My home isn't spotless...I think I've made that clear on this blog. But each room is tidy except for two--our kids' rooms. When I walk by their rooms I'm struck with conflicting desires...one, to step inside and tidy it, and the other, to close the door and pretend it doesn't exist.
Guess which one wins? Yep, I close the door. After all, if I can't see the mess, it's not really there, right? *head in sand*
Sometimes I experience these same feelings with messy parts in my manuscript. It could be a scene that needs tweaking, or an entire section might need reconstruction. When it's the latter, I tend to shut the door for a little while.
I'm no expert on this stuff, but when I catch myself avoiding a difficult writing task, here's what's worked for me:
- Acknowledge the problem. It's a huge step in the right direction if critique partners, beta readers, or editors noticed a troublesome section or a tricky character issue. At least you have the benefit of focus. If you know something's not quite right, but can't pinpoint the problem, try running your manuscript through a scene grinder. I talked about how I accomplished this in my post about Performing Plot CPR.
- Stew over multiple solutions. James Scott Bell talks about this a lot in his craft books. We need to give ourselves down time in order to work solutions out in our heads. Closing the door on my mess wasn't necessarily a bad thing as long as I kept my mind working on solutions. When ideas popped into my head, I added them to a growing list and chose my favorites.
- Formulate a plan. How will you tackle the problem? Big issues first, then the smaller problems? Smaller problems first, just to get you warmed up? One pass each for characters, transitions, or weak verbs? Knowing the plan ahead of time can help keep us focused when we ... SQUIRREL! (you know what I'm talking about!)
- Dive in. This part is where I've struggled. I get myself psyched up about needing to make it right this time around. My husband gave me some great advice, even though he's not a writer. He suggested I not worry so much about making it right, but focus on making it better with each pass. That freed me up to dig in and make changes, knowing this revision wasn't the revision.
So there you have it--my tips for avoiding avoidance. What works for you when you want to close the door on your messy manuscript?