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Friday, June 5, 2009

Revision 5 - Illumination

For me, the best aspect of revision is the opportunity to think deeply about plot, structure, and character now I've got the entire story in my head at once. I can't get these insights if I'm too focused on word count and grammar, so I have to formulate a list of problem areas beforehand or as I do the tighten and clean-up pass. Then I take care of those issues on the content pass, and verify on the final readthrough.

In the present case, I've had an insight that I believe will strengthen both the mystery and the character arc. [Don't worry, I'm not going to get into spoilers!]

In abstract terms, I had hedged a bit on the villains of the piece. We know some of them for sure - there is a complete story arc in this book. A few other people we're not so sure of will be sorted out in The Soul Mirror. What I'm thinking of doing is placing one of these ambiguous characters more clearly into either the villain or not-villain camp.

So why would I do this, as it seems to remove a bit of lingering mystery?

First, because it will more clearly define the positioning of another, more important, character. [Think of how a scarecrow standing in the middle of a completely harvested cornfield stands out quite starkly.] It completes a character arc that contributes to a more solid ending.

Second, because I wasn't feeling good about "exonerating" this particular person as he or she stood in the work as written. Portier and Ilario and Dante are none of them stupid. To let someone wholly pull the wool over their eyes would be unrealistic. On the other hand, to have a wholly innocent person remain darkly ambiguous for so long would also be unrealistic. So I had to make a choice--is this person a villain or a naive? Then I had to go back through that character's thread through the book and make sure my decision was well supported.

Third, because I had planned to carry this ambiguous character over into the The Soul Mirror and wasn't feeling good about it. I've had a fresher idea...

There, you see? Revision leads us into tough decision making. If we push hard enough for clarity - the goal of revision - we can feel the uncertainties we've left in our writing. Choosing, and repairing, rewriting, and repositioning, can - and did!! - leave the work stronger.

I send off The Spirit Lens last Wednesday (the 34th of May, right?) and feel really good about it. Total words cut: approx 10K. Total words revised: every other one. Beginning stronger. Ending stronger. Climax stronger. Ultimate uh-oh - much stronger. Motivations clearer, both in my head and on the page.

Now it's back to The Soul Mirror. Hooray!


Kathy Amen said...

I can hardly wait to read it!

Anna said...

I want it NOW! Yes, yes, I know... patience :D

And just a fun little note. I stopped by the indy bookstore on my way home from work today to buy a pile of books (I've been totally sucked into Bujold's Vorkosigan saga :) and noted that not only did they have all of your books in stock (TWO copies each of the Rai Kirah books), but someone had even shelved them in the correct order.

I thought that was cool :)


carolwriter said...

Oh, I like hearing that you're seeing all the books. I've had reports of "hard to get" and that is just BAD in these times. Be sure I have the address of that bookstore, Anna, and I'll send then some bookmarks and notice when the new book is coming out!