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Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Why Distance Can Be Our Greatest Ally When Drafting Fiction #TipsTuesday

Why Distance Can Be Our Greatest Ally When Drafting Fiction

We all know we can be a bad judge of something when we are too close to it. Bad decisions can come from having too much invested in a situation or having far too much information to know which way to look next.

The same goes for writing fiction.

Distance can be the answer for different aspects of the process.

Image from Pixabay via Pexels

Writer's Block

We've all had those times when we just run out of steam as we're writing, we burn out.
  • All the creativity dries up. 
  • We start to hate our plot or our characters.
  • We can't seem to think of a way out of the blind alley we seem to have written up.
  • Everything we write is clearly terrible (to us at least).
  • We get caught up in an editing cycle that is going nowhere because new words and ideas are so hard.
These problems can often be solved by a little distance. Step back, walk away, work on something else for a little while. 
  • Sometimes it takes hours - sleep on it, 
  • Sometimes days - focus on another project for the rest of the week
  • Sometimes weeks - put the manuscript away, bring out other projects, be they creative or managerial.
It all depends on the work, but putting it aside and coming back to it can give perspective and insight and reignite the creative fires.

Editing the All Important First Draft

Whether we use a professional editor or not, we need a decent first draft. It's exciting when we type the final word and sit back and know we have come to the end of the story - BUT - we should never be tempted to bundle it up and send it to everybody.

If we have alpha readers, we can send it to them, but, unless we are some sort of literary genius, we should all realise our first draft it not yet ready for other eyes.

However, we should also not be tempted to jump straight in with the self-editing.

At this point we have all the facts buzzing around in our heads, we know exactly what everything it supposed to mean, how it is supposed to go. If we re-read now, we are likely to miss things. The secret is to:
  • close the file
  • sit back
  • pat ourselves on the back - we've done a great thing
  • move on to something else for a couple of weeks at least.

Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels
Yes, I know, I totally understand, the manuscript is our baby, we have worked very hard on it and we want it to be perfect right now! However, what we need to understand is this is unlikely to happen if we just dive right back in.

What we need is distance.

Taking that step back will allow us to see many things:
  • Spelling mistakes - there will be many we have just not noticed and coming back to text fresh helps them pop out.
  • Grammar - we often read on the page what we expect to see, or what is in our head, taking a step back gives us fresh eyes to see what is really there.
  • Pacing issues - we loved a scene so much we put in way too much information and slowed it down, or we were so excited writing something it is over way too fast.
  • Plot holes - we totally forget that Leopold needed a way to find out that Maxine was flying to Budapest before he chased after her.
  • Missing information - the fact Leopold is addicted to chocolate but is vaguely allergic to it was in our head, but we forgot to mention it, so him having a horrible headache after binge eating a whole fudge cake makes no sense.
All of these things can be helped by alpha and beta readers and editors, but if we want our first draft to be palatable and to spark excitement, we can fix a lot of this ourselves before we send it out.

In Conclusion

Our writing comes from our hearts and minds. It is part of us. Sometimes the creative process is wonderful and everything flows onto the page, sometimes we have to force every word. However, no matter how we got there, our manuscript is close to us. 

This is amazing, but it causes issues.

If we're having trouble, or we just want our work to be as good as possible for the next person to see it, what we often need is distance. Take that step back and look away for a while, it can really help.

Have you found it really hard to step away from a project either at the end or during it? Did it help in the end?

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