Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A ot Z: Editing Fiction - Ugly Bits

2017 THEME: Editing Fiction (Because that's what I'm in the middle of doing.)

What is the Blogging from A to Z challenge and where can I find more participants? Right here.


Maybe you're awesome, but the rest of us have first drafts with Ugly bits. You know that scene, the one that bridges two other scenes you really enjoyed writing? The one you sort of rushed through, telling yourself that you'd fix it later? Guess what...that time is now.

I often find these ugly scenes a pain in the ass to deal with. I didn't want to write them the first time and I'm really not in the mindset to rewrite them after the first draft is done. The smoothing and shaping part of editing, I don't mind at all. Sinking back into the story enough to pick up where one scene left off and making the pile of crap I filled the next scene with workable? Ugh.

Well you can't leave that wordy trash pile there, you've got to clean it up. That might mean buckling down and doing the thing I mentioned that I hate doing (such as when I/you may have half-assed your way through the entire middle of a novel or other similarly large swath of words). Or, my much preferred and suggested method, sitting back and figuring out why you hated writing that scene so much the first time around. Because, just maybe (and most likely), you were going about it the wrong way and that's why it didn't click.

  • Now that you know the whole story, is there a better way to go from scene A to scene C?
  • Can something more interesting happen?
  • What about changing things up to better showcase character development , growth or an aspect of your character you really enjoy writing about?
  • Can you switch the POV and come at it from a different perspective?
  • Do we really need scene B or would adding a paragraph at the end of A and the beginning of C to show the transition work just as well?

The trick is to not leave any of those ugly bits in, because even if your beta readers let you get away with them, readers who don't know you will likely be less tolerant. When the writer doesn't like a scene, its often easy to tell when reading.

Do you have a filler scene horror story to share?



28 comments:

  1. I hate it when I get there, to those parts where I know I left myself a mess. Sometimes it's a whole scene; sometimes it's a sentence I just can't get right. But those are really fantastic tips to chip away at them.

    Editing is hard.

    A to Z Challenge: Unfinished

    Isa-Lee Wolf

    A Bit 2 Read
    @IsaLeeWolf

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  2. Thanks for the suggestions. I have a novel I really enjoyed writing, but I hate the ending! It's ugly! I have given it some thought, but because I've lost the oomph for the story, it sits on my computer. What a waste! How much do you know about the URLs that guide us around the internet? U is for Understanding URLs as you Build a Better Blog. #AtoZchallenge.

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    1. Ah yes, I've done the ugly end too. I had to give it a few years on the backburner before the right ending came to me.

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  3. I was editing an article yesterday, and I got to a paragraph which sounded like it was typed by a drunk orangutan. Oops. I don't even remember what happened there, but I was probably not paying attention at the time...

    The Multicolored Diary: WTF - Weird Things in Folktales

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    1. Ha! I think we all have those. Mine are usually a half finished thought melded with the next one.

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  4. I remember being taught to find the spark in every scene when I was writing it, because if I didn't like it then my reader sure as hell won't :). I have to leave those scenes for quite a while and come back to them, so, as you say, I can see if there is a better way of doing them.
    Sophie
    Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles - Dragon Diaries

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  5. I've heard of some writers who, after writing their first draft with all those awkward messy scenes, will re-write the whole thing from start to finish. Knowing all the major beats and scenes will supposedly help you flow through it more organically, but I can't imagine starting over like that. I just keep cutting/adding/moving around until I hate it less.

    U - Underground SNOWLAB

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    1. I've done it three times, the typing the story all over thing. Depending on your level of cutting and pasting, the retyping can really help smooth things out once you're generally happy with where all the bits are. Granted, these were my three earliest novels. The later ones are put together much better from the get go.

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  6. Oh I have written lots of ugly bits, Jean. The only public writing that I have done so far is blogging and technical manuals. When reading a book, transitional ugly bits are clunky and you can tell the author did not like them, either.

    Emily | My Life In Ecuador | Underwater Endangered Testudines (a.k.a. Sea Turtles)

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    1. Yes, those parts do tend to show through.

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  7. I've been doing this a lot. Looking for repetitive (don't know that I'd call it ugly) pieces and moving stuff around. Still not quite satisfied enough to call it done.

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    1. Nothing wrong with the tweaking game as long as you can call it done enough at some point. Eventually. :)

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  8. Sometimes those ugly utilitarian scenes can become some of your best if revised to add depth. It usually takes some additional brainstorming and creative thinking to see the opportunities to make linking scenes serve more than one purpose (eg do more than cover a gap in time).

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    1. I have noticed that too. I think its because, in fixing them, inspiration takes over and that's what tends to create the best parts.

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  9. Scenes in a story I published a year ago underwent so many overhauls. The ugly bits had to do with the fact that the timeline spanned years, and chapters needed to showcase highlights, but also find a way to cover progress/changes since the last chapter (without a shoehorn).

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    1. I had a story like that at one point. I ended up rewriting it a totally different way to work around the problem. It just takes time to wrap your mind around it all and find what works best for that particular story.

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  10. Hi Jean - it's not something I worry about that much - but if something doesn't jell then I'm not happy and I know others won't be ... Ugly bits - could so easily be something else! Cheers Hilary

    http://positiveletters.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/u-is-for-unicorn.html

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    1. Yes, we have to be happy with the words first. :)

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  11. The best thing I ever did was to join a local writer's guild. Getting the honest feedback and constructive criticism is worth so much. It's taught me to be ruthless with my writing. Nothing is off limits for my delete button.

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    1. Exactly right. Critiques are incredibly helpful, especially when they help point out those bits you're not happy with and make you face them head on.

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  12. Editing scene by scene, line by line... yeah, that's good times. And by good I mean rip your hair out and/or drink ALL the coffee. Ha ha ha.

    Excellent post. Great tips.

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  13. It takes me years to write a book so I have lots of time to write that important scene that doesn't fit and then realize how awkward it is and delete it. I'm in the process of doing that to a book I started 20 years ago.

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  14. I appreciate the tips. It's a good point that once we know the characters better, we can usually find something to put in those scenes that tells the reader more about them.

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  15. LOL "Ugly bits." What a perfect name for those chunks of writing. Happy A to Z!

    Lillian A to Z: Art Nouveau

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  16. Another great post.

    Thanks for visiting: Up the nose
    Shari

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  17. Oh yes, I have a filler horror story. I wrote a novel with a big hole in the middle, just putting in something that I thought I'd be able to replace with an actually good idea when I thought of one. I expected that I would know what belonged there once I got to the end. It did not work out like that. It still has a big, messy hole where the middle should be. Someday, perhaps...

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