Thursday, August 1, 2013

On Revisions

Status Update: bean supply dwindling. Resupply is inevitable, much like the Borg and Christmas sales in July. Gums and teeth are still recovering, but as long as I avoid problematic food (which includes, surprisingly enough, Pop Tarts. Seriously, wtf?), I am fine.

I've got the rest of this section of Cameron Webb fully sketched out; I simply have to write it--there is surprisingly little left to do. I made a concerted effort last week, while on heavy painkillers, to get through the last of the transitional filler, which leaves only the fun and weird stuff to write.

And then the true work begins.

I'm planning on just printing it all out, single-spaced.  They tell you to never do that but in this case, I think it would be helpful. You can have more of the story in front of you at once. I pretty much intend to empty out my living room on the first sunny afternoon I have clear and spread it all out before me. My apartment will look like some kind of serial killer's shrine to words and it's going to be all covered in red (ink) before I'm done.

My goal is take it down from its current total of 34k (or so) words to 25k (or so). This is going to be brutal. Lambs will be slaughtered, infants will be left to cry in the cold snow. Dogs and cats will live together. And I love it.

There's nothing better than taking something that's bugging you and ripping it apart to find out why, then putting it back together better. It's awful, it's messy, you get that feeling of "this still isn't quite right" at the end of the process when you go to bed, but three days later you'll feel a billion times better about it.

But it isn't easy.

I have a hard time rewriting shit that I've already written for many reasons. First of all, I'm pretty lazy. I'm very happy, when I write, to just fountain words out of the screaming, uncivilized depths of my brain onto paper and then call it a day. Sometimes the resulting word-vomit is pretty good; often it isn't. It's never pleasant to go back and to find that something you pounded out last week was awful. It's like the first few minutes the morning after a bender when you wake up and have to do forensics on the night before: "Did I do that? Holy crap, not the curtains. Oh no, I texted somebody..."

There's always that level of fear that you wasted your time being not awesome, but them's the breaks. Awesome comes hand in hand with the not-awesome. People who are afraid to be lame in public (even if the public in question is just themselves, a few weeks later), tend to be lame in general. Nobody's 100% on their game all the time.

Mainly though, the reason I tend to have a bit of a hard time with rewrites is that it always feels like I'm changing the universe. I'm not going to pretend that anything I write is part of this immense creative world I've built in my imagination which I'm the blind prophet of (or something), but there is a sense that once I have everything banged out that it exists. There's a tiny voice in the back of my head that whispers at me, tells me that if I pulled out just one thread, the whole thing will dissolve into a pile of yarn, never to be reassembled into that fantabulous and beautiful sweater that your mom gave to you last Christmas.

This is complete bullshit, of course.

Even more so now. Instead of having to have a file cabinet to hold your rewrites, you have a computer which can hold a nigh-infinite number of version numbers of your story, sorted out to a degree commensurate with your level of patience. If something doesn't work out, you can always go back.

You can copy and paste paragraphs, move things around, delete, insert, bump and grind your stories into any number of configurations and then, if you don't like it...revert. It's awesome. I'd hate to be a writer back in the old days when it was nothing but you, a notebook and a typewriter. My fingers get sore just thinking about it, particularly since I'm a lefty and writing is, by the laws of biomechanics, twice as much work by hand as it is with normal folks.

This is going to be great. I get to go back, add more foreshadowing, combine/delete boring stuff. Cameron will get cockier, more overconfident, more full of that "I can fix the world" feeling that he has too much of. He might get his stupid ass killed a few more times. Claire will get tightened up. Punchier, more sarcastic, more practical. There will be more of the fun weird stuff that I enjoy writing. I will remove redundant locations, add more touchstones. Basically, this will be boot camp and I will run the story through the obstacle course until it's sick, wheezing and heaving its guts out all over the sand. In a good way, I mean.

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