D'You Ever Get Those Umpteenth Draft Blues - They're Like the Mean Reds (Or, I Need to Buy HG Wells' Time Machine off Sheldon Cooper)

Say hip hip hooray for absurdly long titles. (And if you didn't catch those references, look here (at 2:50) and here)

I apologise profusely here, boyos. School has been an even greater burden that I'd ever imagined. If I want this mark I've been blabbering about, I am going to need to clone myself. Seriously. It's been a long week since I last spoke to you all and I'm afraid it may be another until I can break above the water. I'm drowning in homework, and core texts that I absolutely despise. In fact, I'm starting to look a little like this:

And this glorious situation sparked me with inspiration as gracefully as lightning destroys a palm tree. Inspiration for, well, my blog. *Casts longing glance to manuscript in the corner* As I tried to straighten out my weekend to catch up on all the work I missed when I was sick this week, I realised that Saturday - my devout RETURN revisions day - was being consumed by extra reading/film viewing/art sketching for school. I remembered how when I was writing, there was no way my homework was having priority. Or how when I was revising the first couple drafts, there was no way my homework was going to stop me from clocking in a huge number of hours. But now, well, tomorrow - it's just not going to happen. At first I blamed the work, but then I thought maybe it's something else.

Hence, the umpteenth draft blues. (Whether this will be coherent or not, I'm not yet sure)

The umpteenth draft blues isn't like the first draft blues where you feel inadequate and think your plot doesn't make sense and that you maybe rushed the middle and royally fracked up the ending. No, no, no, no, no. The umpteenth draft blues, hereby referred to as UDB, is when you feel anxious and nauseated by the construct of mere sentences, and you need to 3D-ify the shit out of a character's personality and you just can't, and every piece of dialogue is stilted and you don't know what to do because if you don't finish this god-fracking-damn book now you're going to go looking for your Dad's Winchester rifle or a well-situated noose.

And the key to overcoming it, or even just keeping up with it isn't the same as before. You know, back when everywhere you looked for advice on revisions was about those first few sweeps and hurled those easy steps at you like they were basic arithmetic.

But now, you can't take a break. You've tried. You said: "Hey, at the end of term, I'll have two straight weeks to do nothing but write and revise". It doesn't work. You're past the page of forgetting everything, forgetting anything that has to do with this Frankenstein monster. It's no longer that thing screaming "Gurrrrgh!" on that cold slab. It's learning, it's experiencing and it's yearning to become human. To become real. (In this odd metaphor, I do indeed mean that your WIP wants to become a real novel. A finished novel.) When you leave it alone, all the damned thing does is plague you with new ideas, brilliant ideas that leave you if you disregard them for too long. You know every inch of this damn thing. Every inch. And guess what? It knows every inch of you and how to get at you. (EG: *whispers* It knows where you live)

And you can't damn well read a how-to book to solve your problems. Trust me. I've checked. The problem with UDB is that it's entirely motivational and completely stems for your servitude and obsession with this mess of words (Which, by this point, I'm hoping is more than a mess). And it's bloody hard to contact your subconscious without Leonardo Di Caprio, a team of architects and forgers, and Christopher Nolan's camera angles.

Also, you notice how it's like Speed - you've got Keanu Reeves and The Bullock sitting behind you on the Procrastination Bus, and you can't do anything else but drive and drive and drive. When you ever do something novel-related, it's sketching someone, or planning or plotting or brainstorming - but never actually doing (Apologies. I couldn't think of a relevant verb). In fact, since you started this umpteenth draft, you've had exactly five brand new novel ideas that are bloody amazing; but every time you start, you get stuck and you realise that you don't actually care about this idea. You love your novel and you could never cheat on it ever. You're so sorry that you even thought about it.

Alright, so it's fine and dandy that I'm griping and grousing and bitching (hip hip hooray for synonyms!), but the subtle, ever-present question still stands. Great, I have UDB and I need medication and a support group, but what the bloody hell do I do?

And I'm going to be honest and do the cardinal sin of blogging: reveal that I do not, in fact, know everything. Actually, I'm hoping that you, my readers, are more privy to such top-secret UDB information than I. However, while I do not know everything, I do know some, and without additional advice, I am yet to be fully cured of UDB.

1 I suggest you read more. I know, I sound like that ancient English teacher at your school who secretly looks like Ms. Clavel and who responds to non-reading delinquents by frowning really hard. But it helps. It helps. It helps. And you know what? Yes, you should read that brand new Urban Fantasy YA. But maybe you should read other things as well. Think about films, as an example. The new and highly-anticipated-by-moi film I Am Number Four is not just YA-targeted - it's action, fantasy, sci-fi, adventure, romance, thriller, etc. Are you thinking what I'm thinking B1? You need to realise that there should be multiple aspects to every novel that appeal to certain readers. Despite being an Urban Fantasy YA reader, I have other preferences within that genre. It needs to have action, adventure, minor romance and thriller aspects. So instead of making a beeline for that new Urban Fantasy, browse a little. Pick up that new Sci-Fi or that new Spy novel. At this point, any new ideas will only benefit you. If it's only a verbal tic for that gremlin cop in the third chapter of your WIP, it's still gold.

2 Get addicted to 1-star reviews, and fast. No, seriously. I might just meet Edward Norton at one of my 1-star Review Readers Anonymous meetings. Now, I'm not telling you to study those reviews like you're a day out from your HSC. Skim the overly rantish ones and ones that say: "It just didn't do it for me". The golden nuggets are those ones that have spacing and possibly even use bold and italics which reference other books besides TWILIGHT and Mary Sues. What you need to do with these nuggets is to read a bucketload of them, so many that Thor would have some trouble picking up said bucket, and to pull out the relevant pieces, the peeves that'll improve your brain, your writing and your WIP.

3 And, yeah, I know it's so senior year of high school, but create a schedule. You've got every other odd and bloody end up on your bedroom/office walls - plot lines, character images and biographies, town maps and setting diagrams. How about a schedule? If you don't revise twenty pages on Saturday morning, you are not allowed to watch that new episode of Glee on Monday night. But at the same time, use it so that it's flexible to some extent. If you're not feeling the magic and you've got UDB bad, well, swap Write Time for Work Time or Cook a Pastry Time. I find that saying Saturday is writing day does in fact keep a lot of the garbage inspiration flashes and "Pay attention to me!" cries at bay. You are going to have to get all Monk up in your organisational stuff.

So, voila! Any additions to my oh-so-helpful advice?


Caitlin at: February 18, 2011 at 8:45 PM said...

I know EXACTLY how you feel, Nina, TRUST ME. My God. I am about to go berserk if I have to so much as correct another word in rewrites. However, I've found the best approach to Revision/First Drafting Blues is, as you say, reading. I dove into so many new YA books, by the end of them all, I was seriously pumped for more rewriting.

Also, chocolate and junk food. Seriously. Got me through some hard times. :)

Lindz at: February 19, 2011 at 2:47 AM said...

I'm totally in the throes of editing/revising and I'm trying to keep my chin up. Trying to remind myself that its for the greater good, and I'm trying to craft the best story I possibly can.

By the way, I wanted to thank you for signing up for my blogfest. I can't wait to see your cast, come April.

gideon 86 at: February 19, 2011 at 4:53 AM said...

Hi, Nina,

Nice to meet you...


Hopping over from the crusade list to introduce myself and follow.

The first challenge is up!


Michael Offutt at: February 19, 2011 at 4:54 AM said...

Maybe you could enlist someone to help you with the editing.

Michelle at: February 19, 2011 at 7:28 AM said...

Michael, unless it's basic grammar bits, no one can 'help' you with the editing. :/ I think that was the whole point of her post...

I completely love this post, Nin!! It definetly speaks to me. You really did sound like an english teacher/that really did feel like senior year in high school. (Ugh, schedules, UGH.)

If you ever need a beta reader, I'd love to give it a crack. ;)

Madeline at: February 19, 2011 at 9:23 AM said...

Nina, I can almost say I know how you feel. I've wanted to write so bad the past few days, but being sick, I just couldn't. Hopefully I can fix that this weekend.

I have to agree with all of your advice, but I won't lie, I don't read. I spend all of my time writing. . .hehe. I have to fix that, or else I just might have a Blogger mob wanting to hang my head above their fireplaces. ;)

Carol Riggs at: February 19, 2011 at 12:10 PM said...

Hiya, buddy crusader! I'm making the rounds today and checking out your blog. Nice to meet you, and Happy Friday! :) I like your artwork!!

Artzicarol Ramblings

Lauri at: February 21, 2011 at 1:55 AM said...

I so understand the UDBs and the mean reds :)

Chantele Sedgwick at: February 21, 2011 at 12:22 PM said...

Hi fellow crusader! We are in the same group, so I thought I'd drop by to say hello! :D

Regina at: February 21, 2011 at 12:30 PM said...

This has happened to me before. Yes, I think that more people than you think have ridden on that bus. Some of us have our own bus pass. I read a lot to give myself a break from the insanity. I was reading a book a day but now things have gotten hectic and I haven't read for a couple of weeks. I've read like 25 books so far this year and it is only February. Fellow crusader and follower stopping by. :)

Rane at: February 21, 2011 at 2:06 PM said...

Hi there group member!:-) It'll be nice to get to know you.


Aimee L Salter at: February 23, 2011 at 6:04 AM said...

Hi fellow Crusader.

My advice: Take a month off the manuscript. Two if you can. Seriously. Put it aside, sto thinking about it, stop planning it, start writing something else if you absolutely MSUT work on a story.

Get some space. Then go back adn start reading and fall in love again.

Worked for me.

*Writerly hugs*

tangynt at: February 24, 2011 at 5:47 AM said...

I say you definitely need a break. FORCING yourself to do something, when you don't have an agent/editor deadline to meet in this sort of situation can cause more harm than help. But, if you just HAVE to keep going...

Reread what you have. Stop editing it and just read it and ask yourself why you feel all of these things are wrong with it and if you're not just trying to change things for the sake of thinking you need to change something. Something else I would suggest is get a fresh opinion on it. Totally fresh, stranger off the street corner fresh, not someone who read any of the first however-many drafts.

Hart Johnson at: February 24, 2011 at 6:52 AM said...

URGH! I think you should not only read, but read for a CRIT partner--read something NOT DONE YET. Practice spotting pitfalls... I ALSO recommend working on something else for a bit and coming BACK to this fresh, but when you come back, give yourself a deadline. Nothing works like a deadline to squash that procrastination thing.

Trisha at: February 24, 2011 at 6:48 PM said...

I gave you an award! :) I know you already got this one, but just tack my name on the end ;) I couldn't give this award and pass you over, you ARE so very stylish! :D

M Pax at: February 25, 2011 at 9:13 AM said...

Critique partners. But I'm in those blues, too, with my 1st. Only on 1st revision with the 2nd. But I'm sure it'll catch up.

Alison Miller at: February 26, 2011 at 10:34 AM said...

I'm in probs the fiftieth revision of my novel. At times it's exhilarating - other times I want to pull my hair out... critique partners are wonderful for finding stuff I didn't see, for encouragement. Hang in there. And sometimes it pays to take a break from your novel. I've done this twice with my current ms and each break was probably around two months. It's good to give yourself distance from it - you come back refreshed and oft times with new insight.

Good luck!

New follower and fellow crusader! Nice to meet you!

Susanna Leonard Hill at: February 27, 2011 at 5:43 AM said...

Hi Nina, fellow crusader just stopping by to say hi and follow :)

Rachael Harrie at: March 3, 2011 at 10:06 PM said...

Hey Nina, I so understand, am right there myself at the moment! You've got some great advice here, what Tangynt and Hart said!!! And love your tips too :)



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