
  4. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I sympathize, but can't really offer much advice. The descriptions you provide are too vague, for me at least.

    What I can tell you is that I floundered massively--for years--until I took a horribly difficult simple step. I finished a story. Not a short story--it was about 40,000 words.

    And by "finished" I mean all the way through self-publishing it. That meant copyediting, proofreading, getting a cover, all of it. Finished, not merely written.

    Once I had done that, I knew what "done" felt like and I could aim for it again. I got a short story written. I wrote a novelette of about 15k. All the while working on my thrice-cursed novel. But every time I got all the way to done, I solidified my sense of story. I knew what it felt like under my hands, the way a sculptor knows the shape of the finished work.

    I really recommend getting all the way to done with a story. Doesn't matter which one. Doesn't matter if it's good. It only matters that you complete it. You can't live in a house half-finished.
  5. ^Sorry about that.
    Now it seems...like I can so easily pick apart this book and my first so easily until they fall apart, as if both of them are held together with tissue paper. Maybe it's just that I'm just feeling low, that my writing seems cringe-worthy and pathetic. I get like this sometimes. It's kind of telling that I have absolutely no sympathy whatsoever for the author character, and consider him to be the closest thing to a complete 'jerk' I've ever written. Sorry for rambling. :eek:
    I'll just see what happens when I reach the end--only one more [or possibly two] parts left to write, and then editing.
  6. I guess I have way too many ideas stuffed into one story. Hopefully I can fix it a bit later on.
  7. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    One of the most helpful things for me in terms of organising my explosion of ideas and stuff was to learn about structure, specifically three act structure. Once I learned that, it was kind of like going to the home improvement store and coming back with a bunch of organising bins.

    Everything had a bin it belong to and it became a lot easier to make sense of things.
  8. Relatable. Lol.

    I'm in the same boat, and I don't have any solutions, but at least I have sympathy.
  9. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

    No, you have to edit while you write, or you just end up with a big ****ing mess! :eek:
    The advice of just getting the first draft onto paper and "writing is rewriting" is so wrong.
    Second and third drafts can provide superficial changes, and help somewhat, but the core systemic problems alot of writers think can be fixed in subsequent drafts, realistically won't get fixed. Writers who expect editing will radically transform it later on waste a huge amount of time editing drafts that typically turn out worse than earlier versions. So do what you can, and then let it go flaws and all.
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2017
  10. ^Yes. The only thing keeping me from publishing my first book is myself--that is, mainly my insecurities.
  11. Christopher Michael

    Christopher Michael Troubadour


    I have to add this caveat to your statement because it is so very crucial.
    In the opinions of many others, including published, full time, indie authors who I respect, precisely the opposite is true.

    As with everything else, find what works for you.
    Penpilot and Ireth like this.
  12. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

    The people who do that successfully have done alot -alot- of prep work.

    But unsurprisingly, tearing into the first draft without making edits has left the OP with a huge mess.

    I'm saying expecting it to improve significantly in future drafts is unrealistic.

    But if you have an idea on how he can pull that off, by all means jump in and help him.
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2017
  13. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    This may be true for you, but it's not true for everyone. From my experience, editing can improve anything significantly if you identify the problems and come up with solid solutions to them. Identifying the problems can be tricky but it's not impossible. A lot of times all it takes is a bit of time and space from the story.
  14. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

    Identifying and then coming up with solid solutions and then implementing them is going to be a massive time sink in a book where the problems are structural and systemic. It'll also require alot of skill. Which is the reason why publishers reject books with such issues in the first place.

    As he described the book as held togeteher by tissue paper and incompatible with the prior installment, realistically, we are looking at starting over from the level of conception and premise, then making fundamental changes to structure, character and maybe just about everything. Using the earlier effort as a basis. Possibly copying and pasting in the sections that do work.

    As opposed to the idea that he's going to make edits and miraculously transform the full draft.
    Of course no one's saying he shouldn't edit this draft - he should. Only don't get sunk doing it for too long, temper your expectations, and don't get depressed because you expected too much.
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2017
  15. I edited and changed my first book for four + years. I grew sick of it so much that I knew it was time to stop, and I did. As for my next book, I've inevitably gone too far and made it much more complicated than it needs to be, so what I really need to do is pick out the main storyline, include the best bits from other parts, add a couple things here and there, rename a couple characters because I am going to smush a couple characters into one to streamline it [now there's only six-seven characters instead of fourteen!], and write the second half right up to the emotional and heart-breaking climax [I cried when I visualized it in my head, but some of it was happy tears]. That seems like a lot, but it's surprisingly simple for me to do, since I've certainly done it before [too many times to count!] in the past four years.
    Thanks for the advice, everyone! I got it all worked out last night, just like that [in the middle of the night, unfortunately for my need for sleep!]
  16. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Whoa boy! All of the years I've spent on this site have gotten me nowhere with this argument except hate mail. :D

    But on a serious note, perhaps it's more rewriting than editing that's the problem from my pov. I don't rewrite anymore and can't recall the last time I did. Yes, I edit as I go along and basically follow the mantra of "get it right the first time". But this doesn't mean that I don't tediously go through the manuscript and also have help from others doing so. Everyone has a different process, so this is just mine. I write...edit...write...add something in and clean up the narrative....write...edit...write...fix a continuity error...etc. I end up with a clean manuscript after that. What really has killed my manuscripts in the past has been a combination of critique partners and rewriting. The story was no longer mine after that. It morphed and changed to the taste of others. Now, no one looks at it before it's done.

    Back to the OP though: condense that plot. Make it simple. As a newer writer it's crucial to train yourself to finish from the start, so having something simpler to work on will help. Simplify simplify.
  17. I mainly edit bits and pieces at a time, or suddenly get a burst of energy and go through the whole thing [Last year I edited my first book in about four days and transformed it into something actually readable.]

    I am good at telling simple stories with complex layers.
  18. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    Anything worth doing requires time. I find editing takes more time than actually writing the first draft. As for skill, if you want to develop any skill, you have to practice. Not doing something because it takes time and because one isn't good at it, well, IMHO that's not a good way to approach writing or even life.

    The OP asked for help, I offered up learning about structure, specifically the three act structure as a way to organise himself. I once had to throw out the last half of a novel because it stunk, but because I understood structure the editing/rewrite was relatively simple. It just took time, effort, and a desire to do it. And the final results were night and day better.

    Deciding when to move on is one of skills one has to develop as a writer. There will always be a point where limitations on skill will prevent one from taking a story any further.

    My first novel was a 275k mess. I took it as far as I my skills would allow and moved on. As I was writing my second novel, I started using a bunch of tools I'd studied about during the course of writing my first novel. And as I progressed through my second novel, I started see solutions to all the issues that plagued my first.

    I don't have any immediate plans to go back, but I scribbled down a bunch of notes. I consider my first novel something I could fall back on if I got picked up and a publisher wanted something relatively quick.

    As for expectations, me, I always aim high. If I miss, I miss. I learn to deal with it, because failure is a huge fact of life when writing and trying to get published. I think it's better than always aiming low, because if that's all you ever do, then that's all you're ever going to achieve.
  19. In general, whenever someone tells you that you MUST do something a certain way in writing, listen to what they have to say, but don't take it to heart. Or, if you're like me, do the exact opposite...
    Christopher Michael likes this.
  20. ^I often take things to heart too much, being overly sensitive and all.

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