Wednesday, May 4, 2016

This Mummy Hand Has Ceased To Be (An IWSG Post)

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's time once again for the Insecure Writer's Support Group.

I'm guessing most people coming by here today will be long familiar with the IWSG, but in the event that you're not, the IWSG's purpose is:

To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

(For more information, or a complete list of participants, please click on the above link.)

And this month, for the very first time, I am one of the co-hosts. Thank you for the opportunity, IWSG gods!

Now on with the post...

Okay, so there's this episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer in season six (episode four) called Life Serial, in which Buffy tries to figure out what she's going to do with her life. (Note: that is not the point of this post.)

At one point in the episode, she tries working in retail. A customer comes in wanting to buy a mummy hand (true story) for this spell she's working on. When Buffy attempts to fulfill this customer request, she suddenly finds herself in this seemingly never-ending time loop in which she is forced to contend with this (uncooperative) mummy hand over and over again in an attempt to satisfy the customer.



As you can possibly imagine, it doesn't go well. For example, once the mummy hand tries to strangle Buffy. Another time, the mummy hand attempts to strangle the customer. Buffy kills the mummy hand with a dagger (which is where the title of the post comes from, in case you wondered). Buffy chops off the mummy hand's fingers. Buffy tackles the customer, assuming she's the reason why this is happening.

At one point, Buffy's just doing this:



Which brings us to the actual point of this post: (you were beginning to think there wasn't one, weren't you?)

I am trapped in a terrible, vicious editing/revising time loop. My WIP is the uncooperative mummy hand, and I am simultaneously Buffy and the unhappy customer.

And it's my own fault, too. Every time I think I have successfully wrangled the mummy hand (I love this metaphor.), the damn thing manages to escape, or the customer complains, and I have to start all over again.

In non-mummy hand terms, this means that every time I think I have successfully completed my revisions and edits, I find something else that makes me unhappy, and I have to go back to the drawing board.

Now abandoning the metaphor completely for a moment...The beta readers are patiently waiting for the pages, but I'm having a hard time letting the manuscript go. I know the purpose of beta readers is for them to supply the author with feedback on what works and what doesn't work. And if there are story arcs (or anything else) within my manuscript that do not work, they will tell me.

But I don't want to send out something with which I'm not happy. I'm not sure I'm ever completely happy with anything I write (I have issues, I know.), but at the very least, I don't want to send out a story that's making me feel the way this WIP has been making me feel.

Which is to say, restless and edgy and overwhelmed with the sensation that something is just off—even if I cannot put an exact finger on what that something might be.

I feel that sending the story while feeling this way would be wasting my betas' valuable time, and I don't want to do that.

So I've gone a few extra rounds with the mummy hand, and I'm gearing up for one more. There's a story arc in the last third of the novel that I just don't think I've written well enough. This week and next, I intend to take another pass at it.

I think it may be the very last thing I need to do.

Of course, I have said that before.

Have you ever done battle with a mummy hand (either figuratively or literally)? Ever been trapped in an endless revision time loop? How did you break free?

That's all for me today—Thanks for stopping by!

54 comments:

  1. You could send it as is to one of your most trusted readers and see if the same things that bother you bother them? Maybe they'll have some brilliant suggestion :)

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  2. Oh yes! I had to learn to just let it go. But now what I do is just get it down on paper, then do a read through and polish it up enough to send it to my critique partners. Then, once I look at their notes I look at it again, after it's done. If not, I would never finish anything, honestly! I can so relate! Thanks for hosting and I loved the post!

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  3. I'm sure your betas appreciate you trying to make the story as excellent as possible before handing it over, but what if you revise it to death and end up changing something they would've loved? You might save yourself some editing/revising work if you just let it go.

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  4. When I get to that point, I shelf it for a while...unless I have a deadline. Then I put it under my content editor's nose. (He's got great instinct.) If a writer hasn't experienced this cycle, they're not a writer.

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  5. I have to let the story sit (sometimes for months) and then go back to it. If I'm burned out on the story, I find that I will typically make revisions that only make it worse. So taking a break from it definitely works for me.

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  6. Most writers I know (especially me) get to a point where they're sure they're book is a big pile of poo and they're rotten writers. This is usually followed closely by "I hate this book. I hate the characters. I never want to see it again!"

    That is the point at which you MUST let it go. You've gotten too close and are only seeing through the evil inner-editor's eye. It's time to let the baby bird fly!

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  7. It's time to share it with your trusted readers. You're feeling insecure, naturally, so you need to face that fear and allow the next step in the process to happen.
    Thanks for co-hosting IWSG this month!
    Mary at Play off the Page

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  8. Make this your last mummy hand round and then send it! Good chance your beta readers will break the cycle for you.
    Thanks for co-hosting this month.

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  9. Yes, I am in that loop too! I have a historical novel that I've been pecking away at for years. It's too long (116K). I'm rewriting the ending in hopes of trimming it down. I've seen 100K to 120K as a range for historical novel length, but I've also seen agents who scoff at anything over 100K. So I rewrite and rethink and generally go insane wrestling with this thing.

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  10. Been there, recently done that. I did what Alex suggested: sent it out. Got great feedback and a new direction to finish my project. Trust your writing and your readers! Thanks for co-hosting this month.

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  11. Maybe, you need to put it away for a while. However, I do understand you not wanting to send out your best work to your readers. But again, maybe it is not as bad or incomplete as you think.
    Thank you also for co-hosting.
    Shalom,
    Patricia @ http://www.patgarciaandeverythingmustchange.com/2016/05/the-second-milestone-iwsg-article-may-4.html

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  12. I both laughed hard and entirely identified with this metaphor. Somedays I'm left doing exactly what buffy is doing in that gif. :D

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  13. Writer problems, we all have them, and this is at the top of the list. Perhaps step away for awhile and go back to it. Work on something else. Then when you come back to it you'll be looking at it with fresh eyes. Love the mummy hand metaphor! LOL!

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  14. MJ, you're hysterical. I'm having scary computer problems, so this was a huge reprieve. Thanks. And thanks for co-hosting!

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  15. I had a WIP like this. It went on for years. Do t let your book do this to you! Give it to someone who can offer their opinion that you value and see what they say. You can even tell them your concerns with it and see if you're right or being a silly writer. ;)

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  16. Ah, I recently extricated myself from that loop, after riding that hampster wheel for about five years (maybe longer). There was no way to make it the perfect MSS I wanted so I called it and moved on (which means I've accepted where it is and will put it out there).

    From what I read of successful authors, pre-fame and fortune, they do exactly that: Find a point they are happy enough and cut the cord.

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  17. Yeah, I know how you feel, never really being completely please, always wanting to tweak this one thing here or that thing there. But maybe the best thing to do would be to hand it off and forget about it for a while? It might break the loop!

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  18. AWESOME metaphor. I say awesome a lot like Dean Winchester. I can live with that. But yes, the loop, horrible thing. I had that with my last WIP. I finally just had to throw it at my CPs and let them have at it. Trust in your betas.

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  19. I've heard many times the advice that writers can't expect perfection. We'll never be happy with our WIPs, but at some point we have to let it go. That's what you have to do MJ. Channel Elsa and sing as you do so. ;)

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  20. OH MY GOODNESS, this is me! Just when I thought I was done, my most recent beta reader encouraged me to do a huge POV rewrite, and though I wanted to give up, I got through it, so hopefully, he'll give me the all-systems-go when he starts reading!

    Thanks for co-hosting, and great metaphor!

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  21. There comes a point when you have to trust and believe in yourself and let that baby grow up and get out into the world.Send it out...

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  22. It took me close to six years to get to a point where I could publish my first book, because I kept on changing things. But I know what you mean about not being happy with your manuscript. However, there will come a time where you know you've done all you can and know it's time to send it off. Usually its when you feel almost sick of your book:) Good-luck.

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    1. Thank you for hosting. You did an amazing job.

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  23. Someone famous (don't remember who) once said that no book is over finished. They are abandoned. At some point, you have to abandon your story.
    There is a good advice in one of the above comments: to leave your manuscript for some time and then come back to it. I did it myself, and it helps. When you open the file after a couple of months of not touching it, everything becomes sharper, and you see better.

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  24. Oh yeah. That damn mummy hand sounds familiar. First, thanks for co-hosting! Second, when re-working a MSS we run the risk of editing ourselves into oblivion. What you think doesn't work might actually be a red herring for what's really the issue with your MSS. I would call it bacon and send it to my betas. That's what they're for. Congratulations and good luck!

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  25. Something is off? Okay, then you're right, don't send it out. (I know this flip-flops what I've been saying, but if you feel something is off, it probably is.)

    Take a step back. You're too close to the thing. You need to write something else right now. Something that has nothing to do with this novel. Short stories. Compile your struggles with writing into a book. (Go through your blog posts and Twitter feed. You've got a great how-to-write book that would be funny.)

    Put the novel away. For a while. Six months, maybe. You want to get it completely out of your system for a while.

    Because while you're not thinking about it (because you're busy obsessing over the new thing you're writing), the answer will appear. When you least expect it. Then go back to this novel. But not until then.

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  26. That's a hard one! While I never feel my ms is good enough or completely finished, at some point I have to say enough is enough. And that's after many revisions and editing.

    I agree with Liz about taking a minor break and go back to it.

    Even though you might not feel comfortable with what you have written, possibly the beta reader would go through the first three chapters to have a look see. I've done that before.

    Hope it all works out for you in the end. Thank you for co-hosting this month.

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  27. OMG but that's a great metaphor for that trap. It's hard to know when to let go, especially for a project with deep personal worth. Here's hoping you'll be ready to let yours fly soon!


    @mirymom1 from
    Balancing Act

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  28. Yep. It happens to me a lot. Although I find that taking a break to work on another project (or ten) often gives me the clarity I need to figure out what I need to do to make the hand cooperate.

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  29. If it's still making you feel that way, then you should listen to your instincts. Sometimes you just have to keep killing the mummy hand until it stays dead.

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  30. Maybe you just need a bit of break from this WIP? That way, you can come back and look at it with fresh eyes - I find if I'm having a problem in one of my WIPs, I put it out of head for a few days and bake, or go for a walk or something and then randomly when I'm in the car driving to work, BAM! An idea will come out of nowhere (most of the time...results not guaranteed ;) ). Don't stress - you'll get there in the end :).

    Thanks for co-hosting this month!

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  31. The mummy hand analogy was clever. Hope you don't play groundhog day again with your writing. Another movie analogy for ya. Happy IWSG Day, Happy Writing and Editing.
    Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

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  32. I LOVE Buffy and enjoyed this walk down episode memory lane. I have been crying, hysterical Buffy more times than I can count.
    It sounds like you have a handle on what needs to happen with your story arc at the end of the novel. Good luck taking another go at it! I have a feeling this will be just what you need to be happy with your story.

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  33. Thanks for hosting (smile) Blessings!!

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  34. Hi fellow IWSG Co-host! I enjoyed your post with its wonderful analogy of the mummy hand. I go round and round wrestling with a piece of writing until till what I'm trying to say comes out in the right way. It's such a battle sometimes. Maybe you should just let go and let those Beta readers do their work. This spoken by someone who has never had a Beta reader! But I suspect that they won't think you are wasting their time! Fresh eyes are always instructive. I hope you have enjoyed your first time as an IWSG co-host. It is a great opportunity, and while it takes a lot of time, it is a lot of fun! Kudos to you for stepping up and volunteering!

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  35. No first-hand (ha!) mummy experience, but I do have a skull on my desk, if that counts...

    The feeling you describe is depressingly familiar, but it is also a good warning. One I learned to heed. As long as my instinct is telling me there is something wrong with a story, I don't send it out, regardless of my betas grabby little hands (no, not mummy hands here either).

    Best remedy? Like Meatloaf said: "Sleep on it". Let it stew/gestade/whatever metaphor you want to use, but leave it alone for a day or two. Chances are that you will suddenly realise (or at least get some idea) of what is bothering you, which is what you need to know before you can even attempt to fix it.

    Good luck breaking the loop!

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  36. I've done mighty battle with the mummy hand a few times. Good luck to you as you get it worked out!

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  37. Best thing to do is torch the mummy hand and then send it. Usually not as bad as we think.

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  38. I haven't done the mummy hand since my first few books. Send it out. Let the beta readers get a look at it. You're too close.

    Susan Says

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  39. That Buffy gif is basically me every single day. Heh.

    Love the mummy hand metaphor, btw! Such a shame that it's so relevant for you right now, though. Getting stuck in a loop like that--for revisions, or otherwise--is never fun, for sure. Hope your latest round of revisions result in something more satisfactory for you!

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  40. I can offer no advice, but I can commiserate. I'm dealing with a mummy hand at this moment. A one month edit has turned into six months and continues to drag on. After posting on this very topic, I realize I need to let the MS go. One more pass through, and it's out of here!

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  41. Thanks for co-hosting today. You know, I love Buffy but I don’t remember watching that episode. But yeah, I know what you mean. Being stuck in some time loop you can’t get out, no matter what you, with you WIP sucks. Yet best thing to do, as others said before, is to let it go. If your readers feel the same way about the parts of your manuscript that troubles you, at least you know that you’re on the right track. Then take another crack on it and let it go again.

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  42. I feel for your dilemma. Maybe you could send your ms to someone you trust to give you an honest critique--one of your beta readers, maybe? Good luck with this project and thanks for co-hosting.

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  43. Being a writer is tough. So many decisions to make. Let your beta readers read it. They may have just what you need. Or at least a hint to what might work better. It may be better than you think too. Best of luck finding the right solution.

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  44. Hahahaha I love how you brought it around to the darn revising/editing loop! Totally worked! And I'm sort of there with you, more in a delete/rewrite chapters phase. I can't snap out of it. But yes, I understand your turmoil lol At some point you'll reach that point you're satisfied enough that you can trust it's good to share. We never are a 100% sure, but you'll know when it's time to take that leap. I know you will! (Remind me of this when I'm going crazy. Thanks lol)

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  45. I think our inner perfectionist is what triggers those mummy hands. Something I've done to break free is to accept that my final draft will have errors and that it's okay.

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  46. Good luck in your ongoing battle to wrestle that mummy hand...sounds like a nightmare which has no end!
    You should give yourself a final deadline, then sever the hand. Final chop.
    ...and off to those trusted betas it goes!
    Thank you for co-hosting the IWSG this month.
    Writer In Transit

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  47. Oh yes - I'm in a similar place. You need to let it go! (I think that may be the first time I've quoted 'Frozen')

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  48. Have so been there done that. Perhaps, after this next draft, you should go ahead and send it out because maybe one of your beta's will pinpoint for you what you are having a hard time seeing yourself? Thanks for co-hosting this month!

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  49. Suppose you go ahead and send it to the beta's and they help you "put your finger on" whats bugging you. Whew; the loop would surely end, and you would all be very happy.

    My thought for the day. Your Welcome, lol.

    I've been stuck there too, and have learned (though I have to repeat the lesson every time) that I'll never finish unless the Beta's tell me I'm done.

    Good luck MJ, and thanks for co-hosting this month. Hope you had fun.

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  50. MJ, Now I find myself wanting to watch that Buffy episode again and my brain is having a hard time thinking of anything else.. =D I don't remember that one, like, at all. And I love Buffy. Darn it.
    The way I see it, I think it's Thomas Edison who said after about a gazillion attempts to make the lightbulb that it wasn't wasted time. He was learning how NOT to do it. I kind of see it the same way I guess. The trick is to never give up. Is what I keep telling myself. I think most worthwhile things are like that. And at some point we all think, WHY, why, WHY. It's all good though.
    On the other side of the spectrum, I have to be honest I hit Publish on something before I was comfortable with it and now I wish I hadn't. With self-e-publishing it's possible to do. Nothing is every perfect but if you think there are serious problems that you can deal with then do, no matter how long it takes. If on the other hand you're just being paranoid despite having no idea what is wrong - to heck with it. You'll just die and your day will start over, so go for it. Worst case scenario right? ;-) Live and learn. Cuz maybe, just maybe, it will all turn out to be brilliant and only you will ever really know the agony that went into making it so. Now I really, really want to watch this episode again. Life Serial, later seasons with magic shop. Hm..

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  51. Yes,I currently have a mummy hand WIP. It's a series I've been writing off and on since the late 80's. For a while I moved away from it, but I never completed, completed it. Always I felt was another revision which needed to be done. I've finally gotten to the point that I have sworn to do one last revision. (Of course now it's needed. I lot has changed since '87) and once I'm done, I'm going to start finding beta readers. Sometimes you just have to stop, and now is the time for me. Don't let your WIP go as long as I have.

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  52. I really enjoyed that metaphor of the Mummy hand. Good luck with that final edit - I hope it's final - about the story arc that isn't quite working.
    As for me - my WIP is a constant mummy hand. I just never finish it, keep thinking of new ways to present it, rewrite the first bits again and again and am generally so dissatisfied and bored with it that I've taken to blogging and writing short stories. Sad sate of affairs.

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  53. I'm sure this was probably already suggested in the 53 comments above, but let the Betas wrestle with the mummy hand. That's their job. To point out inconsistencies. You're too close to it. Let them have a whack at it.

    And btw, didn't you have a similar Mummy hand situation with customers/management at The Store? Ipso facto - You're Buffy!!

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