Teaser Park: Revisionist Edition

Revising is my nemesis.  It is the bane of my existence.  It is the friend I never invite over because he will never leave.  Draw the curtains, turn off the lights, and don’t answer the phone.  Nobody’s home.

When will I stop revising?  When I’m done.

But how will I know when I’m done?

Honestly, that’s the common critique of revising.  It can go on forever.  I always think of the man in Camus’ The Plague who has reams and reams of paper in his house, all of them filled with endless versions of his novel’s opening line.

Someday, this will be me. Except with a different title, different author's name, and different cover.

I know that revising makes things better (for the most part), but my real fear is that I’ll end up destroying whatever good it was that I had in the first place.  My writing is so organic (what follows is determined by what came before, and if what came before is changed, then how can what follows follow?) that I feel any little shift may destroy the skeleton of the whole.

And yet, I’ve tried small scale revision — changing lines, adjusting words, adding and/or deleting scenes.  Each revision improves the book(s), but it doesn’t solve the larger problem: Namely, that there are some sections, some entire chapters, that don’t work.

But I can’t just cut them, because the details in those sections are integral to the plot.  So far, my response has been to dance around these problem areas, hoping that if I redress their surroundings then the problem will disappear.

This has not worked.

So now I’m trying something I’ve been loathe to do.  Taking Tracy Jo’s advice, I’m rewriting the problem areas without looking at the original version.  And, because it was her advice to begin with, and because my first novel is the one I have the most problems with (though I’m still in love with the idea), and because it’s her favorite of my novels, I’m rewriting the opening chapters of GOD’S TEETH.  The original opening you can find here.

I’m including the first 250 words (okay, 262) since that’s about a page of text, and also what The Authoress uses in her various agent-oriented contests.  The question:  Would you read on?

Darren stood to the side of the wagon’s makeshift stage and watched his master Mikal call forth a ghost between his outstretched hands.  The ghost was nothing more than a concentration of the air’s moisture, a creation that in any other context would be called fog, but this fog was shaped into the face of a man.

A man in the crowd cried out in shock.  “Father?”

The floating head nodded, then began to speak in a slow, stentorian voice that Darren thought was needlessly ghostly.  The voice echoed.  It reverberated.  It faded in and out as it told facts about both the father and his son, a farmer in small town of Settler’s Dale.  For the big finale, the ghost revealed where he had buried a small crop of coins on the son’s farm, a revelation that conveniently left out the fact that Darren had buried the coins there the night before at Mikal’s direction.  The information about the farmer and his dead father had been gathered a few days before by Anton, a guard for Gatrindor’s Panoply of Wonders who also served as a location scout for the carnival.  The only thing about the performance that was real was the substance of the ghost itself, a truly magical manipulation of the air, but a trick that Darren had seen so many times he had lost his sense of wonder.  The only tension in the show for Darren was wondering whether or not the front rows of the audience would notice the stench of alcohol that wafted from Mikal in waves.

Well, would you? (Read on.)

This entry was posted in Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Teaser Park: Revisionist Edition

  1. Sarah Brand says:

    Here via Absolute Write. Hi. 🙂

    I just finished pretty extensive revisions on my WIP*, and, yeah, it can be rough. I try to think of the book as a tapestry of sorts… everything is connected to everything else in the sense that it all forms a larger whole, but I can take out or add in single threads without destroying the whole thing. Sure, it’ll make subtle changes to the overall image, but that’s the point, really. I guess the trick, with that metaphor, is being able to tell which words and sentences and scenes are connected to each other and which can be left alone. It works for me, anyway.

    Regarding the excerpt, the writing is very good, so I would probably read on for a bit. However, the idea of someone pretending to contact the dead feels familiar, so I’d want to get a sense of what the conflict will be fairly soon, or to read something that makes me feel more connected to Darren.

    * When I saw your real name an entry or two below this one, it sounded really familiar, and then I remembered that you said some really nice things about the WIP in question when I entered it in Authoress’s Secret Agent contest last January. So, thank you!

  2. Andrew says:

    Hey, Sarah!

    I like the tapestry analogy (though I then think of a single key thread ending up unraveling the whole). I’m feeling a little better about the revising as a whole. I’m through chapter 2 (out of 13) and know that I can revise the whole novel, but I also know that it’s going to be a lot of work. I’d hoped that when I was done with the first two chapters (my problem children) that the rest would be easy. I think they’ll be easier, but not as easy as my daydreaming mind wished. Partly, this is because my revisions have made the novel richer, which means that richness needs to be woven into the rest of the book. Partly, it’s because I’m changing bits of character, and those changes will echo throughout the rest of the novel.

    Thank you for the comments. I’ve already changed the beginning again (based on my workshop’s comments and on what I’ve changed in the second chapter), so much so that I think I’ll be doing another of these kinds of posts.

    Also, your welcome. [grin] What was your WIP?

  3. Sarah Brand says:

    It’s called To Disturb the Universe (entry #14 in the contest). I’ve changed my opening a bit as well, based in part on the feedback I got on Authoress’s blog. Last week, I sent it out (in the “resubmit” part of a revise-and-resubmit), so for the next couple of months at least, I’m back at the stage where I’m working on the first draft of a new project. It’s a really weird feeling.

    Good luck with the rest of revisions!

  4. Andrew says:

    I couldn’t remember what I’d entered into that contest, but I finally ferreted it out. It was entry #33, and if I’d known this a few weeks ago, I wouldn’t have re-entered it into the Baker’s Dozen auction. Ah well.

    I have yet to get a revise and resubmit. Though I’ve had some agents say that they’d like to see more of my work, or even a revision, I haven’t had any specifically charge me with rewriting (with advice on how to, no less) and resubmitting. Since I spend most of my writing time working on new projects, it’s this in-depth revision process that feels weird to me.

    Best of luck with the resubmitting!

  5. Jason Myers says:

    At the risk of contributing to any possible derailment of revision, I prefer the original opening (and thought it was good, even without a comparison of better or worse than the newer version). Reasons it is good:
    1) It starts with a kiss (which feels fresh, in contrast to ending with a kiss)
    2) It introduces the problem (the falling star) in the first sentence, even if we don’t yet know that it is the problem.
    3) It is a personal, down-to-earth, almost mundane (in a good way) opening to a fantasy novel. It introduces your main character. In contrast, the new opening words concentrate on the mechanics of fleecing the audience, and seem impersonal. In the first version, those details of “the show” are used as a looking glass into the main character, so while we are getting explication of the world, we’re also getting what is much more important: personal details. I also think it’s an appropo way to introduce the “hero”, because as this momentous event is happening, he’s just trying to get a little grope. In short, loved it. I’m not going to say, “don’t change a thing”, because obviously you’re trying to change things, but I think the original opening worked.

    Ooh, I have the option of being notified of follow-up comments by e-mail. That is so exciting! Seriously.

  6. Andrew says:

    Well, I doubt it’ll cover all your bases (that belong to us) but I have a third version re-written after my novel workshop got a hold of the first-draft-of-revision. I’d been playing around with putting that up as well, and might just do.

    Also, I think the same things are still there that you like, it’s just that they’re a little farther back in the first chapter. But, in short, I don’t know. I’m not really at risk for derailment anymore as I believe that, overall, I’m making the book better. As for the beginning, I’ll have to wait and see what it looks like in comparison with the rest when I’m all done. (Which seems like it will be forever from now. Yay.)

Leave a Reply