Revisions

I’m in the middle of working with my editor on the current work in progress. I’ve posted here before about what that revision process is like, but here’s a quick synopsis before I get the meat of this post. The process goes something like this:

‘This is the best thing I’ve ever written!”

“This is the worst thing I’ve ever written!”

And so on. You get the idea. But today, I was focused in particular on four chapters that were so bad they even had the editor confused. She had to resort to a spread sheet to figure out what was going on. All four chapters lacked a reaction to previous action, a goal, and a new scene. The problem was the linear way I wrote individual stories and stitched them together, and was actually fixed (I hope) by the end of the day.

But here’s something I noticed, that all writers will recognize.

I was so deeply immersed in the story today, that it became more real to me than what was going on around me.

My husband would come in for something, like starting to cook dinner, and apologize for distracting me. Of course it was no distraction, but each time something like that happened there was this weird disconnect where, for a moment, I wasn’t sure what was going on.

Have you ever been deeply asleep and in the middle of a dream, when the alarm goes off or the phone rings, or something jolts you awake? There’s that moment of feeling like the world just tilted, where you don’t know where you are, or which is the true reality.

That’s the way it’s been today. My focus has been so zeroed in on the characters, that I could hear them talking, that I was right there with them, and that my husband became, for a brief moment in time, the imaginary character in a story. I may have to go pinch him to make sure he’s real.

There’s always a similar sensation when writing, of course, when the words are flowing perfectly and the outside world disappears. But today there was a different intensity to that and I think it was because the focus was on editing rather than creating.

I’ve spent three years with these characters, shaping the story around them. So it’s not like they’re strangers. But today it was like they were lost and I had to work hard to walk the trail with them.

Even now, while taking a break, my mind is only partway paying attention here. I’m still back there in the story. More than likely, knowing me, I’ll dream about it tonight.

It’s getting late. But I think I can spend one more hour in their world. On to the next chapter.

Novels and Scotch

My son came up for dinner this evening, and wandered around with me afterwards while I watered roses.

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He talked about a short story he wrote, that he would like to turn into a novel. But he doesn’t think there’s enough to make a novel-length story, even though he has a fully developed world, lots of characters, and an extensive plot outline.

We talked about what he doesn’t have, to flesh out something that would translate to a novel.

First, there’s not enough sub-plots. The major plot line, like I said, is done well. But without sub-plots to hold it up, the main plot will sag, most likely about mid-way through. The lack of sub-plots is almost always the reason a first draft dies about halfway in.

Second, there’s no conflicts between the characters. Either external, or internal. He realized that these characters all get along too well.

And third, in a short story it’s okay for the good guys to win the battle. In a novel, it won’t work to have the good guys winning every single battle as they make their way forward to the final scenes. So they need to lose, and there has to be reasons for them to lose, and ways for them to learn and continue.

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A boy and his dog, many years ago.

While we talked, I remembered one of my favorite mysteries, that I never did anything with. I loved the premise, loved the characters, really loved the setting. I finished it, beta readers loved it. But there were lots of problems.

Not enough characters, so the antagonist was obvious. Not enough sub-plots to carry the novel. Predictable battles. Sound familiar? Sure did to me, even if the genres were completely different.

I’d like to go back and edit that story, but it needs more than just editing. It needs serious revision work. I’ve tried that a couple times but wow, what a task. It might be simpler to just take the premise, hang on to a few characters, and rewrite the whole thing.

Thinking about that story also reminds me of a funny conversation. The foundation of that mystery is a cask of Highland Park single malt scotch. I’m partial to Highland Park even though I don’t like scotch, because the distillery is on the Orkney Islands and I have friends in northern Scotland. That’s the main reason I chose that scotch.

My husband collects single malt scotch. So as I wrote the mystery, I would go to him and say, ‘I need a whisky with a peat flavor’ or ‘I need something that’s fruity’ and he would supply me with way more information on scotch then what ended up in the story. Plus he’d have to extensively sample, to find just the right one to meet my needs.

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Also from several years ago.

When it came time to do our taxes that year, our accountant told me we could write off the scotch my husband bought as research for the story. I thought that was a bit farfetched and didn’t believe the CPA.

My husband, on the other hand, decided the mystery needed to become a series. Set in different distilleries that we would have to visit for research.

I guess one of these days I’ll have to rewrite that mystery and create that series. Just to keep the scotch flowing and the husband happy.

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Sunshine On My Shoulders

I try very hard to not ‘market’ on this blog post because selling isn’t the purpose of writing here. So please understand that this is a post of excitement rather than pushing a product.

Sunshine On My Shoulders is now live on Amazon! You writers out there understand the excitement because you know the long process from creation through revision, through editing, through more revision to the final point where you just have to let go.

So I’ve managed to let go. Though I want to go back for one more read-through because there’s always that one last typo you missed.

But for today, I’ve tossed the child to the world.