Notes from the Revision Cave

I like revision. I like the moment when things click together and I know how to make it better.  

But I also find it to be work, difficult, brain-breaking, painstaking in a way that first-drafting isn’t. I can’t just dive in. I need long stretches of time, and the paying job has been stressful and sort of soul-crushing lately, and I have to fight myself to find the time and the energy simultaneously on nights and weekends. At three p.m. when I’m filing memos, on the way to work with my iPod, in that twilight state before sleep at night, I get great ideas, I want nothing more than to immerse myself in Garolass–but by the time I’m home again at six, all I want is the comforting oblivion of a nap or a book or an episode of Glee. 

I’m sooo close to being finished, though. Then I can watch all the mindless tv I want, sans guilt. Then I can dive into that ever-growing pile of books on the coffee table. I’m hoping in the next week I can send these revisions to Awesomesauce Agent Jim, and if he thinks they’re better enough, he’ll send them on to the editors who wanted to see them.
Last week I wrote an entirely new chapter 10 and plopped it down, smack in the middle of the book (um, hopefully with more finesse than that). In it, Molly gets an eye-opening look at how artists and others with the F3 chromosome are treated in the capital city. The conditions they live in, the discrimination they face, the assumptions made about them and anyone associated with them. She starts to question her own strict ideas of right and wrong. It’s one thing to hear about something second or third-hand; it’s another to bear witness. The experience changes her.

…Which means it changes the rest of the book. Not in big drastic ways, but in lots of small ones. Last night I was fighting with a conversation between Molly and her love interest. This scene is one that’s been present since the first draft of Garolass; the basic bones of it haven’t changed in two years. It’s pretty pivotal for their relationship. But it wasn’t working. I knew it wasn’t working. I added lines and murdered darlings and then at 12:30 I made Steve read it. "Just tell me what’s wrong with it, gah."

And he did. He tends to think in terms of pacing and the tension of a scene. Their argument peaked too soon. I suspected he was right but didn’t see what I could do about it. Why would she stay in the room if this issue wasn’t addressed right away? It wasn’t until he explained it in terms of character that it clicked. It’s really all about character for me. Turns out the scene was backwards! I rewrote it and went to bed at 2 a.m. a happy happy girl. 

This set of revisions has been full of happy little revelations like that. Sometimes it feels like I’ve been working on this book forever. Almost three years now, off and on. Still, I think this revision is making it better, and that makes this sort of painstaking work completely worth it.

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