Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Head-space and Editing

Head-space is a funny old term...but an important one when editing ,well, for me any way. What I mean by this is the ability to think of the story or large chunks of the story as a whole. In theory this should be easy but I find that in practice it can be very hard, especially for the writer. I don't know about others but when writing I am intent on the that scene, that moment in time and frequently can forget the everything else like how it fits into the story and all it's ramifications. My heads starts getting fuzzy just thinking about it...But boy is it important. Think of it as a camera on close focus and then pulling back to wide angle...I'm struggling to pull things into focus in wide angle....

At the moment I using draft 26 of August Rock as the starting point and draft 3 as a reference point for the of writing draft 27. In draft 26 I knew my voice (discovered it writing The Cornish House and the books that followed) and I knew I'd lost it in August Rock somewhere between say draft 5 and 25. So my goal for draft 26 was to put my voice back into the story which meant to darken it...not in a bad way but make it deal with more than just boy meets girl. I think on the whole I achieved it. I can't remember what the goal of draft 3 was other than to improve, but draft 3 contains the hero's pov view and lots of deleted scenes that I find I'm needing for their details - those terribly important things that ground a scene.

So for draft 27 I'm changing from 3rd person to 1st...this does not just mean changing from she to I - oh, how I wish it did. It means re-envisioning each scene and rewriting it. In my head it's not what does Judith see but what do 'I' see and feel. What am 'I' thinking?

At the same time, I have given a character a Lazarus moment... all the previous drafts the story had begun after he was in the ground or about to be put in it. Now he's alive and kicking for the first 5th of the book which mean I'm moving scenes willy nilly and trying to hold onto so many different considerations that I'm finding I struggle with head space to put the whole picture together.

I think if I could use index cards this would help but past attempts have proved futile. I just feel so spacey and long for the clarity of the first draft when I can just write through the story and not try and weave the old with the new....I wish there was a magic wand to clear away the fog but there isn't. I must use instinct to clear and hope I can fix the gaps later when I feel the story is finally coming together.

Do any of you struggle with head-space?

13 comments:

Emma Pass said...

Great post! I have exactly the same problem when I'm editing/revising, and often wake up in the middle of the night, realising that I've completely forgotten to carry on a vital plot thread. And I can't use index cards either. I always liken the revision process to smoothing out a tightly folded piece of paper - with each pass, you uncrease the story a little more.

liz fenwick said...

Emma - i love that image!
lx

Liz Harris said...

An interesting post, Liz, and I take my metaphorical hat off to you, doing all those drafts. I work very differently from that. I probably go over the text the same number of times, but in paragraphs first, and then in chapters.

I see the situation clearly, and the whole story, before I start, but not all of the finer points. These come as I'm writing the book.

Liz X

liz fenwick said...

Liz - This is the only book I have done this many drafts of...I have improved or at least i hope I have. But right now I am making sweeping changes to the structure as well as the pov...I am asking myself why????
lx

Emma Lee-Potter said...

Fascinating post, Liz. I'm another writer who can't use index cards. I have a huge whiteboard that I write everything on - characters, synopsis, ideas, chapters. Mind you, I live in fear of someone wiping the whole thing!

liz fenwick said...

Emma - that might work for me but like you I'd worry about that & it's not portable. I might have to look at something like Scrivner...Have you tried it?
lx

JO said...

No index cards, but I do have a sort-of-chart-thing on an excel file, with ideas for scenes and how they might move the whole story along.

This is, I suppose, evidence that I approach editing with a determination to be methodical, but somehow that gets lost along the way. I begin the process witb the idea of tackling one aspect, characterisation say, but that leads me down other alleys and suddenly the book looks different - again.

So it's back to the chart-thing, see what difference that makes - it's a tortuous process, but I do, oddly, enjoy it!

liz fenwick said...

Jo -I know what you mean about sort of enjoying it...
lx

Fiona Harper said...

Yep, this is exactly where I've been for the last fortnight! Good luck, Liz! Hope you crawl your way out faster than I do.
x

Nicola Ford said...

I use Scrivener and the main thing I like about it is the link between the scenes you're writing and the index cards for the scene, which give you the flexibility that if you want to move the scene you can drag & drop and the index card moves with it. You can view the scene you're writing with the card along side it or see just the scene you're writing or view all of the index cards to see the shape of the whole book. You can move things around really easily. You can also store related research and notes on characters or themes, etc. Have a look on the site where there are videos on the sorts of thing it does.

liz fenwick said...

Ah Fiona, somehow i doubt it...

Nicola - it may the way forward as they now do it for PCs...but I'm not sure how it would work for a book already so far long...I think it might take more time to put the ms into Scrivner than I would gain at the moment but as I've never worked with it I am probably wrong :-)

lx

Nicola Ford said...

Try it for future projects? As you say it would take time to put a completed ms in, I'm not sure how long or how easy that would be either. There's still a free trial for 30 days on the website, and any work you do can be saved as text if you change your mind later on. I started book no.2 in it and continue to use it, but book no.1 is just on Word. Good luck! :)

liz fenwick said...

Nicola - I think I will. I began Enemy, novel 8, in November and I'm only 15k in...it might be the one to try it one.
lx