Back to the salt mines – revising the finished book.

By CBramkamp Newbie Guide 2 Comments on Back to the salt mines – revising the finished book.

osloBabyStatueOne really wonderful feature of an e-book  is that it can be endlessly modified, updated, repaired and uploaded again and again. Authors can fix their work on a continual basis with no additional costs or penalties.  But even as I say this, perhaps this new and somewhat liberating feature  it not all it promises to be.

Writers (okay, just about everyone) over think. We overthink our plots, we overthink our syntax, we overthink the theme. Once we’ve spent an entire afternoon overthinking, we fall into a deep depression because nothing we’ve done has ever amounted to anything of value – like a Nobel in Literature.  So what is the point? We ask, why do this at all? It’s all just crap anyway and soon we will be dead (at least that’s where I go when I start really overthinking).

Over thinking slams us even as we approach the smallest writing job.   I needed to make two spelling corrections to a published e-book. I do this quickly using the search feature in Word. As I looked for the first offending misspelled word, another word popped up that seemed just as obvious and painful as a typo, the word then. What a lame word!  Then.  I spent the next hour searching out then throughout the book and replacing it with either a better word or deleting it all together. And of course I did not do this in a calm, professional manner, I spent the hour obsessing over the preponderance of that small, and seemingly meaningless word. What was I thinking?  Then.

Searching out this word in the name of syntax and clarity is a noble thing (even if there is no prize to commemorate the effort), but  it is also a slippery slope (that same slope that bottoms out at the local bar).  How many times should we return to our book?  How many times should we tweak it?  How many searches for the word and or then?  There are precedents of course, poets like Walt Whitman couldn’t stop tweeking Leaves of Grass and the final version is considered the lesser of the three poems.  There is a time to let go.  Maybe forgive all the small words that seem to proliferate throughout the manuscript when you weren’t looking.   Maybe let go.  Maybe say – this one is good enough and I’ll work on the next with a different eye and mindset.

This new ability to continually improve our work does not set us on a road to perfection, but folds us back on a twisting loop of overthinking, tinkering and revisiting.  It’s difficult to move forward when you are constantly drawn back to the starting point.

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  • Sarah
    Posted on August 1, 2014 at 2:01 am

    I can totally relate to what you wrote. I’m in the process of writing a story and every day, I change my mind on the plot. I finally stuck with one that hopefully stays (knock on wood). But, even just a silly word can shatter my hope. How do we know when we’ve overthought something? How do we know when it’s good enough? That’s what confuses me.

  • CBramkamp
    Posted on August 1, 2014 at 2:19 am

    I think that’s why Beta Readers are so helpful. Once you’ve feel “done” send it out to friends or even enemies and ask for feedback! If you are very lucky, a few will give you honest suggestions and ways to improve your book. When I sent the second book in the Future Girls trilogy, no one liked the first chapter, it was too slow (Damien made more pointed comments than that). So I re wrote it. Great help!

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