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Monday, April 27, 2009

Revision 1 - Looking at the Whole

Somewhere in the reexamination of motive, direction, and emphasis spurred by sorting out the opening of The Soul Mirror, I found a bit of enlightenment on a structural problem with The Spirit Lens. Now, I swore not to start on Spirit Lens revisions until I had put sufficient distance between my head and the manuscript to enable me to see what is missing, confusing, or non-working. I'm not sure I'm completely there yet.

Some revision work is methodical.

  • Complete read through on paper.
  • Tracing the development of an individual character or relationship or theme through the manuscript and adjusting as seems right.
  • Removing excess verbiage (always a big one for me.)
  • Going through my editor's list of issues
  • Going through my own list of issues

And so forth (we'll look at more of these as the revision heats up.)

But some things, like dealing with this insight, come on me all at once.

The Spirit Lens is a mystery that is solved (in a fashion - yes, picture grin here) by the end of the book. In the unfolding of the investigation, much bigger mysteries are uncovered. Are they solved as well? Maybe, maybe not. One of my revision tasks is to make sure that the distinction between what is solved and what is not is clear - and satisfying to the reader.

But the story is also the three investigators themselves - their individual personalities, secrets, and the relationships between them. As I look at the finished manuscript, I realize that my emphasis was wrong. The solved mystery is really a structure for the much more interesting story of the interplay of these three men and the dramatic arc of how they change.

Now, you may say, "Well, Carol, that's what your books always turn out to be. Wasn't that what you started out with?" Well, yes. To me, complex people are much more interesting than complex puzzles. But what one knows and intends, and what shows up on the page, can often be different. Thus that unsettled feeling that "things are not quite right." Distance and perspective allows a writer to see this. Thus, revision. (Thank goodness!)

So how do I deal with this? Sometimes it's a short phrase at the end of the prelude. Instead of

I, Portier de Savin-Duplais, librarian and failed student of magic, was charged to stop it.

We now see:
I, Portier de Savin-Duplais, librarian and failed student of magic, was charged to stop it. And every instinct, and every conclusion of logic and inference, insisted that my first business must be to find us a sorcerer.

More or less. Do you see the difference here?

Of course, this kind of structural emphasis permeates the book from beginning to end. I started out by tracing the evolution of the characters and their relationships through the sequence of chapters. Fortunately I keep a timeline with chapter notes, and I used that as a basis. I found several places where I needed to change the actual incident that happened, some places where just a few words would do to highlight the elements I wanted. That got me into reading some of the interior chapters where relationships change. It's feeling better. More to come...


Lace and Books said...

You had me at Librarian.

carolwriter said...

[- laughing -] Well, that's good. I DO like looking for my "children" in various places.

Unknown said...

I wish I could help you with "structure" and "emphasis" but I am merely the Gentle Reader, and so I'd like to take a moment to do what fans do.

Thank you for Valen. I really like how his outer speech and inner monologue were out of sync, until he figured out his place in the world.

And thanks for the details. All of them. Oddly foreign names. History. Brother Jullian's scent. Brother Gildas' warm hands, mentioned only once. It's these that bring the characters, the world and the story to life for me.

carolwriter said...

Valen was a revelation, for sure. I started with the vision of this tall, lanky, really good-looking guy lying prostrate on the floor of an abbey church as if taking holy orders, while saying, "What the hell am I doing here?" It was all uphill from there. Glad you enjoyed him. And the details, too - I do work hard on those to make it feel right.