Yes, I still have to go through and fix the rough spots (Chapter 12 in particular, and Chapter 14 is dragging more than it should). But this revision is done.
If anyone needs me, I’ll be out on the street holding my laptop above my head and making Tusken Raider noises.
I’m at WisCon! Yaaaay!
I’m exhausted! …yay.
I’m not on any panels this year, but I am helping out with the Writer’s Workshop, and I will be reading as part of an eclectic little group on Saturday at 2:30! Yaaay!
I’m sure I’ll have something more to say later. Right now, I’ve made it to Madison, I have found a soft place to fall down, and there will be coffee tomorrow. Complicated thoughts are not easy to come by at the moment.
Chapters 22 and 23 are cobbled together, but it’s pretty enough outside that I really don’t want to spend more time at the computer. Chapter 24 can wait till tomorrow.
When I hit this point in a revision, or even in the initial composition, there’s always this strange momentum. I don’t want to stop working, even though I’m burning through chapters much more quickly than I’d thought I would. I can see the end in sight — thirty pages! Plus a short coda to add! — and every time I step away from the computer, I can feel the pressure of those last few pages.
I make line edits to two more early chapters, then print another four. Some of these sections are actually pretty good already; it’s just a matter of finding the weak spots.
Chapter 20, down! Now with more bitter regret, more actual answers, and a lot more broken glass! It is, unfortunately, a very talky chapter, but it’s fairly short, so that might balance it. I’ll know when I go through a second time.
And Chapter 21! This one I wrote a version of in the very first draft, then scrapped. But no, it really does belong here, so long as it doesn’t go off into the old long digression.
And even a start on Chapter 22! Again, the end of the chapter is right, but getting there isn’t quite in alignment — certainly not now that I’ve added all this new material. I chop out everything that isn’t needed, add an outline and segments for what will be needed, and then pause for the day. Maybe I’ll get it this evening. Or maybe I’ll put my feet up and watch something goofy.
And what’s this? Chapters 5-8, printed out and ready for line edits? And actual sunlight outside? Oh yes, I think this will do nicely.
In a reverse of yesterday’s order, I scrawl on several early chapters, then compose in the afternoon, writing the end of Chapter 19. Man, I’ve put this character through the wringer. No regrets, though.
In the evening, I finish up line edits on the rest of the early chapters I’ve printed, then set it down for the night. I seem to be bad at taking breaks at this stage.
Chapter 18 goes down early. Woo! Some of that is chopping out irrelevant bits, but mostly it’s that I’ve rewritten the back half of the chapter to make more sense. Also, ending with a bang always helps.
I get about 1500 words of Chapter 19 done as well, then scrawl on the last few chapters, outline a coda, and write line edits on a little of Chapter 1. I think I can do this.
It takes a little while, but Chapter 17 is complete. And a lot more streamlined, though it’ll need a second check.
Tomorrow I’ll be composing large chunks of text to patch the gaps I’ve torn in the story, so I print out the first four chapters so I can go over them and start fixing the rough prose that got left in last time. It’ll give me something to do in between composition phases, and something to get my eyes away from the screen. The story now almost holds together; now it’s time to make sure I’ve told it properly.
And you know, these early chapters are pretty good…
Chapters 15 and 16 go down quickly, although I think I’ll want a second look at both of them. And then it’s a matter of figuring out what comes next.
I’d come up with a few important points over the last couple of days — X shows up again at the end, heralding a battle of wills with Y, Z should be the one to accidentally expose Q’s lies — so starting with those, I work out what goes next. Some of it is, I admit, based entirely on the principle of “what would be most awesome,” which is more than a little subjective.
However, I get the order of events fixed, realize I can salvage more than I’d thought of the end, and outline segments of the next three chapters. Cue the Young Frankenstein.
I’m posting like mad this week. Could it have something to do with procrastinating on the revision?
If you’re curious about what sparked “Letters of Fire,” today’s post at Supernatural Underground covers a little of that background. It’s also about balancing magic when constructing a setting. And voice-overs for movie trailers.
Day 23: Chapter 13 is complete, and more easily than I’d thought. But Chapter 14 is a bear; not only am I swapping conversations, that means the reason for each conversation now makes no sense. Plus, I’ve got extra characters still hanging around with nothing to do, so I need to write them out of the story. GET OFF MY DAMN LAWN YOU CHARACTERS YOU DON’T LIVE HERE ANY MORE
Day 24: I wonder if the increased incidence of capslock in these entries is a bad sign.
Anyway, I finish up Chapter 14 after figuring out a few elements that make more sense. It’s still rougher than I’d like, but it’s no longer a roadblock. And that leads into the two cleanest chapters so far: 15 and 16.
Unfortunately, I’ve been trying to work out the sequence of events in 17 and beyond, and it’s still eluding me. That means some more of the stare-out-windows part of the writing process. (Kate Beaton has a good illustration of one of the problems with doing this in public. Also, if you’re not reading her history comics, you need to start. Now.)
Still: more than half done and the story’s holding together.
More revision news later today (now with more CAPSLOCK!), but right now I’ve got something more important and much more enjoyable: a new story!
“Letters of Fire” is now up at Beneath Ceaseless Skies. It’s about a lot of things — the transition from a fantasy world to an industrial fantasy world, very dysfunctional relationships, on-the-job training — but I think it’s mainly about deciding who to be. I’m very proud of it, and I hope you enjoy it too.
They burned his master’s body at dawn. It was a far graver ceremony than Marten had expected: none of the howling mobs that Jana had predicted, no pointed mutilation of the body, not even a grand speech from the Bull lamenting the necessity of this death.
I sleep poorly, waking at 3:30 and staying that way till maybe half an hour before the alarm. As a a result, I’m bleary and crabby when I finally get to the computer. Still, I wrangle the three chapters into one, even if it both needs a new scene and needs to be cut down. (Yeah, I’m not sure about that either.)
There’s always a point midway through a revision where I just want to yell SCREW THIS GOING HOME and toss the manuscript over my shoulder. I don’t think I’m there yet — I’m just tired. It helps to know that the next two chapters aren’t too bad –a scene to add, then some swapping around of who talks to who when — and the two that follow them are almost perfect.
And after that? Well, I did have a few minutes to myself with my notebook earlier. I know how to precipitate one character’s second crisis of confidence, and I know two things need to happen in quick succession for the “oh crap” point of the story to work, but I’m not sure what the order should be. That’s the sort of thing I can work out over a long walk, though.
Halfway through revising Chapter 11 the other day, I realized that the following three chapters were dry as toast. Looking at them again confirms it, and my initial idea of handing them over to another point of view doesn’t help. However, chopping them down into one chapter with one unified point of view should make this less of a dull bit for the reader to skim through and more of a breather from the action.
I get about halfway done with this new Chapter 12 before life intercedes. Bah. And tomorrow isn’t looking good; I’ll have some longhand work time, but little computer time. Maybe a long evening write-with-hot-cocoa session might fix that.
Day 19: Chapter 8 falls in the morning, more quickly than I expected. I use the rest of that no-internet block to outline exactly how I want Chapter 9 to go, then take a quick break.
I write most of Chapter 9 in one long session while out of the house, add on another bit at the library, and finish up in the evening. It’s more painful to write than I expected; I’m putting characters through some wrenching events here, and even though I’m the one orchestrating their actions, I still feel bad for them.
I’m starting to get into the part of the novel that worked well without major structural changes. In theory, this means I’ll be moving more quickly, since certain chapters stood well on their own. Not sure how this will work out in practice.
And I’m still trying to figure out how to pull things together at the end. One or two things are falling into place — the identity of an unnamed character early on has become clear, and I can bring him back near the end to completely devastate one of my narrators — but the order of it is still uncertain. I think I’m going to need another staring-out-the-window session before I can assemble the ending properly. Ideally, it’ll make a good break between revisions.
Day 20: AAARGH where is the time going
Chapter 10 gets revised across two sessions, followed by Chapter 11. It’s a better chapter now that I’ve chopped a good half of it away. So much of this stage of revision feels like some weird puzzle: add one piece, take away another, see if it works, add another piece, take away another . . .
I’m moving quickly on this, but I can’t help feeling like I ought to be faster. Maybe it’s that I’ve set an unreasonable deadline for myself, maybe it’s a side effect of seeing “day 20” and “chapter 10” together and wondering why the numbers aren’t closer, but it still doesn’t seem like enough.
Maybe I just need to switch to decaf.
Chapter 7 gets knit together — okay, stitched clumsily, with lots of lumps — and since I have more time on my “no-internet” block*, I start in on fixing Chapter 8 as well. I add a very slimy conversation, then swap out who’s doing what. Some irrelevant questions go by the wayside as well.
Part of the problem with this chapter is that when I first wrote it, I knew I needed a defining character change in it. However, I couldn’t decide where it should go, and so I put it in several times. The result is that her development starts, screeches to a halt, resets, and then starts again. This will not do.
* I use a program called Freedom to shut off my internet-surfing capacity for a set block of time. This means that 1) the internet’s siren song is muffled for a little while and 2) I have a given amount of time that is dedicated to work. It’s amazing how useful the latter can be; I keep working till the buzzer goes (longer if I’m close to the end of a chapter), and if by some chance I finish the chapter early, then it’s on to the next one.