In the previous post about the Demon Bound galleys, Cindy asked,
Question – how many times have you read this book by now? I just wonder if there is a time when you get so sick of reading it over and over again. Iâ€™m just thinking of my university days when I wrote all those massive essays and would finally just say â€˜fuck it! Iâ€™m done!â€™ Guess that wouldnâ€™t be good business for you though.
I don’t know the number of times, but I do know I’ve read the beginning many, many more times than I have the end.
When I start a book, I start at the beginning. That seems really obvious, but I know a lot of writers start with a scene, then back up and write the opening, then jump to another scene, and so on. I can’t do that. In revisions, I can go back and insert a scene out of order, but when writing the first version? Nope. I just can’t. I write from the opening sentence to THE END, then go back and fix anything I’ve left out.
And so, when I’m starting the book, each time I open the manuscript — and until I’ve completed the first act — I pretty much re-read the entire opening up the point of the current page before I continue setting any more words down. Some of this is because it IS a new story, I’m still familiarizing myself with the characters and the rhythm of their speech and voice, and establishing the little things that make the characters themselves. So I’ll edit those opening chapters each time, according to things that I’ve added and discovered about them in later chapters, in order to strengthen their voice and character.
But let me add: this is a stupid way of writing. It’s SLOW. It’s slow as hell. If I’m fifty pages into a manuscript, that means I’m spending at least an hour re-reading every single day. My manuscript is really clean (line-edited unto death) by that point, but I’m slow slow slow.
Once I hit the second act, though, I won’t re-read the first act as much. I might re-read the pages directly preceding what I’m working on that day so that I fall into the rhythm of the scene, but I won’t re-read such a huge chunk.
There are times, though, when I will go back and re-read it all again. This is usually when I’m stuck and can’t get any words out, or I’ve got a bad feeling about where I’m going or something that a character has done.Â That ‘writer’s block’, for me, usually means that something in the story has gone wrong. So I’ll go back and re-read, and try to figure out where I fucked up. It’s not always an action; sometimes it’s just a tone. And usually, I’ll hit a line in the manuscript that will make me go, “OMG! I forgot about this — this is the way I need to go, because I already set it up here!” Then I’ll get back on track.
That block can happen more than once in my manuscript, but inevitably I have one toward the middle/end of the third act. I haven’t yet had a book where I don’t stall at the end of the middle. It might be just writer nerves, forcing me to go back and make sure that, as I begin to wrap up all my plot threads, I actually have remembered every thread that I need to wrap up. Or it might be because my middles are typically a little looser and more saggy than the rest of the book that I’m feeling like I’m just writing shit at that point, so I have to go back and catch the entire rhythm of the novel again.
Again, this is slow. Slow slow slow. One thing that I’ve forced myself to do (I started this in Demon Bound) is to open up a separate file for each chapter (starting with the second act, because I still can’t stop myself from re-reading the opening until my eyes fall out) and I don’t let myself open the other chapters until I’ve got a couple of them to paste into the big manuscript file. So I might re-read the current chapter to death, but I CAN’T go back and re-read other scenes. I’ll be doing the same with the WIP, in hopes that my writing speed will increase.
I don’t really get sick of the story/the scenes, especially once they’re finished. (Writing it is completely different; there are days when I’d rather poke my eyes out than attempt another word of the massive FAIL that is my manuscript.) Also, if I find myself getting bored when I’m reading, there’s something wrong. I should be just as engaged the sixtieth time reading it as I am the first. That doesn’t mean that I read it the *same* way — I might focus on a different aspect of it by the sixtieth reading, such as the pacing of the sentences rather than the diction, or layering in bits of the character’s history — but if my eyes are glazing over (and it’s not 4 am) that means I’ve failed.
What it comes down to is that these are my characters and this is my story. I know them and love them better than anyone else possibly could … and if I’m sick of them, how can I expect my reader to stay engaged? So if I hit a section that bores me, it has to go (or be re-written until it doesn’t suck).
Still, how many times now? Does your hubby ever read your work and help with editing or would you kill him (cause I about killed my hubby when he suggested I used a word too many times – hey, I only want to hear Iâ€™m perfect from you buddy!)
My husband has never read more than a sentence or two of my work without me rushing in and yelling, “Noooooooooo!” As for how many times … I’m really not sure. The beginning scenes, a whole hell of a lot — maybe up to a hundred or a hundred and fifty times. The ending scenes, maybe twenty to twenty five. (But that also has a lot to do with desperation. As my deadline approaches (or flies by) I simply don’t allow myself the time to re-read.)