Vicki's Book News and Articles

The OOPS! Factor

Written by Vicki Hinze

On December 26, 2010

Our every act has an Oops! Factor.  You know the one I mean.  You write your heart (or gut) out and realize on page 150 that everything you’ve had happen since page 37 is impossible because your character is mortal and not superhuman, or you changed hair/eye color on a character three times during the course of the project, or you changed the background/history/parentage of a character and forgot to note it early on in the book so now the character has led a double life and s/he shouldn’t have because there’s no logical reason for it.

These things happen to us all.  We write and get so lost in the fascinating creation that we often are just typing as fast as we can and huffing, totally breathless from trying to keep up with the characters and what they’re doing, feeling, saying.  I call that getting into “the zone.”  My husband calls it me being in “lala land.”  But regardless of what you call it, we who write all want to get there.  We want to shut out all but the creation and lose ourselves in it–and when we do, well, it’s pure magic.

In experiencing the magic, we generally have locked up the internal editor–and we want to do that, too.  We want that internal editor stuffed into a mental closet.  We want the door shut and locked and something really heavy blocking the door to keep the internal editor off our backs and out of our stories–for a time.  The creation time.

The creation time is our bliss.  That sweet expanse when art and creativity and imagination come out to play and somehow merge and blend until one isn’t decipherable from the other.  And oh, we savor our time in bliss.  We stretch our creative wings and fly through the pages, feeling every emotion, seeing every detail, experiencing each single event to the hilt.

And barring interruptions–Wait.  Fact:  There are always interruptions and after we’ve dealt with them, we have to work like the damned to get back to where we were in the bliss zone [sometimes we’re successful, sometimes we’re not but we create a new place instead]–but interruptions and all, we finally reach the end.

Ah, we’re satisfied.  What a whale of a story we’ve created!  We feel great.  Not good, GREAT.  It’s DONE!

Then comes the Oops! Factor.

Done is a relative term.  We have to go back and edit . . . and edit . . . and edit.  We expand some scenes and shrink some scenes and gag when we read some scenes that have us banging our heads and groaning, “What was I thinking?”  Oops!

Reconciled, we toss the raunchies out and rewrite and eventually we feel great about these new scenes, too.  But wait…  An inconsistency pops up.  Then another.  And, shoot, there’s a dangling thread—and–ooooh–there’s a new totally cool gem we just have to add in–somewhere.  So we search for the perfect place and then edit the surrounding text so that this place we’ve chosen becomes the perfect place, and we fix all this stuff and then read on.  Dang.  More other little stuff pops up.

We’re so focused on the little things, on the gems and those vivid details that make the writing rich and lush and fragrant, that we totally miss a whopper blooper story-stopper.  Oops!  Not done yet.

But we reconcile.  This happens in creative pursuits.  It’s normal.  So we keep a good attitude–mostly–and let the work cool for a time so we see it with a clear eye, and then we read it again and edit it some more.  We catch a few more errors and sometimes in correcting them we make a few more mistakes.  But we know to expect that, so we resist the elation of feeling done and the urge to get the final copy printed and get the thing out the door and submitted.

Yes, and we accept that this “fascinating creation” is now “the thing.”  We’ve read it so much and worked on it so long, the bloom has definitely worn off the rose.

So we exercise a little discipline and let the thing rest–partly to gain a new fresh eye and partly because we think if we have to read it again now, we might just decide we hate it, tear the thing up and forget ever looking at it again.  But what’s totally annoying is that inside, we feel this faint longing to create something new and different–something we haven’t done before–and we fight that urge, sometimes calling on our last sliver of discipline.

We stare at the stack of pages sitting innocuously on the edge of our desks, knowing we need to get back to the thing, but suddenly doing the dishes or mowing the lawn takes on mammoth importance and just must get done.

We feel the urge to get the thing off our desks.  To just shove it in a mailer and get it gone.  But we know better and so we drag it front and center and with a sigh borne of resignation, we again begin to read.  Our enthusiasm, at this point, is snuffed out.  Dead and buried.  We’re down to sheer grit.

And about five pages into the thing, we realize we’re living the story and not editing.  Oops!  Have to go back and start over.  And so we do.  But–oops!–it happens again.  But while this is good–surely if we’re sick of the thing and we’re transported from reading words on a page to living the story then the reader will be, too–it’s not good right now.  We need to catch those errors, sharpen those images, get the thing done.

With renewed determination and a warning to ourselves to stay sharp, we go at it again–and before we know it, we’re again lost in the story.  Frustrated, and now totally sick of this–why did we want to write the thing in the first place????–we say spit upon it and keep going.  And an amazing thing happens.  Errors and inconsistencies jump off the page, snag our attention–and tick us off because they pull us out of the story.

So we fix them and press on.  We finish, enter the changes and corrections and print out a fresh, clean copy.  We know we should read the thing again–to make sure we didn’t create new errors or screw up scene breaks–but oh, the thought of it has us weary and bleary-eyed.  Our fascinating creation has morphed into the thing and now it morphs again.  We moan and groan and half-convince ourselves to give into temptation and call the damn thing done.

But at that very moment we give in to temptation, the internal editor busts out of the closet shouting, “Hey!  Hey, writer.  Yeah, you.  Don’t you dare short-shrift me after I spent all that time stuck in that closet so you could create in the zone!  I demand my turn–all of it!”

Grumbling, grousing and adding new meaning to the term “pregnant sigh,” we can’t make ourselves ignore the internal editor or shoot the damn thing out in the mail with the editor looking over our shoulder.  Internal editor would have a coronary.  Worse, if one negative comment came back to us on that mailing, we’d never hear the end of it.  And the very worse:  he’d be right.  Wishing we’d put him in a soundproof vault instead of a closet, we reconcile and hatch a new avoidance tactic by talking  ourselves right into letting the damn thing sit and cool again.   But . . . oops!

The internal editor is not happy.  And then he starts nagging.  The need to get the work finished, off the desk and out the door.  We block him out, resist listening as long as we can because now we’re sick and tired of the whole damn thing.  So sick and tired of it that the idea of reading it yet again, well, it makes raking the lawn or scrubbing toilets look as enticing as a trip to the water park on a scorching hot day.

We mutter and curse but discipline wins out and we cave in.  We must read the whole damn thing again.  To console ourselves we’ve gotten away from our desk, gone to our recliner and propped up our feet or parked ourselves on the grass under our favorite shade tree and, sipping at a chilled glass of sweet iced-tea or tart lemonade, we get started . . . and get lost . . . and we stay lost in the world that had been pure imagination until we dreamed and worked it into creation.  We live the story.  We feel the feelings and see the places and people in our minds.  We love and hate and hurt; laugh and cry and get mad and sad and scared to death.

We experience the fictional dream.

We read on and on and when we’re done, we stop, emotionally wrung out and suddenly surprised.  “Oh, wow.  What a story.  What a story!”

Then it hits us and we think, “I wrote that?  I can’t believe I wrote that.”

The internal editor snorts, “You mean we.”


“Yeah.  You, me, determination, discipline–wait.  You’re not thinking you’d have gotten this fascinating creation without us, are you?  You were stuck with the whole damn thing.”

“True.  But I’m happy with it now.”  Actually, brimming with satisfaction is a more accurate description.  We absorb that magnificent sense of accomplishment and realize–oops!–the  whole damn thing really has morphed yet again.  Somehow it has again captured us and become the fascinating creation.

“How did that happen?”

Internal editor snickers.  “It’s the Oops! Factor.”

The Oops! Factor.  Mmm…

If at any time during the process, when Oops! sounded the alarm we’d ignored him, we would have been stuck on a journey with a one-way ticket to “the thing,” or “the damn thing,” or “the whole damn thing.”  We’d never have made the round-trip back to “fascinating creation” or experienced the “wow” moment.  “The Oops! Factor.  Yeah.”

We stroke the pages, content.


©2007, Vicki Hinze


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