Getting Lost in the Details

Right now my manuscript is in a bit of a rut. I know where it’s going, and I know how I want to get there. But despite all that, every time I sit down to write I find myself reviewing what I just wrote, and getting bogged down in the details. My fingers will itch to edit, instead of write. At the end of an hour I’m left with a cleaner, but also shorter, WIP, and I wonder how I’ll ever get back to churning out 1,000 words a day.

A conversation with my 3-year-old the other day made me realize how ridiculous my obsessive editing is. I was trying to put a movie on for my kids, and asked my son what he’d like to watch. “Awesome,” he said, apparently making up the title (remember, he’s 3).

Me: Could you tell me a little about the movie?
Him: Yes. There’s a man wearing an orange shirt.
Me: Hmmm. Could you maybe tell me a little more about it?
Him: Well, later he changes into a black shirt.
My way of working on my WIP is a little like that right now. Every time I sit down with it, minutiae leaps out at me. Like the color of a character’s hair changing, or whether or not a woman was wearing gloves in the previous chapters. That’s when I get an overwhelming urge to fix it NOW. An hour later, anachronisms and continuity errors and questionable grammar are fixed, but I haven’t worked on the relationship between my hero and heroine. Conflict that was just beginning to reach a boiling point has now cooled. Just as my son couldn’t remember the plot of the movie, I start to lose track of how I was crafting my story. Yes, the copy is cleaner, but it isn’t always better. 
When I wrote my first novel, I chained myself to my laptop each day and wouldn’t get up until at least 1,000 words had been written. And it was exhilarating to reach the goal of writing a novel after just four months (yes, that’s a 120,000 word novel. I’ll get to that in a future post). In the end, my novel needed a LOT of editing, but at least it was done. I’ve now found that though I despise doing all that editing at the end,seeing the word count remain the same day after day is starting to discourage me.
So my resolution starting today is this: write 1,000 words each and every day until my novel is finished. I won’t stop myself from editing, but it must only be in addition to my 1,000 word goal. I’m going to post my progress here weekly to keep myself accountable. I’ve made this goal real once before. Here’s to hoping I’ve got the willpower a second time. 

2 thoughts on “Getting Lost in the Details

  1. We’re very similar. When I start writing I used to reread through my previous five pages to remember where I’m at – but of course in that previous five pages I decide that X sentence is terrible and needs to be fixed NOW, or that I actually must decide what smell is in the air (sensory detail is my big weakness) and get it in. I finally fixed it by only allowing myself to read the previous half page! But I am in awe of you – 1,000 words a day with three children is amazing! My aim is 5,000 words a week and I only have one (though sometimes I suspect he causes enough chaos that he should count as at least two!)

    • Kara – I love the idea of limiting yourself to half a page. I always feel like I have to review something, otherwise I end up repeating details I just wrote, and that sounds like the perfect amount. Just enough to keep continuity. Not enough to get in trouble.

      My oldest is 3, which means I never go anywhere. Ever. I guess that gives me just enough free time to write 1,000 word a day. I’ve found that each additional kid doesn’t multiply the existing work. They just multiply the exhaustion you feel. 😉

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