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Write redux. or ‘Oh no, not again.’

A friend came up with a sort writer’s tragedy: he dictates, was dealing with a difficult section… finished it, and discovered it failed to record. So he did it again, and was better pleased with the second time… only to find a similar disaster had occurred.

One has to wonder if the third iteration was better or different? Sometimes I have this feeling I’m caught in a loop of time, repeating the events, the same writing challenges… and making the same mistakes. Sort of like an infinity of parallel universes… always coming out the same. Being stuck on the set of Monday, for the thousands re-run of the same day. Yes, I did write a story about the two antagonists who kept being re-incarnated to fight each other in the same doomed futile battle, just in changing sets of uniforms appropriate to the time, but I did nothing like as good a job as Douglas Adams did, with the bowl of petunias.

But the truth is, it is impossible to cross the same river twice. It may look similar, but it isn’t. It’s changed, and so have you. Without parallel dimensions, or the individual remembering none of it, every time is a little different, if not a lot. If we redo of the Wu-flu next year, we will not respond in the same way. I’m rebuilding the engineer designed shed that blew down in the extreme gale force winds we had a couple of weeks ago. I’m using as much of the material as I can salvage – just as one often does when re-writing. But if this one – with an inner frame of 2 inch steel pipe, secured to the concrete slab with 16mm rawl bolts and an outer frame of Australian hardwood bearer-timbers with 12 mm bolts and chem-set 12 mm coachbolts blows away… well I suspect everything else will too.

The shed, when finished, won’t look particularly different from the outside.

Neither, I have found, do the second or third iteration of a section of writing I’ve had to repeat (yes, I’ve ‘lost’ text -and in a couple of cases, found it again – multiple back-ups work, but you can still make a mess and lose stuff.)  It’s a fascinating experiment, which is hard to force yourself into on purpose,  but worthwhile – writing a tough piece,  a second time.

It’s never as hard. And, in my opinion, looked at in cold blood some months later, usually better and stronger than the first time -even if it does the same job.

Which is why when I’ve been really not satisfied with a section… I don’t try to edit it. I just try to write it again, without looking at it. I know what should happen this time.

And just like rebuilding my shed, I hate doing the same job twice. But needs must, sometimes.

The bridges crossing the same river twice is in Snowdonia, and that picture is a bit of time travel too. The old bridge has been around for a thousand years or more.

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’m in revisions. When two beta readers tell you the same thing, you’ve got to fix it, but this one’s difficult. I have to drop a piece of news in earlier than I do, and it will change every single scene.

    May 18, 2020
    • I feel a bit of your pain. A reader pointed out that a Once and Future McGuffin emerges, is learned about, and then disappears again. Where did it go? Why doesn’t it appear a third time? Erm, yes, I’d better sort that one out, because readers will be expecting the McGuffin to “do its thing”.

      May 18, 2020
      • Also, I seem to have misplaced a pair of sisters. First they were there. Then they weren’t. So far, this one’s bothered no one but me. It really pays to set things aside and have another pair of eyes.

        May 18, 2020
    • Margaret Ball #

      I hate it when that happens… and I’m so grateful for modern technology, because I can actually remember when “change every single scene” also meant “retype every single page.”

      May 18, 2020
    • Mary #

      Though even if they make the same complaint they may be wrong about the fix.

      May 18, 2020
      • Actually, I’ve figured out a new fix. The first one just didn’t work.

        What I meant was that if two people find the same flaw, one should seriously consider doing something about it. In my case, I even had the “ah, hah” moment (it’s an annoying moment, but I had it) where you know in your heart of hearts they’re right.

        The fix is ultimately up to the writer. My one beta and I have reached the point where we can suggest fixes to each other to jump start the brainstorming.

        May 19, 2020
  2. Instead of a Shed, it is a Canopy I must redo some work on. My parent’s have their Fifth Wheel RV parked on family land 60 miles north of me. Last year, end of winter, we got a heavy wet snow that caused some damage. Several weekends and a vacation week were spent atop the rv fixing it.
    This winter is was fine again most of the winter and a heavy wet snow caused some of Dad’s cable stays to spring the turnbuckles and bend one rafter, pulling a support beam off in the process as well.
    I will reset the beam, unbend as much as possible, and replace with stronger turnbuckles, as well as add more and stronger support.
    Guess the garage will get metal roofing next year.

    May 18, 2020

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