Friday, November 28, 2008

The Creator and the Revisionist

I reached 100 pages on Wildmane! Yes! I am ecstatic. This means I move on to the next phase, and get to send it off to Donald, who will hopefully find a home for it. And that means money. And that means I can buy new shoes for my daughter.

My objective for the next little while is to shape up the manuscript. The rough draft is down, has exceeded my targeted page count (by 2 pages), but now I need to make it tight. I need to knock away everything extraneous. I need to make it charged with juicy scene after juicy scene. It cannot house unnecessary chaff. The filler must be purged. This story can't just be a good story.

It must be irrisisible.

To help me in this, I have sent it off to a few people I call my "advanced readers". These people are chosen for a variety of reasons. Some have loved the Wildmane story since its infancy back in college, and want to be a part of its overhaul. Some have great talent in editing stories and have graciously decided to assist me. And some, well, some were just curious. But I'll grab their feedback with the same relish.

Because these perspectives are invaluable to me. As I write a story, I become immersed in the world. I have to. The characters cannot live if I'm not plunged into their bodies and seeing through their eyes. But, when it comes to the revising stage, this works against me. It can keep me from pulling back enough to see what I have actually conveyed, as opposed to what I think I have conveyed. One of the differences between amateur writers and professional writers is that ability to take that step back and see the story as a piece of craft, to be hacked and honed to the desired effect. This has traditionally been one of my weak spots, and advanced readers can help me in that area. We'll see if I improve.

So now I'm caught in limbo. I've reached my goal, but am far from the finish line. There is still a lot to be written, and the part of me that has gotten into the groove of creating the rough draft doesn't want to stop (it never wants to stop), but I have had to slam on the brakes to manipulate the craft. Revision works a very different part of my brain. I have had to switch mentalities. This is nothing like writing a rought draft. When I'm writing a rough draft, I open all the floodgates. All ideas are sweet, and I exercise little discrimination as I throw them into the story. Good, bad, ugly, all of it comes pouring out and spills onto the page.

When I'm revising, however, I'm curt, and I wield a word-trimming scalpel or, if the need is great, a chapter-lopping broadsword. I would even go so far as to say that I'm mean. I try to be mean. I look at the manuscript as though the writer is an idiot. All writers are idiots, and this particular one who wrote this particular piece of garbage needs to prove to me that he is not an idiot. I must be grudgingly impressed, or not impressed at all. I must chip and hack and push and cajole the manuscript into a shape that would seduce even the most sour audience because, in the publishing industry, that is the most likely reader to be standing before the gates of publication.

So, I just recently removed my revisionist cloak. I revised the 100 Wildmane pages last weekend, and have been lolling about in the aftermath, what I think of as my "mellowing" time. I can switch from rough draft mode to revisionist mode very quickly. Going back the other way is a bitch. Apparently, transforming from open-hearted and giddy to sniping slasher takes little effort. But once I've been revising for a while, I need a day or two to get my mind back into fullscale creating. I think the inner child who plays with the conjured, rough draft images is afraid of the merciless revisionist. He doesn't want to stick his head out while the blades are whirring.

But the blades have been tucked away for now. The story of Wildmane is calling, and the child is piping up again. He's bouncing around, asking when he gets to go back to Amrin and find out what happened to Mirolah after her harrowing escape. Will she ever see her parents again? What does the insidious Gar Verritt and his band of misfits have in store for her?

Ah, he's tugging on my pantleg. I gotta go.

Until next time.

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