Things I learned from revision

June 11, 2011 at 2:11 pm (Anatomy of a revision, Writing work)

So 31 Days of Revision (like 30 Days of Night, only with fewer vampires and slightly warmer) was, I think, an overall success.  Keeping track of my progress was a good way to reassure myself that yes, I was making progress, as well as providing a little extra incentive to actually make progress.  It’s one thing to slack off on revising a chapter when it’s just me and a looming deadline; when it’s me, a deadline, and the possibility of the entire internet watching me at any moment, that’s another matter.

That may not be an unmitigated good, though.  This revision went quickly, and I think I may have pushed myself a little too hard near the end.  Particularly since I did not blog the step that went after the revision: the prose-polishing, last-bits-wrangling, what-the-hell-is-this-character-still-doing-here draft.  Because I’d set myself a difficult deadline, I ended up doing that draft in about three days.

Three days.  500 pages (450, by the time I was done).  If I had tried to blog about it, the resulting entries would have consisted entirely of “AAAAaaaaAAAAaaaa garble blit fner AAAAAAA” and other such insightful commentary.  The result was a damn good novel, at least to my eyes, but I’m not sure I can do that again.  The resident organist had to keep pulling me away from the computer so that I could get a rest.

That said, the whole revision-and-blogging process taught me a few things:

  • I can do it.
  • It’s really not easy.  I needed all the time I had to spare, and some important things did not get done because I was revising (BRAWL, social contacts, certain household tasks…come to think of it, I’m crap at those anyway.)
  • The pace of the revision may be why I didn’t have my usual crisis midway through.  I tend to start questioning whether this novel is even worth it around about Chapter 12-15, and this time I didn’t have time to question myself.  I had to get those chapters done no matter what.
  • There’s gotta be a more efficient way of writing a beginning.  I think I went through five separate beginnings for this novel, and this last one works better than any of them.  Why didn’t I just skip to that step?
  • I love my endings.  But I need to slow down when I revise them.  They take just as long to polish as the other chapters, if not more, and I might as well take the time to fix them the right way in the larger revision.
  • Keeping a scrap file of all the material I’ve cut from earlier drafts?  Totally worth it.  They make great sources for later pillaging.
  • It is never, never so simple as just moving a conversation.  Context is everything, and if I don’t have reasons for my characters to be having this conversation at this time, then I need to find them.
  • I seem to have a thing for characters crashing through windows.  Not autodefenestration — well, in one case someone throws himself out a window — but usually crashing into a room via the window.  What would you call that?  Refenestration?
  • I still don’t know if this novel will sell.  But I’m glad to have turned that first draft into a really good novel, regardless of sales.
  • Insulated mugs rule.

What’s next?  Well, I’ve got half a first draft here, and even if I’m going to have to make some major changes so that it matches the revision, it’s still a good start.  So it’s off to the composition stage, spinning this story out to an ending that may or may not involve jetpacks.  And quite possibly waltzes.  But not both at once.  I will probably not be blogging this process, partly because I’ve just started a new job and balancing composition and work will be difficult enough as it is, partly because it’s substantially less interesting.  I may try to do semi-regular updates, along the lines of “here’s what I wrote this week: the horrible old woman in the hall, a misunderstanding involving garden implements, more rooftop chases (which will probably be cut) and an excruciating parental conference.”  (All of these are in the first part of the draft, by the way.)

Thanks, everyone, for your help and your support.  It really meant a lot, and it helped me push through this draft.

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And a small fun note

June 7, 2011 at 6:53 am (Uncategorized)

One of the wonderful things over the Memorial Day weekend wasn’t at WisCon at all.  While I was waiting at the gate for my connecting flight, still drowsy from the Bad Sleep Decision, a half-dozen teenage girls spontaneously burst into an a cappella, choreographed version of Florence and the Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over.”

It’s inexplicable, sudden moments of joy like this that make the world (or even just a dull layover) amazing.  I don’t know who these singers were, but they made my month.

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WisCon report

June 6, 2011 at 7:07 am (Cons)

Well, a week after WisCon, and I’ve finally recovered.  (New job and dogsitting took up a lot of my brain in the meantime.  Why did I think it’d be a good idea to start a new job right after WisCon?)  As usual, there wasn’t nearly enough time to talk to all the fantastic people, and yet I had a great time — hallway conversations on artistic integrity, crits over crepes, dancing like a loon and loving it, discussing the Holy Grail with a very patient medievalist, and so much more.  Not even my very bad sleep decision (I’ve got a 6 AM flight?  I have to get up at 3:30 to get there?  Well, I might as well stay up till 2 AM anyway! ahahaha no) could dampen my enjoyment of the weekend.  Although the shimmery, Barbie-pink dress I ended up with at the clothing swap may be one of those tangible regrets…please let there be no pictures.

Next up: things I learned from The Big Long Revision.

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