I haven’t been writing much new stuff lately because I’ve been up to my eyeballs in other projects since about October.
Part of that’s been juggling editor gigs for several upcoming anthologies: the Grimm books, The Refossiling and Teeming Terrors; check your local listings, buy them please!
But the big job, the uphill Sisyphean struggle these past few months, has been with a guy named Nathaniel. He’s the protagonist of what I’m planning to be a series of contemporary psychic paranormalish books.
I thought I was off to a good start. The first two were written, I thought they were pretty good, even my RadCon pal Patty Briggs read and liked them. So much so, in fact, that she forbade me to self-publish (but did say I could name-drop her, which I am totally shameless enough to do).
The thing is, once I started shopping the first one around, it got nibbles but no real bites. I couldn’t understand it. I mean, I’m all awesome and stuff, why the delay?
Then a publisher got back to me with some honest critique. Liking the character and the general story, but seeing some problems … if I wanted to revise and try again, they’d be willing to give it another look.
— Note to writers: second chances like that are a rare damn gift and opportunity in this biz; if you’re offered one, don’t blow it off! —
Meanwhile, there I am with Nathaniel. Poor guy’s first book had already been through a few changes (I am onto at least its third title by now). I opened up the manuscript and …
Honestly, I reeled. I couldn’t believe it. The excessive wordiness and bloat, the slow pace, the ambling along. Stuff that I’ve since taken to dinging other writers for.Holy shit. I was mortified. Ashamed of myself.
I realize now that the past few years of concentrating on short stories and working with some great editors has really helped. Word limits are still and always will be my bane, but they taught me some necessary discipline about streamlining, about cutting the fluff, about focus, about getting to the damn story already.
— We NEVER stop learning! —
I may still have a ways to go in that regard among others, but jeez the state of this draft …
It was, I immediately saw, going to be a big job. Not merely a smoothing revision, but a major overhaul. Damn near a complete rewrite.
When, of course, I have nine bazillion other things I want to do, anthology calls to write for, other books to finish, etc. Go back? Back and do over?
For a moment, and at several moments since, I admit I contemplated chucking the whole book. I might have done, if not for two things. The first being, see above, that rare gift of an opportunity to try again. Those do not come along often.
The second was, well, the second. As in, the second book; I already had a first draft of that one finished. If I trashed the one, I’d be trashing the other, and that was just too much to throw away.
So, I gritted my teeth and went to work. Not gracefully or graciously. I whined a lot. I procrastinated a lot. I slacked for the holidays, I goofed around on the internet. You know, the usual. But with added guilt.
I started with a manuscript about 92k words and change. I’ve toiled at it for these past four months. Plodding, plugging, grinding away.
Because I am a hoarder of pretty much all things, I had a separate file where I’d dump the scenes I removed but couldn’t bear to get rid of entirely (one day, like Dr. Frankenstein, I’ll take all those pieces and stitch them into a monster that will chase me into the ice floes and kill me).
I realized along the way that I’d need to go back in later and add other stuff to replace what was taken out. Other stuff, better stuff. Some characters got changed around. The title again. I discovered two important scenes I’d have to add, and I’d be able to flesh out an ending I really hadn’t been all that satisfied with in the first place.
Some sections did get rewritten as I went along. Some spots are marked with parenthetical little notes to myself to fix later. I knew I had to keep pushing through or else I’d end up who-kn0ws-where.
As of this moment this morning, I’ve reached the end of that initial revising pass. The working draft of my manuscript is now at 65k.
Next, I will need to go back and weave in those other bits. And give it another good going-over to make sure it still makes sense. And then I’ll send it back to the publisher. Maybe it’ll get picked up.
Even if not, I’ll include my deepest thanks in the cover letter, because they were right. This was what the book needed, what the story deserved. This wasn’t about my wounded ego or my precious wordcount. It never is, or at least it shouldn’t be.
It’s about the story. It’s about the characters. It’s for you, Nathaniel. You and all your quirky friends. You’re worth it. I may bitch and moan and stress and complain, but, in the end, you’re worth it.