Sunday, June 13, 2010

Too much of a good thing

I don’t like chocolate. I don’t like chocolate flavored ice cream, chocolate cake, chocolate chip cookies. Anyone one I mention that to here in the US look at me as if I’m a mutant…A woman who doesn’t like chocolate?! Well it wasn’t always like that, but you can have too much of a good thing.

When I was a kid, I loved chocolate; I craved chocolate. The thing is, I hardly ever got chocolate. Not that it wasn’t available on the St. Kitts, it was just too expensive. I have fond memories of when my older sister was pregnant and had chocolate cravings. Every now and then she would send me to the shop to buy that creamy Cadbury milk chocolate bar, the kind with the fruit and nuts in it. I looked forward to those times knowing if I didn’t saunter too long or piss her off I’d be rewarded with a square of the chocolate. I savored that tiny square of chocolate. I loved chocolate then.

All that changed when I took my first vacation. It was in Puerto Rico. I discovered that not only was chocolate readily available, it was cheap. The first week I bought a huge bag of Hershey’s kisses. I ate and ate and ate, enjoying every one of those little chocolate kisses. I finished the bag in about two hours. Then came the belly ache, the nausea, the vomiting. After that I could not look at another chocolate. In fact, it took me seven years before I could taste another chocolate without getting upset. I am now able to eat a little chocolate occasional, preferably Swiss chocolate, but to this day, I cannot eat Hershey’s chocolate, especially Hershey’s kisses, even though that incident occurred 21 years ago. You can have too much of a good thing.

Sometimes that happens in writing. I have a habit, don’t know whether it’s bad or not, of writing chapter by chapter sequentially, and reading from the beginning of the manuscript before adding another chapter. It works fine, sometimes. Unfortunately, by the time I get to the later chapters I’m so sick of reading the earlier chapters, I want to barf.

A few WIPs ago, I got so sick of the manuscript I was working on I ditched it. A few months later while browsing my computer I stumbled across it, thought that it was interesting and resumed work on it. I got to chapter 20 and again found myself unable to go on. Initially, I thought it was because I didn’t have a written outline (I write by the seat of my pants). I eventually ditched it and began working on my current WIP. This time, I wrote my outlines, did character sketches, even did chapter by chapter outline. I used the same approach writing sequentially and reading back from the beginning or at least a few prior chapters before writing a new chapter. I got to chapter fourteen, and couldn’t go on, despite my well planned out plot. Yes like the chocolate, I got tired of reading the entire manuscript over and over again and constantly writing it in my head to the point of distraction.

So what did I do? I took a break for a few days. I wrote the outline for a new manuscript from ideas that were floating around in my head. I revisited some earlier abandoned or postponed manuscripts and found them interesting enough to desire to continue working on them. I did other day job related stuff, hung out with facebook friends, did some book promotion. When I returned to my WIP, I was seeing it with new eyes, and yes, I was ready to work on it again.

So how do you deal with reading your WIP over and over again without getting tired enough to feed it to the shredder?


Shauna Roberts said...

You don't like chocolate?!!!! Jewel, I may have to stop being your friend. :-(

Have you tried the Good Stuff, such as Ghirardelli dark chocolate? It has a very different texture, mouthfeel, and flavor than cheapo chocolate. It may convert you into a chocolate liker.

As for your question, one thing I do between drafts is to read or write something completely different or to do something that heavily involves my brain. Doing so seems to put a greater intellectual distance between me and my manuscript than if I just do chores or go shopping.

Another way I avoid tedium is by focusing on different things in different drafts. For example, one draft may be all about tightening the manuscript and cutting worlds, while another draft may be all about improving the dialogue and yet another draft may be about strengthening the verbs. One goes through more drafts this way, but you don't have to read the whole manuscript in detail each time, just the parts relevant to your draft goal.

Charles Gramlich said...

I thought that was just part of the deal. I'm usually pretty sick of my WIP by the time it's done.

Liane Spicer said...

I wish I didn't like chocolate. I'm a chocoholic, so I don't keep the stuff in the house. If I do I keep eating it until it's done. I can have chocolate cake with chocolate chips and chocolate ice cream. Heaven.

I too am sick of my manuscript by the time it's ready for submission. Then the editorial letter comes and I have to look at it again. Excruciating, but yeah, part of the deal.

Jewel Amethyst said...

LOL Shauna, maybe I'll try the Ghirardelli. But then again not being a chocolate lover could be very good to the waistline. One less craving to deal with. Wish I could get sick of oatmeal raisin cookies or black cake.

In terms of the manuscript, I'll definitely try your editting method.

Charles, I wish I wouldn't get sick of my manuscript until it was done, problem is, I get sick of it while in the middle of it.

Liane, maybe if you down the entire cake in an hour then have the chocolate ice cream you'll be cured of your chocoholism at least temporarily :). But then again maybe not....

Farrah Rochon said...

In a way I wish I could get sick of chocolate. I love it way too much.

As for getting sick of a WIP, can't help there either. I'm usually ready to toss the book by the time I turn it in.

Mare Biddle said...

Most of my writing experience is connected to playwriting. I just finished drafting my first novel.

For me, I work on character sketches and conflict in the beginning and gather a rough idea as to plot. Honestly, plot doesn't concern me. I want to know whose story it is, what she wants, and what she's willing to do to get it. I don't care if she's overthrowing the evil empire or navigating through lunch with her mother-in-law.

Once I start writing, I never look back. New characters show up, others are eliminated. Sometimes the conflict changes, and sometimes the storyteller changes. That's really fun!

I move forward even though I'm quite certain the story I began won't be the same one I will finish. Once I'm done the whole thing will sit on the bookshelf for several months while I regain some objectivity. Occasionally my rest and recover time frame is shortened to meet a deadline.

I can't imagine the stress of reading the early chapters 400 times. I would never get anywhere feeling tethered to those first 10,000 words - or first 10 script pages.

The first draft of my novel will percolate on the bookshelf until August 22nd. And no, I really won't open that file or pick up the manuscript ahead of time. Not even once.