Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Editing Part 927

I feel like I'm editing all the time. It's been months since I wrote new words (if you don't count that failed attempt at a short story last month). It's not like I dislike editing. As much as I may grouse about it, I love doing it. It's like sculpting. You've got this big chunk of clay, and you get it into an almost recognizable shape on the first go-round, but then you have to take care of the details. Of course, this analogy only works for representational art, and not that amophous crap some people like to call art... But I digress.

I want my block of clay to actually look like something when I'm done. That's where editing comes in.

Right now, I'm working on my first book. I finished the first draft in August of 2004. That's right. Three years ago. I finished the second draft in September. I've revised this sucker at least seven times. Heh. I was so clueless.

Seriously, it was my first, so I was completely clueless. The story is wonderful, the characters gritty and full of life, the prose flows so well. And it's so cluttered with unnecessaries a person could choke. This draft around, I'm cleaning house. I'm making this sucker as tight as my subsequent books. I'm taking all the lessons I've learned over the past three years and applying them to this masterpiece. (And it is a masterpiece, if I do say so myself.) It deserves no less than the harshest snipping.

Back up. The first draft of Spectacle... When I typed 'The End' thirty-six months ago... topped the scales at 142,000 words (by MS Word's count). I was pretty damned proud of myself. It was everything I wanted it to be, and using my favorite author as a guide - with Atlas Shrugged topping out at 1100+ pages - I thought I hit the right number. Ack! What a fool. Aside from the fact that Atlas Shrugged was her fourth book, and by then she was already a bestseller, I am not Ayn Rand.

But I edited for content and clarity and got the sucker down to 137K. Woohoo. And I submitted the work for representation. Again, I was such a fool. You shouldn't be surprised to find I was rejected repeatedly. I was even offended when one agent wrote "TOO LONG!!!" on the corner of my own query letter and sent it back with no other info. She was right, but I was too married to my monster to see the truth.

Eventually, though, I got the point. By this time I'd already written the first draft of Caldera - and it was WAY smaller. I was learning and applying the knowledge to my other books, but Spectacle was left alone. I even considered shelving it, or.... *gasp* self-publishing. (I even thought about submitting to P.A., but I didn't so we won't go there.) This past fall, I finished the first draft of my third book, and took another look at Spectacle. I honed my craft and as I was editing Blink, I thought about ways to make Spectacle better. In the spring, I sent it off to my crit partner, who proclaimed it the better of my first two novels. Yay.

Problem was, I had it down to 126K, but I still thought Spectacle needed to be put on a diet. Unfortunately, I was still too close to do it properly. Finally at the beginning of this summer, I made the decision. I got out the hedge clippers and went after Spectacle with a vengeance. I've re-chaptered it, I've snipped and reworded. I cut out one of my favorite scenes (and the one my daughter will kill me over when she finds out it's gone) because it didn't drive the story forward.

The weight-loss for Spectacle is now at around 7000 words, and rising. I'm just over halfway through, so if I keep with the previous loss, I should finish up at around 12K words gone (or 114K total). Still pretty big, but the story is a bit epic to try and smush it too small. We'll see where it ends up.

Now, about my own non-existent, but oh-so-necessary diet... Ummm. Maybe I'll diet next week.

5 comments:

WordVixen said...

You know- when Spectacle gets published, you could post the snipped scene as bonus content on your author website. Or do a contest and mail it out on hardcopy to the winners. :)

Kristin B said...

Wow. Three years, now that's dedication. No, wait--that's passion. Keep at it, and it'll definitely be worth it in the end!

Kristin B said...

Forgot to add--w00t on loving Atlas Shrugged!

B.E. Sanderson said...

Wordvixen, I'm hoping to do what King did with The Stand - publish and then years later do an anniversary edition uncut. ;o)

Kristin B., I can handle passion and dedication, but sometimes I wonder if it's not just lunacy. LOL

ERiCA said...

Wow, that's a lot of trimming! You're making great progress.

Amazing how much we learn the more we keep writing, isn't it? I thought my first book was the bees knees until I wrote my second. And I thought that was fabtastic until I wrote my third... and so on. The more I write, the more I learn, and the more I look back at that first stuff with cries of, "What was I thinking?" LOL.

So smart of you to apply today's knowledge to a past project. Best of luck with this go-round!