Revisions, Revisions…

edited manuscript
Nic McPhee via Creative Commons

I am writing everyday. In fact, I’m writing longhand on my upcoming honeymoon. Mainly because my new bride will strangle me if I whip out the Surface and start typing. Plus, she wrote two novels, number 2 written mostly in longhand and still unfinished. But writing is only part of the equation. I have to revise. And every novel or novella is different.

For instance, Storming Amargosa was written as a screenplay, and the conversion process is revealing shortcomings to that method. I’m estimating a final first prose draft of 55,000 words.


Second Wave is about 80K, which is also the length of No Marigolds in the Promised Land in its finished form. Wait a minute? That’s not very long! Or epic!

Normally, you have to be a taker outer in revisions. A common (but by no means hard and fast) rule is rough draft – 10%. But I generally do three drafts: The first with the door closed, the second one to go to beta readers, and a third to an editor or out to KDP and Createspace. Storming will be different. It will have to be added to. As I mentioned yesterday, much of this is a function of screenplays being mostly dialog. This is one talky manuscript so far, and I’m going to have to embellish, especially those annoying scenes called “montages.” This is where show-don’t-tell becomes important. My usual objection to that advice is that some who slavishly adhere to it wind up spending extra paragraphs trying to show something that should really be told in one sentence since it’s not even the focus of the scene. Like those tired old nuggets about passive voice (sometimes active sounds really stupid) and “Write what you know” (Who even does this? It’s called RESEARCH!!!), hammering on this needs to be tempered. What do you show instead of tell? If you said everything, go back and rewrite. You’re probably wasting the readers’ time showing them minor details when it’s enough to say, “She had a headache.” We don’t need to hear her thoughts or a ten-minute screed on whether its a migraine or a tension headache or she’s just not in the mood when the point is that his grandma just died.

But Storming will need a lot more showing, especially in those montage scenes where the POV is most definitely dramatic and somewhat detached. This is good. Amargosa is a shit show, and we need to see how bad a shit show, not just hear Davra and Yuwono complain about it.

But Marigolds is different. Formatting issues, dates getting out of sync, one character changing the spelling of his name several times. Oh, and references to Barsoom in the other books? Hey, nice homage. Reference to it as the setting of Marigolds? Um… John Carter was a Disney movie, so let’s assume the Mouse still has long arms 500 years in the future. That will require more mechanical revisions.

What about the next novella, The Amortals?

I’m not as concerned about that one because it won’t be out until January. And it’s largely a rewrite of an earlier novella that’s already been beta read. That one likely will take me a week.

So when do I do this? Usually on my lunch hour. That option may change soon (for some very good, non-writing related reasons), but for now, that’s when I do it. I’ll have two betas reread it, and possibly the bride, who already loves my crime work. For some books, it’s a couple of weeks and some judicious editing. For those coming out of the beta process, it’s a bit more work, which is what I used to pay an editor for. (And that editor gets a copy of everything I write.) Storming will occupy weeks as it’s going to be due by January so Clayborn Press can edit it for an April release.

And still I write.