Does anyone else feel my woes?
With self-loathing pit A, I'm usually so deep in a pit of "woe is me" that I seriously can't see what's wrong with my writing unless someone else points out what is good with it. Take for example the situation that The Next Big Writer has set up where in order to post anything you must earn as certain amount of points by reading and reviewing other people's works. Normally this leads to constructive criticism, bolstered confidences, and new writing buddies that you can do fun projects with. However, in many a case, it also leads to a newbie getting bombed by other newbies with no social skills who turn around and tell them that their piece has a million spelling errors, that their sentence fluency sucks, and that they have a poor vocabulary, and wind up saying nothing about the story in general. The major problem with this should be obvious: if you don't tell someone what's good about their writing first, they will be less likely to accept your criticism. (Seriously you newbie reviewers, read How to Win Friends and Influence People; it should be required reading for being a member of the human race.) In short, sometimes we need a little outside help to get the ball rolling with edits.
But then there's self-loathing pig B... This may be best demonstrated by a little story about a little story I've been perpetually rewriting since I was - oh, we shall say - 10. It's gone by a number of different names over the years, but recently the entire conglomerated world that I've created has been known as Legend of the Fallen Moon. When I was 10, this was my little outlet for my D&D obsession as well as a number of other imaginative things I had floating in my head due to an overactive imagination and a love of fantasy books. As you might imagine, it took my 10-year-old mind about two years to put these imaginings into more than a few scribblings in the back of an old notebook. And, at the ripe old age of 12, I was absolutely convinced that I was the best writer in the world. I'm thinking of putting some of my 12-year-old scribblings on my website as motivation to aspiring writers that they won't always stink...
This fantasy story has evolved over the last decade and a half until it reached its current state which mainly consists of a map, a list of races, and an extensive planetary history. Given the state of things, it would be better suited for development into an MMO RPG than a series of novels, but we shall have to see what my mind is up to after I'm done with the Shadow Cast Chronicles. I may very well write a book based off the story line of an MMO I develop out of my notes. Let me know in the comments below what you think after checking out the wiki!
I guess what I'm trying to say with that story is that your edits don't always turn out to be exactly what you intended them to be. Sometimes they fizzle, sometimes they soar.
Luckily, with the Shadow Cast Chronicles, I've had a bit more success in staying focused, though it might not always seem that way. When I first started writing the Chronicles, I was writing first person from multiple perspectives and it was really confusing. This pre-first draft went into my "original concepts" folder never to be seen or heard from again.... No, seriously. I only use that draft for some basic references of what I had originally thought would happen. It serves to keep my thoughts straight, but does little else.
The really hard work has come with Hard Bank Left. HBL has been the most time consuming project I've ever worked on. And what's worse! I didn't even have the plot straight when I was writing it! I wrote down the beginning and the end and that was pretty much it for about two years. Then, about a year ago, I sat down, put together a play list on youtube of music and videos that I figured would fit HBL pretty well. After that, I compiled a plethora of inspirational pictures. This got me in the right spirit. After that, I set down a goal for myself: one chapter a week, and I started writing.
That was pretty much it for the first draft. It didn't have to be pretty, it just had to get done. And, as soon as it did, I felt as though there was a huge weight lifted off my chest. I felt that now that I had the story and all the characters down on paper, I could really begin to flush out the story, the characters, and all the details with a fine toothed comb.
...I am finding that fine toothed combs usually find unpleasant snarls - particularly in the "cliche" and "plot device" categories. Needless to say, it's still a work in progress.
Something I've discovered that has really helped in this tedious process is turning your novel into a short story. This... really hurts. Really, REALLY hurts. You have to cut out all the pretty words and fancy fight scenes and elaborate entangled character relationships, and condense the entire story into about 10,000 words. This, for me, has really helped strengthen the core of my story. It's helped build a back bone on which I can fit all my fancy filigree and crazy plot twists.
After this, after all the maiming of my convoluted story, I had a friend instruct me to do what her hubby made her do with her comic: reduce the story to one sentence. With HBL, this was difficult. I had so many things going on, even in short story form, that it took me until very recently to narrow it down. For me, HBL can be simplified to this:
Hard Bank Left is about overcoming and becoming.
It was a phrase that I'd heard since childhood which has had such a profound affect on my life. I didn't even realize that it had seeped its way into my story. Keeping that sentence in the forefront of my mind, I can rewrite the second draft to more clearly reflect the intended message of the novel. This way (hopefully) by draft three, I'll mostly have to worry about nitty gritty things, instead of having my editor point out that my story has no core. (Frankly, nitty gritty things, while tedious, are possibly the easiest things to correct when editing.)