Saturday, December 8, 2012

Drowning in words

Dorothy Sayers said it, and I heartily agree: "The rereading of one's own works is usually a dismal matter" (Gaudy Night).  Even the bits that you can see are really pretty good have a great deal less shine to them than they did when they were new.

And why, you ask, this spirit of disheartened eloquence?  Because, like thousands who "won" NaNoWriMo, I am struggling with the revision of a novel that isn't quite there yet.  Unlike the NaNers, mine isn't fresh, but rather a book abandoned about five years back when I couldn't interest an agent in it.  Now, it's better than five-year-old fish--the book doesn't stink--but five years is long enough to let me see it as an editor might, which is rather harsher than the casual reader, I suspect.

Thus the "dismal matter."  But here's the thing: if I don't push through the dismalness (did I just make that word up?  The spell-checker thinks so), my book will never be more than mediocre.  So I'm rereading, outlining, making notes of what works and what doesn't, all preparatory to heavily revising a manuscript that I have already revised two or three times.  And, of course, getting some distance and reading it like an editor will make for a better book.

Does this make me happy?  Frankly, no.  This is the work side of writing, and not much fun. Oh, there are occasions when the realization that you've figured out how to make something that was just okay into something good is as exciting as was composing the crappy first draft.  But most of the time, it hurts a little.  "Dang," you think.  "I loved that scene.  But it really doesn't work.  Not unless I figure out a way to get the dog out of there, and I already made such a big deal about the dog never leaving the girl's side."  So out goes the scene.  Or days are spent in dealing with the dog, only to decide that your changes ruin something else, and the scene gets the chuck after all. (I made that up, so when the book comes out, please don't go looking for a girl and a dog and writing me snippy letters when you can't find them.)

This painful reality explains the sudden burst of short-story writing I've indulged in.  I can only edit for so long before I need a creative booster shot, and have to write something.  So, coming up next week: "An Elegant Apocalypse," just in time for the end of the world on December 21st.  You know, just in case.


  1. It seems we're all talking revision and critique at this point.

    No dog? Awwww...

  2. If there were a dog, if would probably have to fail to bark, and I think that's already been done :D


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