Spring Cleaning- I have a floor – and a story.

This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for a few weeks now. Normally, if I have an idea for a post that I don’t manage to write immediately, I never write it, because my thoughts go elsewhere. Not this time.

I think it’s because cleaning is something that’s a never-ending process.

Pick something up, a minute later another toy is on the floor. Or a crumb.

The kids went through their rooms. They got rid of a whole lot of toys, papers, knickknacks, and all kinds of nonsense. We put them in storage, this way it’s easier on them. They’re not permanently gone.

The Result: they’re playing with their toys. They’re more relaxed, their imaginations are more alive. Why? Because they can see what they have. And because they have space to breathe.

I’m editing. I’m cleaning my wip. I’m looking for the floor. I want to see if its wood or carpet, the colour, the texture.

I overwrite. Then I get rid of everything that’s not story. If there’s too much clutter the story gets lost, hidden in the mess.  I put everything I’m taking out in a separate file, marked: read through and see if anything’s worth keeping.

The Result: I’m immersed in my story. I see details, and movement. And then I can decide what I want you, the reader, to see. Sometimes I won’t include a certain detail, because I know you’ll want to see it in your own way. And it’s ok, because it won’t change the story. Other times, I need everything to be solid, and you’ll only add your own nuances.

And then, oops, there’s a crumb, and I have to clean up again. It’s a very gratifying process, because the result is so smooth and rich.

How about you: Do you overwrite or underwrite?



22 thoughts on “Spring Cleaning- I have a floor – and a story.

  1. What a perfect analogy! 🙂

    I, too, keep the bits I cut in separate file. I can’t bear to toss them out completely. Plus, you never know, they might be salvageable for another story.

    For the most part, I tend to underwrite. My critique partners tell me to add far more often than they tell me to cut. But because my editor told me to cut one whole scene in Brevity, it’s good that I usually underwrite. I guess seeing the clutter is not easy for me.

    Unfortunately, it’s the same in my real life house, and if I tear myself away from the computer, I can see it’s time for some spring cleaning here too. 😦

    1. Interesting, how others see things when they read our stuff, and then how the new perspetive bounces off of us. I’ve never had anyone tell me to cut whole sections, that’s been my own undertaking so far. But, even just getting of the slush in between all the good stuff can be quite the job! Sometimes I feel it’s like sifting through sand.

  2. I’m more struck my your floor analogy. Just yesterday while grocery shopping, I realized that I was noticing the birds more, their song, their movements. I seem to have an enhanced awareness due to my wife’s recent interest in bird-watching. So her new avocation has rubbed off on me to the extent of being more aware in a sensory fashion. I thought of it yesterday as Opening Doors. In your case, you were clearing up. In mine, I was opening my eyes.
    This newfound awareness in both cases can only be for the better. Don’t you think?

    1. Awareness can never lead to bad. It’s keeping that awareness that is sometimes a challenge for me, in writing and in life. I think this is a life long quest.
      We were talking about this on Cathryn’s blog recetntly – Remembering to remember.
      Thanks for the comment, tikiman. Lots of birds around now – the Canada geese starting arriving yesterday!!

  3. Cleaning and writing are a never-ending process which I don’t have a great balance on. I’m not sure if I write too much or too little yet because I have people read it for me and then I either add or delete anything I comment on.

    1. I think it’s always like that, Jennifer.
      Even though I know I overwrite, there are many spots missing things, and I have to add. It’s a HUGE balancing act. And I find I’m never balancing the same elements!

  4. I love your analogy of looking for what type of floor you have in your story. That’s a great illustration on several levels.

    I’m also an over-writer. I can’t find the story unless I have a fair amount of uncertainty about where it’s headed, just writing as much as I can and discovering what’s going to happen. I can’t seem to get there without writing as fast as I can and as much as I can. It does make it a longer effort, though, due to all the cleaning 😉

    1. I write in exactly the same way, Cathryn!!!!
      But, for me, it’s oh so worth it. I love the process. The planning comes after the first draft is down – for the that’s where the magic happens. If I plan it, well, the magic just goes away.
      Then the subsequent drafts are the other aspect of writing. The work, the gruel, where I need to be brutal and meticulous.
      I love both of these two seperate processes!

  5. I love the process too, I’m addicted to that magic of the first, messy, rambling draft. But I’m also starting to enjoy the work of editing. I think because in editing, I see my original vision start to emerge.

    1. I love the editing process. I think it plays to the scientist in me (since I’m not in the lab any longer).

      And that’s the beauty of it: seeing our story shine through and getting to know our characters 🙂

  6. Loved this post, Jennifer! So often there is this temptation in me to over write. I sometimes wonder if it comes from second guessing myself instead of going with my initial feelings.

    It’s sometimes difficult to declare a work finished without peeking back one last time and scanning the area for crumbs.

    1. I find it next too impossible to declare a work finished, Laura. It’s why I give myself deadlines, because otherwise I’ll keep going forever, I think.

      For me, I realized that i overwrite because it’s my way of getting inside my story. I write everything I see/feel, and well, anything I sense. Which is a HUGE amount of information, and would just be boring, confusing, and overwhelming, but is a necessary step for me.

      I said yesterday that it was like sifting through sand, but I thought about that, and realized that for me it’s more like peeling back layers to get to the good stuff!

  7. I overwrite and underwrite. I think overwriting is better because once you’ve got the words down you can do the ‘cleaning’. Too little and it’s sometimes hard to write more and keep the voice and tone consistent.

  8. I had a dream about house clearance while you were doing your spring cleaning, give or take a day. As for under and over writing, I have a simple method. I have to type everything up at the weekend and I’m lazy so if it’s too dull or irrelevant I simply leave it out.

    1. You hardly seem lazy, Joseph!!!
      So, first you handwrite your work, and then type it? I think that’s an excellent method for leaving out the dull parts!! Now, I would certainly be too lazy to do that!! lol

      Thanks for the comments!

  9. Oh boy does this ring true for me! I overwrite so much, sometimes my story gets lost!! It happens though…I write it down in a fever-pitch, fast and furious, then need to go back and clean house. 🙂

    1. I love that type of writing. It means I’m so deep in there, that there’s no controlling it. The control, well, that’s what I’m doing now – editing!!

    1. lol.
      Yesterday my writing group met, and one of the writer’s felt he has the opposite problem. HIs wip began at 180 pages and is now over 300. We each find our ever changing way.

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