This was unexpected.
I finished the revisions today. Yes, the chapters at this end of the story are short, and yes, the very last few weren’t too bad to begin with . . . but I really didn’t expect to be done this soon. I think this may be the difference between a major reconfiguration draft (such as one that follows a critique) and a polishing draft.
Overall, it’s a good novel. It has flaws, but that’s why I’m asking BRAWL to take a look at it. In the words of another BRAWL member, they will fall upon the manuscript like a pack of erudite hyenas. And when they’re done, I’ll have an idea which flaws can be patched and which are dealbreakers.
And now? Now I set it aside, fix those short stories that have been awaiting edits and send them out, and then get back to work on research for the tangled next project. I have a couple of scenes in mind already; maybe I’ll write those and then see where they fit later on.
Two more chapters, one of which had been giving me some trouble before. I may have reached fatigue point with this manuscript; I think there are flaws, but I can’t yet see them, and knowing they must be there is driving me nuts. Or perhaps I’m just overthinking it.
And I get a few more pages into Chapter Twenty-three while I’m at it. I should get more of it done, but I’m trying a new morning schedule and if I’m going to get moving, I need to finish up quick. Maybe I’ll take care of it when I get home from work.
Actually, that sounds like a good idea. (Later note: yes, but I didn’t do it. Oh well.)
Comments from manuscript:
No longer true
He knows in prev. chapter — change there so he finds out here
Change names to some consistent form
Condense and put earlier
This sounds pompous (well, more so than usual)
Need physical details
Where are they?
Is this necessary?
No time for a long discussion here
Chapters Nineteen and Twenty, both of which need lots of work. Nineteen is too long by far, partly because a lot happens and partly because the fight scene is far too padded. There’s also a good deal that needs to be glossed over, unless I want to write a tedious travel scene.
Chapter Twenty has a scene that I wrote back when I was still working on the first draft of the prior book, and while it’s a great scene, it also shows its age. Names and circumstances have changed, one so substantially that I stop work to go back through the manuscript to make sure one character is no longer referred to by a certain title. I find two instances in chapters I’ve already revised. That’s embarrassing.
Three-fourths done. This might work.
Comments from MS:
Condense into 1-2 grafs at most
Cut entire page (usually indicated by one big slash of the pen)
They’d have no need for this
He knows this already — no need to tell
Make sure reader knows where [thing] is
What does this mean?
Reconcile with several-day journey
She’s heard this language before, would know its name
For a number of reasons, I get time to revise, but not with my marked-up manuscript. So I spend the time revising a short story instead, one that BRAWL took a look at some time ago. Strangely, it takes longer to revise twenty-five pages of short story than twenty-five pages of novel, probably because short stories have much less room for error. Or maybe it’s just that I know this novel will be going to BRAWL, while the story’s closer to sending out. It still needs a readthrough, but it’s almost ready to go.
It’s also an example of a weird-inspiration story: I dreamed one of the major scenes in this story almost ten years ago, then tried to write a story around that scene. It failed, miserably, but the story remained on my computer. Then last fall, I started poking with some of the ideas, switched around a few characters, and took another crack at it. And this time, it worked — and that particular scene is still very close to the dream. It doesn’t happen often that I get handed gifts from my subconscious (or gifts that don’t need tailoring, anyway), and it feels a little strange to have the context for it now.
I was right; two chapters take up all of my allotted writing time, plus an extra half hour. It’s worth it, though; I pare down a lot of redundant conversation, add a scene that not only provides a way of showing what I’d been telling the reader in the first draft, but sets up the next scene fairly well.
I ended up removing a totally gratuitous shirtless scene in this chapter in the first round of revisions, and I thought I’d miss it more. Nope, made the right decision.
Even with today’s slowdown, I’m still about two-thirds done with this draft. I did not expect to be here so soon. It’s making me impatient to get the whole thing done, which is not a good thing.
Comments from the manuscript:
(Weird situation here: I had several pages with no changes, but on rereading I decided they were entirely irrelevant and collapsed them down to a paragraph. Go me?)
Need a beat or something before the attack
Really? (This happens when my first draft has only the barest idea of how something works. Second draft gets cranky.)
Let him state what the problem is instead of what isn’t
These are excuses, not reasons
Need an actual plan here, not handwavy (from either me or the character)
He’s never seen [X], no comparison (Curse you, limited point of view!)
Gloss — a day passes
20th century slang in wrong era
Three more chapters down, but the next two are going to take some work. This was a lull in the action, and from about Chapter Seventeen on there are going to be very few pauses for breath.
Two of today’s chapters were new from scratch last draft, which is again mildly reassuring. They have their own flaws — I have a bad tendency to repeat revelations if I’m not sure where they should go — but they don’t have the longer-established flaws of the other chapters. Which, unfortunately, is what I’m up against with tomorrow’s work. I suspect I won’t be able to maintain this three-chapter-a-day pace.
On the bright side, I’m liking some of my characters more than I did before.
Comments from MS:
Reconcile with end of prev. chapter (this is a problem when writing chapters that have cliffhangers; change one and the other needs to be adjusted)
Be careful when name changes (a problem with a character who goes by more than one name)
Where is [character]? What’s he doing?
Tone too harsh for this conversation
No longer necessary
Put flashback here but quick and less gross-out
Show surroundings — onlookers?
Day Four: Is it only day four? What is going on? How can this be going so quickly? HOW DID THIS GET HERE I AM NOT GOOD WITH NOVEL anyway.
Chapter Eight takes a while, but most of that is cutting irrelevant matter. Character development is fine, but redundant development at the expense of plot less so. Chapter Nine is one I mostly wrote from scratch in the last draft, after realizing I’d revised everything All Wrong. That it still holds up is, I think, a good sign.
I even manage to get Chapter Ten revised, and that was one that gave me so much trouble in the last draft. Exposition chapters are always iffy; in early drafts, my characters kept sitting down for tea and plot-related revelations. Nice and cozy for them, less so for the plot.
Comments from the MS:
Use this to intro chapter
Need dialogue beat here (the pace of action and dialogue is something that needles me a lot at this draft)
Cut (repeat x15)
Reconcile with earlier cut (i.e., something happens “again” here, but if the first instance has been cut, there’s no point in “again.”)
Clarify where everything is
Cut — remnant of earlier draft (a character remembers something that now never happened)
Build up to revelation — check language vs. previous use
Remove filter (Lots of “he felt X” or “she saw Y” dilutes the immediacy of an action. Showing the action rather than perception of action usually is better)
Too little time to make that judgment
Day Five: I’m almost half done.
Three more chapters down. I think I know why I’m moving so quickly, and I know it can’t last; the last few chapters have some serious blocking issues. Not writer’s block, but theater blocking: who is doing what when and where. Most important for combat scenes, but I’ll need it for description as well. These chapters, though, were in pretty good shape the first time around, and so they’re not in need of much change.
I’ve also reached the stage where, if a sentence I’ve marked in need of revision isn’t doing anything, I’m more likely to cut it than fix it. This is a ruthless approach, but it does streamline quite a bit.
Comments from the MS:
Find and replace [name]. (I choose one that I may still have to change, but it’s better.)
Syntax is wrong
Show what he’s doing and to what
Reconcile with earlier attitude
Match rhythm of second clause
This should creep her out
Cut entire page; need better sting at end of chapter
Chapters Six and Seven today, and they move more slowly than the others. Six has a number of pieces that add nothing, so need to be cut, but still needs a better sense of the passage of time. Seven needs an ending that has more of a punch, and I think I get it almost right.
Comments from the MS:
Cut, split, clarify (over and over again)
Add implication of later problem
Add motive for later
You just said this above!
Connection is iffy
Too detailed — he wouldn’t notice this straight off
Tense is off and too much of a digression (shame, because it was a cute little anecdote, but really had no point or connection to what’s going on)
Put bit from p. 67 here
This whole ending is off — give no time to do anything yet, no preparation
Blocking out a full hour and a half of solid writing time works. Three points of view today, one of which is not in very good shape (character-wise, not narrative-wise — I do awful things to my narrators), and I make it through Chapter Five. This revision is going more quickly than I’d expected. Wonder when it’s going to fall apart.
Comments from the MS:
Need a physical description of this character
Describe effect of [thing] ONLY here
Add from p. 92
Make sure not redundant w/ch. 1
Awkward phrasing (all over the damn manuscript)
Check earlier form of address
Remove name of house through MS
Add notes on novel vs reality
Cut, condense (lather, rinse, repeat…)
Twenty-seven chapters. Roughly 101,000 words.
It’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses.
First step is really kind of silly: change the font. This really belongs more on a list of Stupid Revision Tricks than anything else, but it’s an effective trick for me. If what’s on the screen doesn’t quite look like what’s on the page, then to get from one change to the next I have to read, rather than scan, meaning that in theory I catch more problems. It’s not foolproof by any means, but it’s one of the little things that help me at this stage.
I’m working from a full draft with changes marked in pen. The comments on the paper manuscript are anything from a careful line edit to large swathes struck out and new scenes outlined in the margins to “NO” written several times over dialogue that hasn’t held up well.
Chapter One goes down quickly, but that’s because it’s more of an introduction than anything else. Three pages is hardly a challenge. I’m a little unsure of how well it draws into the story, but since this book follows hard on the heels of the other, that may be less of an issue. Chapter Two is a little easier, oddly enough. I even get a couple of pages into chapter three before it’s time for work.
Twenty-four and a half chapters to go.
Sample comments from the manuscript:
[Character] should be mentioned here
Split off mention of nightmares; add more of relationship to [character]
Only mention [past event] here — rehashed several times in previous chapter; cut those
Not your phrase*
Unlikely detail for something this small
No literature department in this school
Where is everyone in room?
* I run into this a lot. I’ll come across an awesome phrase or metaphor, file it away, and then use it without remembering where I got it from. This is the stage where I catch it, usually with a groan of “I quoted that?”
Arisia was lovely, as usual. I met some new and interesting people, managed not to sound like a total idiot even late at night, and fangirled the Foglios. (My inner squealing fangirl is not very inner.)
And then there’s the revision posts. So here’s the thing: I started revisions last week, intending to give myself a couple of days’ cushion. I now have five days’ worth of posts.
I’m also just about halfway done with this revision.
I honestly did not expect it to go this quickly. This is the third draft, and while it’s not the last revision by any means (that’ll happen after I give this to BRAWL, so that I can incorporate their critiques) it’s still not a trivial revision. Either I’m getting better at this, or this draft really is that easy.
So I’ll start posting what I’ve got tomorrow, and we’ll see just how long this draft takes.
Revision updates will be coming shortly — I’m cheating and giving myself a few days’ worth of leeway. Yes, that means I won’t quite be revising in real time, unless the dates catch up to me.
In other news, I’ll be at Arisia this coming weekend, happily geeking out. I’m even on a few panels, but the timing is a bit…odd.
Saturday, 11:30pm: The Moral Aesthetics of Steampunk
Steampunk is frequently realized as an idealized, shiny version of the Victorian era, with quite a few of the nasty bits missing or obscured. The real Victorian age was a mix of great wealth and progress with poverty, workhouses, and more. What does it say about us when the latter are left out?James L. Cambias, April Grant (m), Israel Peskowitz, Margaret Ronald, JoSelle Vanderhooft
Sunday, 10:00pm: Consistent Magic Systems in Fantasy
Magic is mysterious and ancient, and its workings are often beyond the understanding of mere mortals, but that doesn’t mean that magic doesn’t have rules. Every fantasy saga has its own rules for magic, and its own explanations for how the magical arts work. Where does magic come from? Who can use magic, and how? Do regular non-magic users know it exists?Vikki Ciaffone (m), Genevieve Iseult Eldredge, Joshua Palmatier, Margaret Ronald, David Sklar
Monday, 10:00am: Boston in SF/F
What genre books, movies, and TV shows have used Boston for a location? What characteristics make Boston a good setting for an SF/F story? Stephanie Clarkson, Christopher Davis (m), Ken Gale, Margaret Ronald
Yes, you read that right: two late-night panels, followed by an early Monday panel. I may not be at my best this Arisia. (This is what happens when I only glance at my panels when the preliminary program comes out; I read 11:30 and immediately thought 11:30am. Oh well, too late to argue now!)
Off to revise more, maybe fix the short story that BRAWL looked at last month, and figure out why one of the popular search terms leading to my blog is “the awkward moment when Neville Longbottom is suddenly the hot one.” Not that I’m arguing. I love me some Neville.
Well, that was too long a hiatus.
Happy New Year, everyone! I’ve been doing the Internet equivalent of hiding in a cave for the past few months, but they have not been unproductive months. Trouble is, everything’s still in the intermediate stages.
I’ve found that I work best when I have several projects going at once, all in different stages of completion, and these last few months have been no different: one novel in research, one noodling around with early composition, and one in heavy revision. It’s this last one that I’m considering blogging over the next couple of months. The novel (a sequel to the one that got revised in Anatomy of a Revision) is almost ready to go to BRAWL, but it needs to be polished up and made readable. The plot works, but it’s a bumpy ride.
Since at this stage what I’ll be doing is taking the scrawled-on manuscript (198 pages scrawled so far, ~120 to go) and incorporating those comments, I think I’d like to post some of these manuscript comments. This is a much closer look at the revision than the earlier stage — in fact, it’s closer to the blitz-through-the-lot that I did at the end of May. (Not doing that in three days again, I can tell you.) Would this be useful or interesting to anyone out there?
I’ll be starting a week from today (family obligations this week, plus that gives me time to scrawl on those last 120 pages), and I’d like to get this done in about a month. We’ll see whether it’s possible.