Tuesday, March 17, 2009

More On Revisions (Moron Revisions?)

I have thus far worked my way through about 35 whole pages of my 258-page opus, so that means, using one method of calculating, that I am 14% of the way through the rewrite. No doubt I have actually made less progress than that, because the work I'm doing goes far beyond line editing. I am making large-scale and far-reaching structural changes to the book, and since I've made some decisions about my protagonist I keep coming up against whole sections that no longer work and have to be rethought and rewritten, which in turn means more changes down the line.

Also, I am looking critically at a lot of the opening expository chapters that I haven't really paid any attention to for months upon months, and seeing that I don't like the way they flow. Or, rather, the way they don't flow. All forward motion seems to have stopped midway through Chapter Two, and I find myself having frustrated conversations with myself:

"Look at all this exposition. What is this? Two pages about the tributaries of a river? Does anyone want to read that? Even I'm falling asleep."

"It's a wonder your agent bothered to read this crap."

"He must've been high. Lucky for me, though."

"This all needs to be rearranged."

"It needs some action; it's just a lot of history, description and dialog."

"Yeah, what we need is some sex and violence."

"Hey, yeah. It's the middle of the second chapter and nobody's got naked yet."



"Hey, wait: is this
that sort of book?"

"Uh, no...But we can still have the violence, can't we?"

"Sure we can. Hey, has anyone been castrated yet in this chapter? Where's my pen?"

In better, less idiotic news, I have figured out who the mystery woman, Astrid, is. I had the clever idea of having one character describe her by talking about all the things she is not. I think it works pretty well. Though she is not anything like a seductress, Astrid does get to say, "Tell me more about my eyes."


  1. I don't have an agent, but I'm in a similar situation. That is, I am ~13% through my revision, but it's actually less than that because of some major changes I've made which will require many more changes down the road.

    I keep telling myself I'll finish if I continue working, but sometimes I don't believe myself.

  2. Well, the only way we'll finish is if we do keep at it, so it's not like either of us have a choice! I remember when I was slogging through the first draft, wondering if I'd ever get to the end, and I stumbled across something by Neil Gaiman (of all people), who likened the process of writing a book to that of building a stone wall: we work word-by-word, one at a time, and keep going on because the book won't write itself (just as a wall won't build itself). So keep going!

    I like to tell myself that any frustrations I have when I look at the actual manuscript are caused by a realization that I need to do more work to it, and that realization is caused by my having gotten better as a reader and writer. So in the end, it's all beneficial no matter how painful it seems at the time.

  3. "I like to tell myself that any frustrations I have when I look at the actual manuscript are caused by a realization that I need to do more work to it, and that realization is caused by my having gotten better as a reader and writer."

    This too, I hope.

  4. If you're revising with a purpose, then the book is getting better. Period. Keep the faith.

  5. Nice work, Scott and Justus. Scott, I'm about a third of the way through your book. I'll be interested to see what changes you made in it. I think your agent gave you good advice. I'm enjoying the read.

    I'm trying to work on my new first chapter. The going is slow, but I'm moving stone by stone.

  6. I feel like the odd one out here, commenting as a female over over here... hehe.

    Scott, keep at it. Isuckitis come in many different forms, I've found. First chapters always get me down.

    So would you want a Shakespearean actor to read your book? Because my husband is really interested in your work. He can quote Hamlet left and right up and down. :)

  7. Lady Glamis,

    At least I worked my way through last night's bout of "Christ, this really sucks. I should think about other career options."

    I don't know how well a true Shakespearean would like the book, especially the more I leave Shakespeare behind. But once the ms is revised, I may well take your husband up on the offer. One thing that my research revealed is that almost every single line of "Hamlet" is contentious; there's no generally-accepted interpretation of the play and everyone has his own idea about what it means and who the characters are. Which is, you know, part of Shakespeare's brilliance.

    And hey: this isn't a boys' club. I'm glad you take the time to comment!

  8. I'm thinking there is not a chance it sucks!!! :-) So...publish already, we're waitingggggg!!!!

  9. There's nothing like revision to deplete confidence in the work. I always feel, if I didn't get it right the first time, how can I know it's right this time? What if I have to revise again? Or what if it was actually better before and now I'm making it worse?

    That way lies madness. I try to just press on...

  10. Tara...I can relate TOTALLY. Maybe that's why it's good to have a muse. You can just lay the blame it on him/her/it. LOL