by Clare Langley-Hawthorne
We at TKZ had a mini writing school yesterday for our Sunday post and one of the questions posed was about how to deal with writer’s block. At the moment I’m on the final, final, final edits (that’s when even I am totally sick of the manuscript!) and what I am struggling with is what I call ‘final editor’s block’.
I’m not talking about the big stuff like plot or character – I’m talking about those small, yet irritating things that you start to notice when your on the homeward stretch. For me the things I particularly notice are:
- Overuse of the em-dash: I used to overuse the ellipse…but now, I’ve gone and got married to the em-dash and – just to interject here – I’m seeing those damn dashes everywhere!
- Repeated words: It drives me nuts that even after all these iterations I still find myself repeating the same words and images. In my current WIP my writing tics include too many ‘sharp’ or ‘brittle’ replies and dry mouths. I mean there’s only so many times people can swallow, lick their lips or have their mouths feel like glass-paper (the precursor to sand paper in case you were wondering).
- Boring dialogue tags: I try (I really do!) not to use so many adjectives but ‘said’ and ‘asked’ get really boring and when in edit mode trying I try to balance the boring with the slightly more interesting repertoire of ‘replied’, ‘responded’ or ‘queried’ tags without becoming ridiculous (like having people ‘exploding’ or ‘exclaiming’ all over the place!)
- Flat writing: When there are still tiny pockets of sagging, flabby writing…shit, why are they still there?!
The problem I find is that when in final edit mode I often experience ‘editor’s block’ – when I’ve lost the ability to know what should be changed and what should not, when I’m afraid I’ll start buggering up the good bits and when I’m down to the last persnickety edits and I can’t think of how to improve the manuscript without someone else’s ‘mouth going dry’.
It drives me a wee bit crazy but as much as I read Dickens (far more inspiring than the thesaurus); listen to tortured 80’s music; and brainstorm ideas, I still feel, well, ‘blocked’.
For me writer’s block per se hardly ever happens and when it does I have lots of strategies (mostly driven by panic) that help me overcome the fear of the blank page. It’s another skill entirely, however, for me to overcome the inner ‘editor’s block’ I get when gazing at the page crowded with words – words that I have already combed and preened over many iterations…
So any ideas on how I can tackle the dreaded ‘editor’s block’? How do you manage the homeward stretch edits and, let’s face it, do you ever know when you are really, well and truly ‘done’?
Coming up on our Kill Zone Guest Sundays, watch for blogs from Sandra Brown, Steve Berry, Robert Liparulo, Paul Kemprecos, Linda Fairstein, Oline Cogdill, James Scott Bell, and more.