Monday, February 20, 2012

How Much is Too Much?

Well, I've finally done it.  In all the books I've written up to now, this has never happened.  But it did.  I've finally reached the point where I hate my own book.  Like I told Daughter yesterday, I want to print out a copy just so I can burn it.  I want to shred it page by page - by hand.  I want to crumple it all up in a ball and eat it (like in that episode of Grey's Anatomy, but without the intestinal blockage and mercury poisoning). 

I hit the realization that I hated this (or at least the first chapter of this, after which I was unable to read forward) yesterday morning - after I finished typing in the last of the edits for chapter one and read through what I'd done.  This thing I've created... that I once loved with wild abandon... has become something I don't even recognize.  It's choppy and inconsistent.  My heroine is a blathering moron who throws out quips like like week's leftovers.  The villain is boring and not only is his motivation unclear, but his actions make Snidley Whiplash look like a criminal genius.  The crux of the plot is so convoluted I get nauseous just trying to follow it.  And that's just the first chapter.  :headdesk:

After much gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair, I did what I swore I wouldn't do*.  I sent the chapter off to Daughter at college.  She received it and did something she never does - she was silent all day.  At least all day until I cornered her last night on FB chat and made her tell me what she thought.  Her answer, after several seconds of stalling: "I liked in general but..." 

It took a while to get specifics out of her, but she gave me some choice things to think about.  And I did.  I dwelled on it, in fact.  Hell, I went to bed thinking about it.  Know what I came up with?

I over-edited this thing.  What started out as something I loved like cheesecake turned into something I wouldn't serve to my worst enemy.  (Okay, maybe my WORST enemy, but certainly not to anyone I didn't hate.)  I fiddled with it too much, added too many unnecessary ingredients, over stirred and took out some key spices - all of which left this whole thing chewy and flat and gross.  Basically I took a great thing and turned it into garbage.  Go me.

Unlike the unfortunate cheesecake, though, this thing can be fixed.  I just need to start over, using some of what I already wrote along with some newer better stuff. 

The question of the day is, though, How much is too much?  How do you know when you're still editing to make it better or editing the hell out of something until it's so much worse you want to punch yourself in the face?

*I swore I wouldn't send Daughter pages because she's like in college and junk, and needs to be focusing on her work - not mine.

** Above image shamelessly stolen from Anton Strout's Facebook page.  It was too poignant not to add it to this blog.


  1. Totally feel you on this one! I got to the point with the last one where I just had to say enough. And with this one I've limited myself to how many times I'm allowed to go through it. (3) so I have to make each one count. (1st time is after first draft to look for stupid typos and things, 2nd is after crit partner notes to make large changes, and 3rd after beta readers.) So far, it's working out well! Hopefully you can overhaul your own to make it something you love again!

  2. Awww, Im sorry hun! I hope you kept the original so you can go back to it? Im not quite sure how you know if you've over-edited until the deed is already done. All I can say is, you're a fantastic writer and I know you'll figure it out. If you ever need help with anything--someone to talk to, a second set of eyes to look at something-- Im here! *hugs*

  3. Sounds like you and your book need a vacation from each other!

    I get myself all twisted up when I change, if I change one thing, then I have to change about twelve more things to keep the consistency going, and then when I am halfway done, I decide I shouldn't have changed anything, and have to go back and start over...

    It's like Frog knitting (you know, rip it, rip it).

  4. Limiting myself probably would've been a good idea way back when, Colene. Good for you on sticking to your limit. And thanks for the good wishes.

    No worries, Nat. I keep everything. You're so right that you never know until you've already edited it to death. Thanks for the offer. I'll definitely ask you to read through when this doesn't suck anymore.

    Thanks, Teri Anne, but I just got off a break from this one. Maybe that was part of the problem. I attacked it before I had a chance to remember what I loved about it. ROFL on the ripit.

  5. I got to where I just about hated Countless, so I took a break. I have a feeling you are overly critical though, since A) you are a writer and we all are, and B) I've read some of your work and you're a great writer.

    I make editing to-do lists to keep me organized, and I also have a series of passovers looking for different stuff, like Colene said.

  6. Thanks for the encouragement, Alexia, and thank you for saying that about me. I think in this case, whatever greatness I was going for went down the toilet. But things are looking up.

  7. (((((hugs))))) coming your way - and a message: Don't.Give.Up. As others have said, you're too good - and your work needs to be published.

    Oh, I also totally get where you're coming from - and I love the poster!

  8. Thanks, Janet! :HUGS: I won't give up if you don't.