November Editing Project Thing (really half-ass nanowrimo)

In a recent post, I wrote about some piece of shit writings I am working on.

Piece of shit the lesser is going to fall by the wayside for now except if I get bored and decide to put it out of its misery.

I learned in September that having a goal that I need to work towards every day makes a big difference in my productivity and general happiness in life. My project for November is editing and improving piece of shit the greater. (When I say “greater,” I mean “bigger,” although it is better than piece of shit the lesser, so the labels are misnomers to some degree.)

I’m going to copy and paste what I wrote about it because I’m too lazy to rephrase it: it’s a behemoth patchwork of scenes with no discernible plot; paragraphs that amount to little more than stage directions that I was supposed to flesh out later but no longer remember why; long series of dialogue between immaterial talking heads; and redundant opening chapters that I don’t know how to begin to merge. Some parts are completely untouched, others edited several times. Some of it I actually quite like, some of it makes my face burn.

There’re a number of seemingly random paragraphs highlighted according to a color-code system I no longer recall. The work is also littered with [my comments and asides in brackets].

Therefore, I’m going to park my bum in front of my computer for 30 minutes a day editing, outlining, or writing in the hopes that by the end of the month, a leaner and more straightforward piece of shit will have emerged along with a roadmap for the future. I also hope that the main protagonist reveals who she is to me, because she’s mute and I don’t know why. You can’t force these things.

I plan to keep a brief daily log of what I worked on and learned. As I go along, I figure I’ll try out different techniques and theories. I’ll post my log once a week because I feel like hitting “publish” is as bad or worse than ringing someone up in the middle of the night.

This week, I plan to focus on reading through the whole thing which is about forty thousand words, however painful and cringeworthy that may be, and identify the most glaring issues needing my attention. Once I have a handle on this, I’ll have a better idea of what to tackle next. Hopefully, I’ll have a stronger sense of the story arc. I find that the more I work on something, the more ideas are generated throughout the day.

I know some other folks out there do the November novel-writing thing. I don’t have the mental stamina to write that many words. It takes me hours to produce five hundred word sorta kinda coherent paragraphs so I’d lose my mind trying to write over a thousand. Or just type anything to get it over with.

Anyways, for those of you working on something daily, I hope you feel free to share what you’re doing and what you’re learning as you go along. 

(I need a better name than “November Editing Project Thing.”)

45 thoughts on “November Editing Project Thing (really half-ass nanowrimo)

  1. I feel a nudge from your post that I might feel inspired at some point to take a look at all my old half full writings at once and try to being coherence to it. I also understand it is going to take consistency and commitment from me. Thank you for sharing.

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  2. Hey Hetty, so pleased your giving it a go, and take heart I’m two years into editing now and I can see the finish line. I have found that the romance is now a suspense thriller and I actually like the characters. Looking forward to reading about your process and just a quick aside, it takes me 3 weeks to edit 2500 words 😀

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  3. I think this sounds like a great project. I don’t think the process of revision and editing gets enough attention. Everyone seems to focus a lot on being inspired and writing as if that is enough. I am confident that over the course of your editing project you will find that a) your previous work is actually not shit at all and b) even the parts that aren’t working as well presently can be redeemed or reworked out of “shit” status (“shit” being your words here, not mine). Good luck with it!

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  4. I wrote (well, let’s forget how many close to or in excess of 300k words) of what an editor called “slice of life”. In the olden days when writing was discussed in literary terms it would be called a stream of consciousness work. We drop in somewhere in characters’ lives, follow them around for a while, watch them learn and get beat up, do dumb shit, cool shit, and close the cover. Those words of mines were spread out over who knows how many volumes. I revisit occasionally, wonder WTF should I do with (all) this shit? I say that so you might see 40k as an enviable number, in line with “plenty.” Also, we all have one we wrote for some reason or other that’s a mess one way or another that we can’t watch swirl the bowl, but have no problem back-burnering for eternity.

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      1. Scene after scene of character experience. Everything from female software uniforms, an acid trip, inappropriate relationships… it’s not David Foster Wallace but it goes on forever. Did you ever read Richard Brautigan’s Willard and his Bowling Trophies? It’s like a mystery, SOC, and hard core hippie existentialism that in its way makes Mole’s fatalism look like a Sunday school picnic. And it’s funny.

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          1. Yes – but I find that it’s not the textbook example of stream of consciousness in that it’s not a first person interior monologue. My old education made out that slice of life works were SOC but are now fiction. The trouble is metafiction took over the fourth wall and the structuralists decided content was structure…sheeesh…

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  5. I would certainly like to try my hand at NaNoWriMo, but not this year, maybe next year. This is the time which I’ll use to gauge the reaction of people to my content, starting from December, there will be some small one-shot of various varieties on my blog.

    Let’s just hope I won’t anger too many people.

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  6. Good luck to you. I decided to give the NaNoWriMo thing a go. I normally write slowly and don’t even like to leave a paragraph until I’m sure it’s just right; this mindless, rapid typing is a much different exercise with somewhat different results. Anyway, first time I’ve had a November with nothing else in particular to do.
    I will say, if nothing else, it does a good job of opening up the verbal side of the brain–or however you might say it.

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  7. It’s encouraging to hear that your working on your writing project. It does sound challenging to go back and to edit and try to piece it together. Best of luck.

    I haven’t tried this myself yet, but I like the idea of printing out pages and physically shuffling them around (floor space permitting) to get some order, just to get away from linear space on the screen. I’m not sure if it’d work in every scenario – perhaps, you need defined sections – but, maybe, something to consider.

    I have a diary piece that I started last year and have wondered about putting it together as a book. However, aside from doubting whether there is sufficient narrative, I also wonder how it can end, without it being abrupt and feel too arbitrary.

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    1. Hi. Thanks for the encouragement. The idea of printing out pages and laying them out sounds cool but it’d have to be broken down into so many pages and sections it’d drive me crazy. I’ve heard people use index cards with the scenes summarized. That might be easier to handle.

      If you want to do something with your diary piece, then you should try starting at least. As you go along editing, ideas will pop into your head about where you want to go with it.

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  8. I’ve destroyed a great deal of my own writing. All of it for a very good reason: It wouldn’t pass the literary gate-keepers who decided what gets published or not. Maybe 25% of my website would pass the gatekeepers so I’m failing at deleting the toxic work. Maybe 25%. If that.

    Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go to a 7-Eleven and buy myself some food and drink.

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  9. It so happens I’m done with my first draft, but there are some parts I’d like to add in. I’m just not sure if I’d consider that a second draft, or just me filling up my first draft. In fact, I don’t even know why I categorise things like that. Maybe it’s easier to procrastinate if I do.

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