Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

Week of June 25-July 1

Three rejections.

So. Things I'm thinking about revision (and thanks, some of you, for asking).

Someone on my friendslist, in a locked post, was going through friend's book's copyedits and rewarding friend-self with a chocolate chip per three items reviewed. This is an extremely good idea. I'm not sure chocolate chips are going to end up to be the thing, but incremental rewards for something tedious are not a bad idea at all at all. Small reward for small chunk of work. This is not an entirely original theory to my friend, but it just looks so darn functional from here.

The thing about revision for me is that it's so easy for me get caught up on theory. I don't mean writing theory or critical theory. I mean, "In theory, it would take me less time to just re-draft this from scratch," or, "In theory, I could have skipped this part completely on the first draft rather than spending the time writing it and then cutting it." Except that theory is no good when it doesn't match up with reality, and in reality I couldn't write an entirely new draft of this book and have it come out better than this one in the same amount of time. And I couldn't have skipped all the pages I wrote and then deleted -- my brain was just not going to go forward except for the ways it did go forward, and the thing is, I don't really know how it does in the first place. So spending time on what I could theoretically have written instead is stupid. What I could theoretically do differently next time is another question, because next time is still ahead of us. But what I can't do next time is write a perfect book on the first go. That is not among the things I learn from writing each book: how to make it absolutely perfect from the get-go next time. That is not what knowing how to write a book means.

I don't understand how it works, that I sat down with the very same revision notes three months ago, two months ago, one month ago, and last week, and each time I looked at the notes on top, and my brain balked: there was just no way I could do the thing specified. It was obviously necessary, but the universe never guarantees us that necessary and possible are the same thing. (I have a book mostly about that, the prequel to Dwarf's Blood Mead wherein Kjartan gets the mead in question. But that's another thing.) Last week -- last week! -- I looked at this note that says, "clarify with Ansa work," and my brain wailed. You know that sound toddlers make when you have asked just one thing too many of them, and they really just could not possibly go onnnnnnn? That despairing, overwhelmed howl, because it looks like putting their shoes on should be simple, because they are Big Now, and yet it is not simple, and oh, the frustration? Yah. That noise, inside my head. And when I'd written, "Orvokki more subtle," there was that noise again. And now, oh, there's Orvokki saying the same things more subtly, and on we go.

How does any of this work? I have to tell you, I really don't know. I've got my revision notes more organized, but I think that's helping with parts of this I haven't gotten to yet, parts that will come tomorrow or maybe next week. I've got things on notecards, and I'm putting the notecards in piles and little stacks. That is what I know about revision right now: piles and little stacks make me feel good about the whole situation, and may even further the cause.

Also what I know is that people who tell you that you always have to add or always have to subtract word count are wrong. They may be right if they tell you what they always have to do, but characteristic errors vary.

Also, what I have learned from Thermionic Night and Sampo is that it helps me to talk out book problems with timprov. The times I feel most like freezing up, meeping, and hiding under the desk are the times when I should say, "Okay, so here's what's going on in this book, and here's what's bothering me." Again, I believe other people when they say they can't talk about a story when it's in progress. But they are not me, and their process is not my process, and I do best when I talk about the books I'm working on, regardless of whether I feel like it. This doesn't have to be as public as a livejournal entry, but it probably should happen.

Also I think maybe it is not coincidental that I have the urge to read a bunch of mystery novels while doing Sampo revisions. Mysteries tend to be plotty. I'm going for what I need here. I should pay attention to this the way I do my cravings for red meat, spinach, and in dire circumstances the liquid iron supplement I had to take as a small child. (Which last tasted so vile that no one could possibly want it on its flavor merits, just as a medicinal need. So far I haven't gotten so desperate for some element of storytelling as to crave the fictional equivalent, but I will try to keep it from getting that far -- as I do with the anemia.)

Also there is never such a thing as enough research. There is such a thing as too much research, but even that is not enough research. It's just too much. See? I knew you would.

That's what I know right now. But I know how to do things I didn't know how to do last week, with this book, so next week maybe I'll know something more. Could happen.

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