It’s 9am on a Sunday and I’ve been up since 7am trying to revise a few more chapters before my eyes start burning and my brain turns to pureed Mac and Cheese. I am sick of this novel and I want to move on. Waaaa.
That isn’t to say I don’t love the book. I do. I love the story, love the characters. But I want it to be done.
This isn’t really a bad thing. Most people don’t realize how many hours go into a novel, especially a novel that is 125,000 words in length. A lot of people outline, set up a three-part structure and then flesh those sections out. My process is a lot messier, which leads to more revisions. I am now on revision 16…
That’s Sixteen… with a one and a six. For me, revision is slow, with lots of iterations. I am whittling the story down enough to be clear, but not so much that essential elements are cut off. It can be delicate surgery at times; or it can feel like hacking off limbs with a chainsaw. Usually, I prefer the chainsaw to come sooner than later.
BLOOM went through almost as many revisions. In fact, the original rough draft was cut so thoroughly about the only thing left was the main character’s name. I deleted all the supporting characters, the universe, the setting, the time period, and started over fresh. It was a good decision; the rough draft was bad. B. A. D. I don’t regret that decision at all, but that isn’t saying it wasn’t painful to do.
I’m working on a sequel to A LATENT DARK, and as the three of you who have read the book might remember, the story has a lot of characters. It tends to bounce around from different points of view, taking some odd turns here and there. It’s one part GOLDEN COMPASS, one part WHAT DREAMS MAY COME, with a healthy dose of Lovecraftian horrors.
I’ve never written a sequel before, and I’m learning that writing sequels, basically sucks. I don’t mean that the book isn’t good, just that writing sequels is a lose-lose situation a lot of times for writers. It is almost inevitable that someone is going to be bored because you included too much backstory; another reader will be clueless because they don’t remember any of the characters and there isn’t enough backstory. Then there’s some other guy who never even read the first book and has no idea what’s going on at all! “Why does this girl have only one eye? Why does the Reverend wear only white? Wait is this character dead? WHAT’S GOING ON? OMG! ONE STAR!”
The book picks up three years later, with the characters, now in their teens, thrust into more adult situations. It’s a balancing act without a net.
The other thing that makes revision so mind-numbingly drawn out is the fact that writers grow. We improve over time. Returning to a manuscript you haven’t seen for months can result in a fairly awkward reunion. I am currently picking this book apart sentence by sentence, rewriting as I go. So far, the dialog is okay, but other parts… yeesh. I just want to rip out and rewrite from scratch, which I do.
But you see how this can be a slippery slope. It’s easy to fall into a state where the novel is never good enough, because in another year, you might cringe at some of the things you were once proud of. I know people who have been revising their first novel for ten years. Will it ever be done? Who knows? But it’s easy to see how the relationship with a novel can become an unhealthy one, even a codependent one. At some point, you simply have to let go.
So this will be the last revision before THE UMBRAL WAKE moves on to my story editor. I imagine she will give me her usual harsh critique, in which case, the novel will go through yet another revision. Then it’s off to proofreaders.
Then I will be free to move on to other projects. You can’t chase the horizon forever.