When You Realize Revisions Aren’t So Bad…

Tishla coverThe email came a couple weeks back. One of my betas asked, “So, buddy, are you looking for places to hide my body yet?”

Um… He’s a writer I’ve recently started trading work with, so I felt I could save the notes for a later date. Well… I read his previous email, which suggested I’d maybe bitten more with Tishla than I could chew. Ugh. I sent it out to four betas. The first one, completely unfamiliar with my work, asked if it was part of a larger work. That should have been a sign I needed to start working on revisions, like, a week earlier. The second beta to return her copy said it was slow getting started. She also seemed to approve of Gelt on human freakiness. (In the name of experimentation, of course. Totally. Whole new meaning to first contact.) But again, slow getting started.

The third beta came back, asked, “Where’s the tight POV you’re so good at? Even Holland Bay had it.” Holland Bay‘s POV shifts resemble George RR Martin’s style more than typical spec fic. But even then, I got accused of writing in omniscient point-of-view instead of tight third. Yikes.

Finally, I went through everyone’s notes. You know how most writers complain about a sagging middle in early drafts? The middle seems fine. This one’s got a saggy beginning. And I think I see the problem.

I originally envisioned Tishla as following Gimme Shelter prior to the release of The Children of Amargosa. At the time I’d written it, I hadn’t chopped off all that beginning part that became Gimme Shelter yet. So I pumped everything but the kitchen sink into the beginning. Hence, lots of exposition, which buries the tight POV. Also, there are two characters, Colt and Bornag, who are Tishla’s human and Gelt enforcers respectively. They come off almost as twins of differing species and take over the POV for long stretches in the early chapters. So what to do?

Go back and rewrite the final section of “The Magic Root” (from what is now Before Amargosa) from Tisha’s POV. Explain what’s really happening on Hanar/Gilead. Find a way to believably send Tishla on her way to avenge… Well, I can say she’s avenging Kai, but more’s going on here.

Suffice it to say, it’s not only salvageable, but it won’t require the complete rewrite. I’m reading the second volume of Robert Heinlein’s authorized biography. Around the time he wrote Friday and Job, he and his wife discovered the personal computer, a snazzy new device that came with a science fiction-like program of its own: Search and replace. Heinlein rejoiced he would not have to hire a typist to completely retype a manuscript from notes, not when that two-month process could be replaced by a couple of hours staring at a black screen with yellow text. Technology! Can you imagine if we still had to type our manuscripts?

For me, it means writing new pieces and grafting them onto the old, deleting the heavy, black and ponderous bits bogging the story down. Why do readers care about the flowing back 2/3 of the novella when the first third moves like a glacier stopped by a log jam?

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