Thursday, April 24, 2014
Thursday, May 30, 2013
She punched him in the same spot that he had been stabbed in.On that same Ex book, I cut over 130 that's—just over half a page. Use the Find feature, search for uses of that in your writing, and see how many of them are necessary. Odds are you’ll find that at least half of them aren’t.
He knew that the machine would not stop—ever—until she was dead.
Phoebe could see that the two of them were meant to be together.
The creature seemed to be looming over us.
The creature seemed to be looming over us, but it was just the shadows making it look bigger than it really was.
The creature loomed over us.
Friday, August 17, 2012
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Speaking of things you don’t see, this rant’s title is another one of those clever pop culture references. Anyone remember it?
Okay, fine, I’ll explain.
“To See The Invisible Man” is the title of a Twilight Zone episode adapted by Stephen Barnes from an old Robert Silverberg short story. It’s not one of the classic Zones, but one of the newer ones when the show was revived in the mid-‘80s. It’s the tale of a man in a somewhat-utopian society who is sentenced to a year of “public invisibility” because of his selfish, antisocial behavior. He isn’t actually turned invisible, however. He just gets a small brand on his forehead which tells everyone to ignore him. That’s the curse of it. They really can see and hear and feel him--and he knows they can-- but no one will react to him. Even when he desperately wants and needs to be acknowledged (there’s an eerie scene in a hospital emergency room), people pretend he’s not there. As we find out later in the story, seeing an invisible person is a major crime.
In a way, this serves as a clever little metaphor for being a writer. The reader knows the writer is there, that you’ve crafted and shaped these words on the page, but they don’t want to admit you’re leaning over their shoulder. They just want to go on their merry way and pretend they’re alone with the book. As such, the worst thing the writer can do is draw attention to themselves.
For many would be writers, the temptation is to embellish the pixilated page with an exuberant flourish of verbiage which exhibits not only the vocabulary we’re capable of as proficient anecdotists (far above any paltry amanuensis), but also how we can bend grammar to our will; the elaborate and subtle metaphors we can craft; and the clever intricacies we can interweave betwixt the threads of character, plot, and theme.
For the record, it took me almost fifteen minutes to craft that impenetrable sentence. Yes, it looks like a paragraph but it’s just one sentence. A long, sprawling sentence that really tempted you to skim, didn’t it? Heck, let’s be honest. I bet after tripping over your second or third obscure word, at least half of you started skimming, didn’t you?
Y’see, Timmy, every time we make the reader hesitate or pause just for a second, we’re breaking the flow of the story. We’re encouraging them to skim at best, put the manuscript down at worst. The reader should forget they’re paging through the latest Wakko Warner novel or screenplay, perhaps even forget they’re reading a written work altogether. This happens, odd as it sounds, when they forget they’re reading. And the easiest way to make that happen is for them not to see the writing. It’s tempting to wave our arms and shout and try to get the reader to admit they can see us, but all this does is ruin things for everyone. It’s like Sherlock Holmes showing how he came to his amazing deductions or a magician explaining their greatest illusion. That moment is when the whole thing falls apart.
As writers, we need to be invisible. Oh, we want our characters to be seen. We want our dialogue to be heard. We want our action and passion and suspense to leave people breathless. But we are just distractions. If you think about it, who’s the more impressive tough guy-- the one who commits unimaginable acts of violence, or the one who doesn’t have to commit those acts? Being able to restrain yourself is just as impressive as how excessive you can be. Less of us is more of the story.
Here’s a few simple ways to keep your literary head down.
Vocabulary-- We all know what bright means, but effulgent can make us pause for a moment. That guy can be bald or he can be glabrous. Some sneakers are black with a bit of red and some are atrementous tinged with titian.
A huge problem I see is writers with ego problems. They think they’re cleverer than anyone else, and they’re determined to prove it. More often than not, the writer latches onto (or looks up) obscure and flowery words because they didn’t want to use something “common” in their literary masterpiece. These folks write sprawling, impenetrable prose that makes it sound like they spend their free time wanking off to a thesaurus. All too often they’ll try to defend this wheelbarrow of wordplay by saying it’s the reader’s fault for having such a limited vocabulary. After all, everyone knows what it means if I say I’m going to cast a bantam gallet towards an embrasure, right?
Any word a writer chooses just to draw attention, to prove they don’t need to use a common word, is the wrong word. Any word that makes the reader stop reading and start analyzing is the wrong word. Period. You can try to justify your word choice any way you like, but absolutely no one is picking up your book or looking at your screenplay hoping for a vocabulary lesson. When the reader can’t figure out what’s being said for the fourth or fifth time and decides to toss that manuscript in the big pile on the left... there’s only one person to blame.
(It’s not them, in case you had any lingering thoughts on the matter)
(By the way, it just means I’m going to throw a small stone at a window)
Structure-- Like obscure vocabulary, convoluted sentence structure is often the sign of a writer’s ego. One of the most common ways this manifests is to insist on grammatical and structural perfection. This often mean a rigid, formal text and very stiff dialogue. These writers are so insistent on proving they know the correct way to write that their words come across as forced and artificial.
The second most common is needless complication. If something can be described in five words, these writers will manage to do it in thirty, and I guarantee at least half a dozen of those words you’ll have to stop and look up (see above). This is where you find folks that use phrases like “seemed to be” or “appeared to be.” Some of these storytellers also go the non-linear route, even though nothing in their story gets improved by this pointless scrambling.
All of this can be an instant killer in screenplays, because most professional readers won’t put up with it. Your writing needs to be clean, simple, and natural. If there isn’t an in-story reason for it to be overcomplicated, it shouldn’t be.
Said-- People will never notice if you use said. Said is invisible. What they notice is when your characters respond, retort, exclaim, pontificate, depose, demand, muse, mutter, sneer, shout, snarl, growl, whimper, whisper, hiss, yelp, exclaim, or ejaculate. Yes, stop giggling, it was a common dialogue descriptor for many years. Once you’ve got three or four characters doing all this (instead of just saying things) you shouldn’t be surprised if your audience stops reading to shrug or snicker. Usually while they’re pointing at you.
Granted, there are times where characters are shouting or whispering or hissing. Overall, though, they’re just going to be saying things. So don’t overcomplicate things and draw attention to yourself.
Names. If used in moderation, names are invisible. They’re just shorthand for the mental image of a character. It’s also worth mentioning that simpler, more common names blend into your writing easier than rare or unnatural ones. A reader can glide past Tony but might stumble a bit on Antonio. Edward is easier on the frontal lobe than Ezekiel, and they’re all nothing compared to Bannakaffalatta.
It’s worth mentioning a little note there for the genre folks. When writing sci-fi or fantasy, many fledgling writers feel the need to rename everything. The characters have all-new, created-for-this-world names. So do their pets. And their gods. And their elements. And their system of weights and measures. Off the top of my head, I would say 90% or this is a waste of time and a distraction. Your elaborate fantasy world will not collapse if the giant, fire-breathing lizards are called dragons, but it might if you insist on calling them pyroreptillicans.
A good rule of thumb--when you’ve made up a name like Grothnixyettiq for one of your characters (or their mode of transport, or their homeland, or the way they measure distance), take a moment and try to say it out loud. Note how long it takes you to figure out how to say it. Now email or text it to a friend, give them a call, and ask them to say it out loud. No hints or clues. Just ask them to say that word you wrote. If their pronunciation doesn’t match yours, you should really use a simpler word.
Always remember that moderation is key. If any name repeats too often, it begins to get cumbersome. Even a simple name like Dot can stack up. When I see a paragraph about Dot reading Dot’s book out by Dot’s pool shortly before Dot decided it was too hot outside and Dot went in where it was air conditioned... well, personally at that point I start counting them. Which means I’m not reading the story, I’m auditing it.
This is why we have...
Pronouns. When proper names start to stack up, we switch to the pronoun. Just like names are shorthand for story elements, pronouns are shorthand for those names. When nouns start to clutter up your writing, they’re there to leap in and shoulder the weight. It’s how Yakko becomes he, that mysterious island becomes there, and the Cerberus Battle Armor System becomes it.
The catch here is to make sure your pronouns are clear, because the moment someone gets confused about which it you’re referring to, they’ve just stopped reading your story and started studying the page. A good rule of thumb—after you’ve referred to Dot as she half a dozen or so times, drop her name back in once. It’s been long enough it won’t look repetitive, and it’s a gentle reminder of who she is.
And there they are. A few simple ways to stay invisible.
Next week, just for whatever budding screenwriters happen to stumble across this site on a regular basis, a few notes on drafting. In the construction sense.
Until then, don’t let me see you writing.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Anyway, what I'd like to prattle on about this week is balloons. Y'know... those things that get bigger and bigger and finally explode.
It's not uncommon for a writer to want to take an idea a little further. To turn that short story into a novella, that novella into a full-fledged book, or those two or three clever scenes into a feature-length screenplay. We're all creative people. It's what we do.
Plus, let's be honest. Sometimes it just needs to be longer. We need another 5,000 words to hit a publisher's minimum or maybe ten more pages to get this producer interested.
Now, the way most people try to expand their stories is by adding words. Sounds kind of obvious, I know, but there's a catch. These folks mistake adding words for adding substance. Often, the words being added bulk up the manuscript but don't actually add anything to it. They're just putting back in all that stuff that was already edited out for being unnecessary.
It's easy to explain this with a visual aid. Ready?
Picture a large balloon. A good-sized one. Pretend I wrote a short story on this balloon. Got that? Now it's easy to make the story bigger, yes? Just inflate the balloon until it's twice as big. We've all done something like this at some point, so it's still easy to picture, yes?
Have I actually made the story bigger, though? It's just the same ink forming the same story, now spread thin. In fact, since I filled it with... well, hot air, the story's gotten a bit insubstantial for its size. It's tough to read because it covers so much space and we can actually see through it at points.
If you've got a solid, edited story, you've already let all that hot air out. The story on the balloon is compact and dark, if you get my meaning.
Here's a few quick, easy ways to spot a balloon...
Giving more description is a typical way of ballooning a manuscript. You throw in a few more adjectives or adverbs or a few more clever metaphors about how Phoebe looks like Angelina Jolie's hot little blonde sister or something. What's going on here, though, is all those cuts the writer made during editing are being reversed, just like I mentioned above. The unnecessary stuff is getting added back in and... well, that just doesn't make sense.
Close to this is when the story's revisiting the same idea again and again. Let's have another example in the story of how clueless Yakko can be. Or perhaps yet another scene of slackjawed, stammering men which shows us how stunning Dot is. Maybe one more sequence where Wakko demonstrates how awesomely powerful and badass he is. Besides being a variation of the description problem above, belaboring a point like this gets dull fast. Anyone who wants a dull story, raise your hand now.
Then please leave.
Extending action sequences is another way writers sometimes balloon a story. I mentioned a while back that action (in my opinion) shouldn't take much longer to read than it would take to do or watch. But an easy way to fill space is to decribe the history behind that perfect jodan zuki the ninja throws which connects with Yakko's jaw. Then I can describe the excruciating pain as one of Yakko's molars (which he got two fillings in as a boy and almost had pulled but his father insisted he had to keep his teeth as long as possible) gets smashed loose and the coppery taste of blood fills his mouth even as the impact of the strike twists his head around and... well, you get the idea. Does it really take that long to hit someone in the face? Can you imagine if every punch, strike, kick, or gunshot took that long? Dear God, the elevator scene in The Matrix would be longer than Atlas Shrugged.
So, that's a few easy ways not to expand your story. But how should you?
Well, like so many things in this field, that's a bit harder to say. A key thing to remember is expanding something often involves changing it. If your 7,500 word story is structured a certain way, the structure will probably have to alter when the story becomes 10,000 words. If it becomes 35,000 words it'll have to change a lot. If you're determined to keep the structure exactly the same, you're probably going to have a lot of trouble making your manuscript bigger.
Another easy rule of thumb-- you shouldn't be adding things that don't need to be there. So if you want to add a quirky conversation about "the first time," angel hair pasta, or who got beat up more as a kid, there needs to be a reason for this conversation to take place.
Just to be clear, "boosting the word count" is not a viable reason.
Y'see, Timmy, if you want to expand a story you can't add hot air--you need to add actual material. You want a bigger balloon, not the same balloon puffed up to look bigger.
Some quick examples...
--Throw an additional character into the mix. It could change relationships, action, pacing, all sorts of stuff. And add to all of these as well.
--Change someone's motivation. Not everyone walks to the grocery store for the same reason after all. Yeah, maybe Wakko is helping out because he's a decent guy, but maybe he's doing it to try to make up for something he did years ago. This could change how he reacts to things, his exact actions, and maybe what's a desirable ending for him.
--Make a new goal. A short story is generally A to B, maybe even C. So stop trying to cram in A 1/2 or B 3/4. Have your story go on to D, E, and maybe all the way to X.
And then, when you've made this change (or these changes), go over your new, larger story and polish it again.
There's a chance I might miss next week as I rush to meet a bunch of deadlines for Creative Screenwriting. But please check in and perhaps we'll talk for a spell, as they used to say.
Until then, go write.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Also, Bennett, you're cut. Adamson, you're cut, too. Belicynski, cut. Harper, cut. Brannon, Moody, Richmond, Young, McLeod--you're all cut.
Brown, you're still good.
Wait--J. Brown? No, you're cut.
Everyone who's left, let's talk about this week's topic.
One of the most common complaints I hear from people (in person and in various places online) is that it's impossible to cut anything from their work. There's just no way to make their novel less that 600,000 words. It's a miracle they've squeezed the screenplay down to 190 pages. The manuscript cannot be any shorter. All too often, they're saying this after the first draft. Heck, some people talk about their manuscript getting longer as they do successive drafts.
Y'see, Timmy, writers have to make cuts. They have to make their manuscript leaner, meaner, and cleaner. Readers prefer it that way. Editors prefer it that way.
So, a few painless ways you can make a few cuts and maybe trim a few hundred words from your writing...
Adverbs-- When it comes down to it, adverbs are the Shemps of the writing world. We try to pretend they're important, but they can always be replaced. As most of us get caught up in the flow of words, the impetus of a scene, and the thing that slides by most often is the all-but-useless adverb. For example...
--She excitedly tore open the present and happily said “This is the best Christmas ever!”
--They shouted loudly at the team.
--“Maybe I saw something, maybe I didn’t,” said Wakko coyly.
Do any of these adverbs add anything to these sentences? Three out of five times if you’re using an adverb, you just don’t need it. The fourth time odds are you’re using the wrong verb, and once you find the right one, again, you won’t need the adverb. And that fifth time... well, maybe it’s only one in six. If you’re using your vocabulary well, there aren’t many times you need an adverb.
Writer/ Editor Pat LoBrutto once tossed put a great rule of thumb I've mentioned a few times. One adverb per page, four adjectives per page. It’s only a guideline, granted, but if you’re averaging six or seven adverbs per paragraph maybe you should give them all a second look.
Hey, speaking of adjectives...
Adjectives—People often create compound adjectives from hell to describe things that tend to be pretty mundane when you think about it.
--She had ocean-like dark blue eyes.
--His armor was made of polished, meticulously-engraved, glossy-black ceramite.
--The tall, majestic, awe-inspiring cliffs of weatherworn, charcoal-gray stone loomed over them.
There’s an odd habit I’ve seen among fledgling fantasy writers to use dozens of adjectives per page, if not per sentence--often redundant ones like "obsidian black hair." It’s part of that purple prose I mentioned above. It's not exclusive to that genre, but frequent enough I felt it's worth mentioning.
Of course, we all go a little overboard now and then (anyone who says they don't is lying to you) because we’re convinced this person, this place, this thing needs more description. Yet we all know too much description brings things too a grinding halt.
That—This is a word people tend to drop into their writing a lot, and a good four out of five times their writing would be tighter without it. I used to be a that junkie until someone pointed out how unnecessary it often is.
--He ran off in the same direction that Wakko had.
--She believed that once the button was pressed, the world would be saved.
--Yakko knew once Dot saw the puppy that she would want to take it home.
On a recent manuscript I was working on, I cut over 1000 that's--almost a solid four pages. Use the Find feature in Word (it’s up there under Edit), search for uses of that in your writing, and see how many of them are necessary. Odds are you’ll find at least half of them aren’t.
"As you know..." --This is probably the clumsiest way to do exposition there is. Really. Think about it. Just by saying "as you know," I'm stating that you--the person I'm speaking to--already know the facts I'm about to share. So why am I repeating them? As a writer, why would I have two characters engage in such a useless bit of dialogue?
When a writer puts in "as you know" or one of its half-breed cousins, it's a weak attempt to put out some exposition through dialogue. If you're using it, almost across the board there's either (A) a better way to get the information to the reader or (B) no need for this information because it is already covered somewhere.
If you've got a really solid manuscript--I mean rock-solid-- you might be able to get away with doing this once. Just once. As long as you don't do it your first ten pages.
Useless Modifiers -- I've also called this Somewhat Syndrome a few times. This is another one I wrestle with a lot, although I like to tell myself I've gotten better about it. It's when you pepper your writing with somewhat.., a bit..., slightly..., and other such modifiers. Nine times out of ten they're not doing anything except adding to your word count and slowing your story. Use the Find feature again, see how many of them are doing anything, and look how much tighter and stronger your writing is without them.
Appeared to be... --This is one of those phrases some people latch onto and use all the time. Problem is, most of them don't understand it. It tends to be used as an introduction of sorts, leading the reader into some purple-prose description. This phrase sometimes disguises itself as looked like or seemed to be or some variation thereof.
The thing is appeared to be doesn’t get used alone. It’s part of a literary construction where the second half of that structure is either an implied or actual contradiction to the appearance. So when you’re saying...
--Phoebe appeared to stand six feet tall.
...what you’re really saying is...
--Phoebe appeared to stand six feet tall, but she was actually closer to five foot five without her stiletto heels.
And what you meant to be saying all along was just...
--Phoebe stood six feet tall.
If you aren't trying to establish a contradiction, using appeared to be and its bastard stepchildren isn't just wasted words-- it's wrong.
Long Names – If you’ve got a lot of characters with names like MacMortimerstein or Vandervecken, they’re going to take up a lot of space as their names get used again and again. They're also awkward for the reader to juggle and keep track of. Plus, several of them will die as other characters rush to blurt out “Dear God, Doctor MacMortimerstein, look out for that... ahhhhh, too late!”
Try using simple names like Mort or Van, which are easier for readers to keep track of as well. It's also human nature to shorten such names when we speak, so it makes for better dialogue, too. True, this will not lessen your word count, but it can shorten your page count, which is the next best thing.
Keep in mind, if there’s a solid reason for your alien cyborg billionaire midget to be called Bannakaffalatta and not Ban, stick with it. But if it’s just a background character you’re using for two chapters or three scenes...
Anyway, there's seven quick, relatively painless cuts. Try them out and see if you can drop a few hundred words or more.
Next time, we'll deal with this rampant ignorance, even if I have to explain everything using small words.
Until then, go write.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Whose idea was this ranty blog, anyway...?
Anyway, what I wanted to toss out this week was a rough outline of how I generally go about things. I've given lots of general suggestions, but I thought it might be cool to actually show a step by step, solid example of how I take a project from a rough idea to something I'll show friends to something I consider worth showing to publishers/ producers/ contest readers/ and so on.
Plus it's an easy one to write up and I've got to do one more article and a sidebar before the weekend.
As always, before going into this, I want to remind everyone of the golden rule. Just because this works for me doesn't mean it will work for you. There's a better than average chance it won't, in fact. But maybe it will spark a few thoughts or make you look at things in a new way
1st Draft-- For me, this is just the "get it done" stage. I don't worry much about catching typos or crafting every subtle moment in the plot. I just want to finish this draft with a beginning, an end, and the majority of points in between.
I tend to skip around a lot in the first draft, which means I could start with almost anything. I'll scribble down random beats or dialogue exchanges that occurred to me while the idea was fermenting in my head and drop them more or less where I think they'd go. I talked a little bit last week how I got started on Ex-Heroes.
At this early stage, if I get stuck on something (an awkward conversation or complex action scene), I'll just skip it for now. I know I can work out exactly how Yakko convinced Wakko to give him a pistol later, so I'd rather keep moving than stay on this point too long and risk getting blocked on the whole thing (too long being a completely subjective, case-by-case term). Again, for me, the most important thing is to get it done. It's a lot easier to think about the little things when the big things aren't looming over you.
I also don't hold back here at all. I let dialogue, descriptions, and action scenes go on forever. I know I'll be cutting eventually, so there's no reason to worry about length now. I mean, if you wanted to find a pound of gold, you wouldn't dig up 1.1 pounds of soil, hope for the best, and just call it a day.
No one sees this draft but me.
2nd Draft-- Now it's time to smooth it out. All those little bits I skipped I need to go back and fill in. All those awkward knots need to be worked out. A lot of the time I'll find that, because I can now see a lot of these elements in relation to the whole story, the answers to these problems are more apparent.
The goal now is to have a readable manuscript. No more little notes to myself or trailing paragraphs that need to get connected somehow. Someone should be able to pick this up and read it start to finish without thinking they lost a few pages or only got my notes on a chapter.
Keep in mind this doesn't mean I do show it to people. It just means I should be able to. Really, the only person who might see this is my lady-love, and not even her always. Sometimes she has to wait.
A few people have argued with me these two drafts really just amount to me doing a first draft in two stages. That may be true, but they're not writing the ranty blog, are they?
Okay then, so... now I step away for a couple of days. Maybe a week. Don't look at it, try not to think too much about it. And then...
3rd Draft--Stephen King says to start cutting on draft two, but as I said, my draft two is what some people may call a solid first draft. As such, I usually wait until draft three to start slashing. This is where I hunt down adverbs, adjectives, pointless dialogue descriptors, and so on. Two fun rules I've mentioned before--
2nd draft = 1st draft - 10%
one adverb per page, four adjectives
One thing I really go after here is the padding phrases I tend to drop in (sort of, somewhat, kind of, more or less) that don't really do anything. As I've mentioned before, one of my regular editors at work has dubbed this awful habit of mine Somewhat Syndrome. Feel free to pass that one along.
By this time I've gone over the whole manuscript at least twice, so some bigger cuts should be visible. That rant Wakko gives about socialized medicine. Dot's flashback to the first time she got drunk in college. That long, meticulous description of Yakko loading his pistol. That's some beautiful writing there, but is it actually doing anything?
This is also when I can usually spot structure issues. In larger stories, it's not uncommon to have "floating" events that are important, but aren't tied to a solid point in the script. This one may be here right now, but having all of the story in my head lets me realize it would work better there, and it would be a more solid fit.
If I haven't already, this is when I let the lady love have a look. She's my first set of eyes to let me know I screwed up something and I'm too close to see it.
All things considered, this is usually two or three weeks of full-time work for me.
4th Draft--This is the first big polish. I go through sentence by sentence, looking for words that come up too often or stilted dialogue. I also make sure all the cuts and swaps from the last draft haven't messed anything up. Are the character arcs still smooth? Logic chains are still complete? Are the transitions still good? Are the parallels parallel? Did this character turn into a man for a few minutes in the middle of the chapter? Did Yakko just pull a gun out of nowhere?
When the fourth draft is all shiny, this is the one I show folks for comments. I generally send it out to five people. They're a carefully selected bunch, all of whom have some level of literary background, and I don't think there's one among them I've known for less than five years. One's actually been reading and critiquing my work for over two decades now, and she still doesn't cut me any slack. The key thing is they're all people who will give honest, useful criticism. There won't be huge, unexplained X's across the page, meaningless feedback, or cartoons in the margins.
Well, not often, anyway.
This goes off into the world and it may be a month or two before I look at it again. The trick here is to resist messing with it while those people are looking at it.
5th Draft-- Now I've gotten notes back from whatever folks I cajoled into reading this thing. I sit down with all the comments and go through the whole thing page by page. What did everyone think of page one? What comments were there on page two? How's page three look? As I'm doing this, I've also got my own copy of the 4th draft that I'm using as a "master document." This way I can get all the notes assembled in the relevant place and make whatever changes are required. This document is more or less the 5th draft, and it can take another two weeks or more to finish it with a full book manuscript.
I mentioned above that I try to get five people to make comments for me, and that's partly so I can get a broader sampling on each issue that comes up. If four people like something but one doesn't, odds are I'll call that good. Nobody's going to get every joke or like every chapter. If three don't and two do (and of course I do, or I wouldn't've written it), I'll sit and give it a good look. And if none of them like it, well... I'm smart enough to know when I've screwed up something doesn't work.
6th Draft-- This one's yet another smoothing, polishing draft. Now that I made those tweaks and changes from my reader's notes, I need to make sure everything works again. So, yet another line by line reading, tweaking and adjusting as I go.
And honestly, at this point... this is when I give up. There is only so much a given writer--in this case, me-- can do with a given story. There comes a point when further work accomplishes nothing and, as the Brits so eloquently put it, you're just wanking. If it's not ready to show to a publisher by now, it probably means I screwed up something right at the start on a very basic level. Perhaps when I first thought I could adapt Pilgrim's Progress into a hardcore gothic romance.
There's also a danger that if you keep trying to come up with reasons to do another draft, you'll keep finding them. I'm sure we all know someone who's just been working on the same manuscript for years and years and years because they've got another one or two drafts to put it through. After a while of that, your story stops looking like a coherent tale and a bit more like the Winchester Mystery House.
This pattern may not work for you. Everyone's going to handle things a little differently. I got to talk to Kevin Smith a while back and he said that he wrote screenplays on a scene-by-scene basis. He'd write a few pages, read, revise, read, smoke a bit, revise again, read, polish it, and move on to the next few pages. So by the time his script was completed, he's reached what I'm calling the end of draft four.
Y'see, Timmy, the important thing, as always, is not how you do it but that you do it. It's annoying as hell, and all-too-often used as an excuse, but there is something to that old chestnut "writing is re-writing." You can't expect something to be publication-ready the moment it leaves your fingertips. Doing this professionally means going over a piece again and again rather than mailing off your first draft while you move on to your next glorious and epic-worthy idea. If you're not willing to put the extra effort into your writing, it's always going to end up in that large pile on the left.
Next week, Booboo, I want to discuss those picnic baskets the campers have. Sort of.
Until then, go write.