Thursday, August 27, 2009

Revisions Continued

I took today off from work and from all things computing to renew my driver's license and then, after the 2.5 hour hell that is the DMV, work on revisions to the novel. Here is what my desk looked like during revisions:

And while that may look like plenty of scribbling on the pages, it's what I consider a light edit. This might be why revisions take so long for me; I tend to make a lot of changes every time I read through the book. Why? Because I can. Also, I hope, because I get better as a writer all the time. At least that's what I tell myself. Maybe I just can't resist fiddling with the narrative. Don't know. Anyway, I'm about 25% of the way through the manuscript. I'd like to get through the whole thing by the end of the month (as I've been saying here for quite some time), but it looks increasingly doubtful. It will take me a day just to type up all of the changes, very likely. Where is my personal assistant, damn it?

I won't be revising tomorrow; it's my birthday, and Mighty Reader and I plan to go to the beach, ride the water taxi across the bay, possibly take in a matinee of the new Miyazaki film, have dinner at the fabulous Carte de Oaxaca in beautiful Ballard, and then return home for champagne and cake. I will not, needless to say, be playing on the internets or building more walls in the attic tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Rewrites, We Got Rewrites

I have now marked up the first four (4) chapters of my ms; I need to find time to actually type up the changes in The Master Document(tm), but still, I'm making good progress. It took me two months to rewrite the first chapter, but only a couple of hours to edit the next three. Things are looking pretty good chez Bailey. Not to mention that this weekend I built a fucking wall in my attic and put up a load of drywall and installed doors on a big storage space upstairs. I roolz.

Where was I? Oh, rewrites. It's going well, I think. As usual, for every paragraph I cut, I end up writing a new paragraph elsewhere in the narrative. My wordcount remains healthy and in the neighborhood of 90,000. Not that it so much matters at this point. My hope is to get a lot of editing done tomorrow while I'm sitting around at the DMV renewing my license. We'll see. And I still roolz.

And a question: My friend Ben Thompson, whose fab book "Badass" comes out in October and you should all buy a copy, asked me if I could think of any good interweb sites that review books (aside from the big sites like Kirkus), particularly quirky nonfiction historical books. If you can think of any sites that would review an ARC of a book about badasses through the centuries, let me know.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Revisions: I Win!

Today at lunch I successfully tied together the massively revised first chapter with the rest of the novel. I need to work on that last transitional passage, but really, the worst is over. I am very pleased by that. I thought I'd never get from the new opening pages to the stuff I was leaving alone, but I've finally managed to do just that.

Am I done now? No, not quite. I still need to add two new scenes (already written) and cut the end of one scene that doesn't work now that I've written one of the above-mentioned new scenes, and I still need to read through the whole thing and address one or two little things and make sure that I haven't introduced any continuity errors while rewriting the first part. I am pleased to have kept the glorious eel passages, now wriggling away at the end of Chapter Six, I believe.

The bigger accomplishment, bigger even than actually having revised the first 11,000+ words of the book, is that I have pretty much eliminated any need for backstory. There is now only the Story Present, the NOW of the tale, and anything that looked like backstory has been cut or transformed into details of setting or character. A few bits of the past remain, alas, but I've done a more-or-less complete job of deleting all of that. I may post something about this idea of There Is No Backstory, There Is Only Now on the Literary Lab one of these days.

Anyway, yay me; I think I may still manage to get this revision off to Agent Jeff by the end of this month. I'm a total rock star if that happens. We'll see.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Revisions Progress, Day Who-knows-what

Chapter One, Scene Two is coming together nicely. I worked on it last night and again at lunch today. There was a sentence of pure "telling" that I decided I didn't need. I also must remember to add in the bit about the smell of meat cooking. Maybe tonight.

I think--if I've got this right--that I only need to write/rewrite about five more scenes and the greater portion of the revisions will be done. Then it's off to look at the rest of the story and see if I've created any continuity errors. Certainly there will be some. A couple of extant scenes will be expanded to better introduce characters, but I've already got that stuff written down in a notebook somewhere. I'll also need to see if I can salvage more of my beautiful backstory. The eels, for those who know the reference, are fine and happy in their new home in Chapter Six. Or Seven. I forget which, precisely.

Best news of all: I am once again utterly in love with this book.

Monday, August 10, 2009

That's Great Kid; Don't Get Cocky

I've been sort of pushing my first chapter around into all sorts of configurations for the last month or so, not quite ever getting it to stand up and walk on its own power, because I lacked clarity of vision about both the theme of the book and the protagonist's character arc. I kept changing my mind about something, which made it impossible to move forward. There was a lot of sideways motion, but none of that actually got me past working on the first scene of the book.

Happily, I have sorted all of that out and I have a very clear idea of what I've been trying to do with this guy since I first wrote "Chapter One" on a blank page, lo these many years ago. That may sound odd coming from someone who's already been working with a well-known agent on this book, but I discovered that I had done some literary sleight-of-hand with the story which masked the fact that certain important story elements were either unclear or just missing from the book. Now that I've spent a couple of weeks wrestling with the story in my head, I was able to rework that first scene during lunch today, and it's just fabulous. Suddenly, revising the book is going to be a lot of fun again, instead of a lot of work. So, yay me.

In the vaguest possible terms, I'll explain that I have finally seen the essential irony of the protagonist's journey, and now I can bring that out and the whole story will be a deeper, richer and more interesting experience. Best of all, this won't require the major surgery I was afraid it would take; most of the elements are already there in the prose; I just have to expand a bit here and contract a bit there, and add a couple of lines of dialog in the final chapter. Voila! I'm a supergenius.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Last-minute Announcement: Mary Miller Reading

Author Mary Miller (whose book of stories, Big World, was published this year) will be giving a reading tonight in Seattle. Click here for details and then show up at 7:00 PM. Miller's stories are sad and Southern, full of yearning. I'm going to have her sign my copy of Big World. I don't know the other two writers who'll be there.

Mary is one of the 20 writers that Davin Malasarn has pulled into the collaborative effort that is Two Hundred Fingers Tapping.

Monday, August 3, 2009


I have no idea what inspiration really is. The Oxford English Dictionary gives one possibly useful definition: "A breathing in or infusion of some idea, purpose, etc. into the mind; the suggestion, awakening, or creation of some feeling or impulse, esp. of an exalted kind." That one feels about right for what I mean today.

On Friday, I was sitting at a Chinese restaurant having lunch and reading "Moby Dick." Ishmael and Queequeg have just signed on to crew the Pequod. Anyway, for some reason I suddenly had an idea about my first novel, which I wrote some fifteen or so years ago and abandoned because, frankly, it's rubbish. But the idea that came to me out of the blue takes that rubbishy old novel and made it into something really cool, really interesting, and really entertaining. I was inspired all over again about the basic ideas of the book and wanted to write it.

Where did this idea come from? I've no idea. It's not at all related to anything in "Moby Dick" or anything else I was thinking about all day. It was just sort of floating out there and I breathed it in, as the OED would have it.

Which makes me think that perhaps we can have good ideas for novels but at the same time not have a good idea for how to tell the story. Also, possibly, the better we get at telling stories, the better our ideas about what stories are and what is required of us while telling them, the more of our good ideas we'll be able to actually turn into books. That's a particularly nice thought. For a while I worried that I would run out of ideas, or that most of my ideas would come to nothing, but I begin to think that, maybe, given enough time I'll come up with ways to tell the stories that have been sitting around in my slush file for years. We'll see.