Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Revisions

Tonight I finished writing a new chapter for the book, to fit into a three-year gap in the narrative I'd left to the imagination of the reader when I was trying to be clever. I've filled in those three years and it was, I must say, a job of work. I have been writing this chapter since last Monday, I think, and earlier this evening I worried that I'd never see the end of it. But I have, and I sit back with some satisfaction and declare it quite fine. I shake my fist at my protagonist and say, "I have finally got you!" For I do have him, at long last. I have his fears, his anger at fate, his love of family and his conflicted loyalties. He is now fully alive and the revisions to the rest of the book should come pretty easily after this. I may have to go back to the previous five chapters and add a bit here and there, but all in all I'm feeling pretty smug and full of myself.

I realize I've said this any number of times, but this revision is hard work, much harder than any of the writing I've done up till now, possibly including the first draft (though let's not get hasty). The book is growing longer at an alarming pace, too. I've cut about 3000 words out of it, mostly useless exposition and awkward phrasing, but the word count is nearly 11,000 words more than it was a month ago. Huh. I have no idea how long the book will be when I'm finished rewriting it. About 100,000 words, I'm guessing, which is much longer than I ever imagined it would be. I remember feeling lucky when I got the second draft up to 80,000 words, the minimum length for a work of literary fiction. The revision process continues to surprise me.

Despite the great flood of words spilling out of my gawcy pen, I still think I'm on track to finish the first round of this rewrite by the end of April, which gives me a week to collapse and sleep before I take a run at--I hope--a line edit in May before sending it off to Mr. Agent.

Most valuable lesson learned during rewrites: It doesn't matter if you don't feel like writing, it doesn't matter if you're not in the mood for it or you don't feel inspired. You can make yourself sit down and write when you need to write. The muse will find you if you commit yourself to the work no matter how tired or doubting you are, and the inspiration will come despite your reluctance to be inspired.

17 comments:

  1. "...I was trying to be clever."

    Many times when I tried to be clever, I failed miserably.

    "...I'm feeling pretty smug and full of myself."

    Anything new here? Kidding. Great job on the revision.

    "You can make yourself sit down and write when you need to write."

    I remember writing my first draft, and revising that first draft, using a laptop set up on a toilet in Japan. I'd be there at 2 a.m. sucking in toilet fumes, sweating like madness, crying for my aching knees, yet typing away while my pregnant wife rested. Unfortunately, all agents rejected my work, even to the 4th revision, and attempted to crush my spirit. But one uncle is helping me believe again.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well, I envy you both. I am still on my first draft, in a way. I say in a way because I edit each chapter at least three times before I move on. That being said, I enjoyed your insight and cannot wait to put it into practice when I finally finish my WiP. I feel like another 5-10 chapters ought to do it. Writing takes so much out of me some days that it is hard to get back into it. Other days it gives me so much energy I don't know what to do with it all. I liked your advice though, "You can make yourself sit down and write when you need to write. "

    ReplyDelete
  3. Inspiration is for beginners.

    I'm glad you're moving along so well and that you are sharing the process with us. As always, I feel that rewrites are when the REAL writing takes place. :D

    ReplyDelete
  4. Revisions drive me crazy.

    1. I always go in with the intention of cutting words; almost always I find myself adding words instead.

    2. Usually by the time I'm in revisions, I hate my novel. I am so tired of working on it.

    3. I can't stop revising a story as long as it has serious flaws, no matter how tired I am of it.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Justus:

    Damn those agents! They think they're so clever. Are you going to Japan to write your next first draft? It seems like a lot of hassle.

    David:

    Don't spend too much time editing until you've finished the entire first draft! It's a waste of time because you'll probably have to cut/change a bunch of what you've labored over polishing up.

    Lady Glamis:

    "Inspiration is for beginners."

    Ain't that the truth? You can put art into your craft, but you have to be able to write when you need to, not just when you want to. I think my real reason for this post is to be a cheerleader for dogged perseverance.

    Tara Maya:

    1. Yeah, how does that happen? I know I'm cutting like mad, too.

    2. After I send my revisions to my agent, I'm going to go out and have a t-shirt made up that says, "I Hate Hamlet." I'll wear it everywhere I go for months. But for now, I have to keep writing it.

    3. Well do I know this syndrome. If I know of a problem in a story, I can barely think of anything else until I've solved it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Congratulations, Scott. The part that was most exciting for me was when you mentioned that you finally understand your character. For me that makes revising infinitely easier. As for the inspiration, thank you so much for the reminder. Ever since the end of last month I've been telling myself that my move back to LA is a viable reason to not work on my first chapter, but it really isn't. I've been picking at it, but I haven't really sunken my teeth into it yet. I will start tonight. Promise.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm just happy I was able to take a break from my WIP. I hit a point where I couldn't see anything good or bad about it.

    I don't have an agent or real deadlines yet, but at least in my work related writing having a deadline always helps me muscle through the hard parts.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Davin: Yes, it's a huge relief, to have this guy at last. I confess that I thought I did know him, but I was wrong! On my way to bed I realized, with this newfound knowledge, that some bits in my first chapter were wrong, so I had to fix those before getting to sleep. My work at the office is going to suffer while I'm revising this book. And you: just sit down with the ms and say, "I will do this." Then do it.

    Guppy: One thing that helped me at each stage was to set deadlines for myself even though I didn't have to. I promised people they'd have a new version to read by their birthday, or Christmas, or whatever, and I made myself hit those deadlines. Without external pressure, it's easy to slack off. Especially for me, as I'm naturally a lazy sod.

    An author I know just got a two-book deal: the book she's finished, and another one due in 24 months. I used to think that 2 years would be an enormous amount of time to write a book, but now I think she'll have a very busy 24 months!

    ReplyDelete
  9. "Especially for me, as I'm naturally a lazy sod."

    Ha! I can attest to this.

    "I promised people they'd have a new version to read by their birthday, or Christmas, or whatever, and I made myself hit those deadlines."

    I did the same thing with my first novel. It's a great plan. I'll probably go back to deadlining myself when I'm ready to start pumping out some Fantasy.

    ReplyDelete
  10. 'I shake my fist at my protagonist and say, "I have finally got you!" For I do have him, at long last. I have his fears, his anger at fate, his love of family and his conflicted loyalties'

    Excellent! Must feel really good. I can only dream of being at this point. It's hard work...isn't it!:-)

    ReplyDelete
  11. I look forward to reading your book, Scott.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Tara Maya,

    Thanks! I look forward to reading your Secret Project.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm not going to Japan to write my next draft. Toilets aren't the best desks.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Yes, I find when I sit with my work open in front of me and start thinking thoughts that character would have things just start to flow. When I'm editing, if I persist long enough, things start coming. Revisions make our stories literate.

    I saw your comment over on Davin's blog and thought I needed to check out your blog and thoughts.

    ReplyDelete
  15. "if I persist long enough, things start coming. Revisions make our stories literate."

    It's that persistence that most people lack, but is the real secret to good writing.

    ReplyDelete
  16. "It's that persistence that most people lack, but is the real secret to good writing."

    I give up.

    ReplyDelete
  17. "It's that persistence that most people lack, but is the real secret to good writing."

    I find that really encouraging, really. It gives me some hope there's a purpose beyond mere procrastination to my many revisions. :_p

    ReplyDelete