Story Overload

Happy Friday! Casey Wyatt here.

Before I devoted myself to the craft of writing, I never appreciated how much time and effort an author puts into their work.

As a reader, I enjoy devouring a good book and always feel a tad bereft when it ends. If I love the story, I’ll read it over and over. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read The Lord of the Rings. I have dozens of print versions – all well-worn with newer copies to replenish the older ones. So let’s just agree – I’ve read it a lot of times.

On the flip side, writing a book means you’re going to be reading it a lot. Many, many times and almost none of them for pleasure. After a while, the words are just black marks on a white page. Any typos or missing words cease to exist because the writer’s brain magically corrects the errors. Sadly, magical correction only happens in the brain and isn’t actually applied to the page.

The characters and events you loved so much in the beginning . . . well, the love diminishes. Writing isn’t for the faint of heart or for those who quit easily. You have to endure even when you don’t feel like reading another word of your story, let alone change it (again and again and again).

Often times, I’ve heard published authors say, “I haven’t looked at the book in years.” Or, “I can’t read that story ever again.”

If you meet your favorite author and they don’t recall the exact wording or scene in their  book, please don’t think they are senile. More likely, they have put the book out of their mind so they have room to create something new.

When is too much of a good thing bad? How do you find balance?

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27 thoughts on “Story Overload”

  1. Great post Casey. it’s true, too much of a good thing is a bore, especially if you are re-reading, re-writing and re-realizing. But I find each time I re-do, I re-learn. Same with painting, you have to know when to stop. Is it a gut feeling, or cerebral? I think for those reasons we need others to encourage or even discourage our motives.

    1. Hi Terry! Welcome to the Scribes’s blog. And I completely agree.Often it’s not the baby kicking and screaming – it’s us authors who can’t let them go! Yummy cover – love it.

  2. Oh Casey, I had to chime in on your first statement about appreciating how much time and effort an author puts into writing. My neighbor and morning walking partner always read the end of the book before she was anywhere close to the end. I was horrified. I work so hard on my romantic suspense to build the mystery, doling out clues and red herrings. She was spoiling everything!!! Now that she appreciates all the effort we go through, she told me just yesterday that she’s disciplining herself not to read the end before she gets there. 🙂

  3. I do tend to put a book out of my mind once it’s done. My editor once wrote me a very gentle note: “The ending is a little familiar.” Familiar? No. It was exactly like the ending of another book I wrote, and I honestly didn’t realize it until that moment. Plum forgot! I’ve also had people ask me about characters I didn’t remember… “When are you going to write Doug’s story?” and I’m scratching my head and thinking “Doug? Did I really have a character named Doug?” 🙂

  4. Great post. I had to stop running ideas past a friend for the same reason Casey. She always wanted to know “Well what happens at the end?” But yes knowing when to stop is a challenge. I think as writers we see so many stories from other writers before they are “edited” till we over edit our own voices.

    My opinion before the Maxwell House coffee penetrated the veins and fresh air fit the face.

    Mary George

    1. Thanks Mary. I often think back to that saying – familiarity breeds contempt, and there are moments when I don’t have any idea if what’s on the page is any good anymore.

  5. I re-read and re-write my mss. no less than fifty times before I feel like it’s as good as I can get it. That’s with critique partners reading, edits from my editor and recommendations from beta readers. I’m always glad for that one more pass through because i inevitably find one more typo or another opportunity to deepen a character or scene. After going through three proofs of HIFH, a reviewer just asked me what’s a CU-V? Did you mean a CR-V? I mentioned Jordie’s mom’s Honda a half a dozen times and no body picked up on the fact that I was calling it a CU-V. Holy crap!

    It’s now fixed, thanks to yet one more set of new eyeballs.

    I think there are always things we can do better, but it’s great when you can re-read your own work as often as you read Lord of the Rings, and still laugh and cry, and feel bereft when it’s over.

    1. I know typos are like weeds. I think they grow in your ms when you aren’t looking! During Hurricane Irene I sat down and read the proof copy of Ascension. I hadn’t read it end to end in a long time. Wow -what a difference time can make. There were a dozen things I wanted to tear out and do -over and parts that I still liked. And – of course – I found typos!! But then I thought back to something Doc Jess said – “it was the best book you could have written at the time.” So I quelled the urge to do more re-writes and started submitting the book to editors instead (I did fix the typos!).

  6. Totally identify with this! After many rounds of (necessary, my editor was right every time) revisions, I never want to SEE these characters again. A bit like being trapped at a party with the same people for nine months. I’m hoping this will fade as the book nears publication (and as I don’t have to reread) and I’ll be able to be enthusiastic about these characters again.

    1. Good analogy. I will be thinking that as I start editing my latest ms. And like relatives – I hope time will allow you to feel happy to see those characters again someday in the future!

  7. Once I let go of my first ms and moved on to the next book, I fell in love with writing again. I hadn’t realized I had fallen out. And when it came time to have a revisit with the old characters from the first book, I realized I actually still loved them. They really are like your annoying relatives. 🙂 Great for a visit every now and then. I guess my point is don’t edit until you turn yourself off from your love of writing. That would be worse than hating your characters.

    1. Funny you should say that! I go through love/hate cycles with every book. There are days I wonder why on earth I’m tormenting myself. But, I’ve tried to quit writing before and it never works. I always think about writing and my characters – they haunt me if I don’t pay attention.

  8. Casey,
    I have read and re-read my mms so much I feel I know it by heart. I truly believe it would be published and I would want to make a change. I’m simply never happy with it. I understand many actors feel the same way about their films and actually refuse to watched the finished movie. I agree with you in that your mind sees words that are not on the paper and I find it helpful to read it aloud.

    1. Yay! Don’t ever give up Joy. Sometimes all you need is time away from your book (and the shoulder of your friends and writing partners!). I actually have more than one story going at a time so I have something else to focus on. I started this recently since, as you know, the Doubt Monster often gets in my way. My plan to confuse him. We’ll see if it works.

  9. I do fine. No problem staying with them through the entire process. i do have a method…I edit as I go – reread and edit the previous day’s work before I move on. When I’m finished I do three edits. One final edit a month later. That’s it.

    1. Julia, thanks for sharing your method. For this last book, I tried to write with minimal revision. It’s too soon to tell if that will come back to haunt me. Thanks for stopping by!

  10. I pretty much hate the characters from my last manuscript because I spent soooo much time with them. Normally I’m the edit as I go type of person.It slows down my output but it works better for me. I need to give a mauscript a lot of time before I go back and do the final edit. I just started to reread my first manuscript. When I first finished it I thought it was brilliant now I cringe at all the mistakes.

  11. I see quite clearly how themes or endings can be repeated with subsequent books. There are quite a few authors who seem to repeat themes to me. Sometimes it gets overworked. But writing a book is hard and is not for the light of heart or mind.
    Deb

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