Revision Anxieties

I got The Border Guard back from the developmental editor. Some bits need clarifying, I removed the third chapter that’d been a late insert, and there was information that needed moving up. There were some other bits that needed work which I think I’ve done enough on, though I’ve reached the point where I just can’t tell. But the main problem remains that I don’t describe enough, or in enough detail.

Descriptions don’t come easily for me. Those are the bits I tend to skim over when reading. It’s simply how my mind works, focussing more on the abstract of plot and dialogue. So even if I do describe stuff, it may not be that interesting. Because it’s not what I want to be writing. I try to counter this, but since I have trouble even telling where I need to describe more, I could easily be missing places I should add more, or not doing enough in the places I do add stuff.

While it was more the details than the overall structure that needed work, I find myself questioning whether my writing instincts are all wrong. Given my lack of success so far, something in my instincts is probably lacking. And I hired an editor to help me get the manuscript into a state that the traditional publishing system prefer, so unless I disagree with something for a reason I’m clear on, I’ll go with her advice.

 

Infodumps

I had tried spreading the information out initially, to avoid slowing the opening (and without being too infodumpy). This involved introducing some ideas but not fully explaining them until later, which I can see is dumb. But rearranging stuff, I’m not sure whether I’ve slowed the early story down. I’ve done at least a handful of passes on the opening chapters to polish the inserts and pare them down to make minimal impact on the flow.

But I’m at the point where I can no longer tell. The point at which I’ve stared at it so closely that I find I can’t really step back to see the larger picture. It is the shape its going to be in my mind, and all I can do is tinker at the edges, polishing it.
I’m not even sure I’m explaining this well.

 

Submission Anxiety

While the edit was generally positive, I can’t help fretting over every detail.

Since this is the first things I’ve written in a while of a commercially acceptable length (90K) I’m going to try the traditional submission route, in hopes of finding somewhere that’ll do the promotion I’m useless at. Which I realise may be a forlorn hope, since all we hear about is publishers increasingly offloading that stuff onto authors. But there’s little traction on the dozen plus novels I’ve self-published, so trying one this way is hardly much of a gamble (he says envisioning a dozen ways in which this could make things worse).

So I’m starting with looking at agents. In the UK. For a fantasy novel. It’s a small pool. Especially since some of the stuff I write is more crime/thriller, so I’d also like someone who could represent a few genres. But I’ll go with fantasy primarily.

Since submissions are generally the first three chapters or 50 pages, those are the ones I’ve been focussing on, going over and over them, again and again. They’re also the ones that have had stuff moved up into them, making them seem more bloated to me than they probably are.

I’ve been switching, with increasing rapidity, between worrying they’re not good enough, to stupid levels of confidence that the genius therein will shine through regardless. Agents surely look for the potential within the work won’t they? Unless mine is the dozenth they’ve had to read that day, and they’re looking for any excuse to decline and move on to the next.

The pace of change of this manic-depressive cycle has gotten so fast that I now seem able to hold both viewpoints concurrently.
So I reached the point where I had to submit it and hope it isn’t as bad as I fear.

 

Anxieties will ultimately stop me ever putting anything out if I listen to them too long, so once I reach the point where it feels like I’m doing things by rote and not taking anything in, it’s time to step away from it. Either for a short while, or releasing it to wherever. I’m reasonably sure it’s in an overall good state, or as good as I can make it barring minor tweaking.

Or I was until I finished that sentence, and I’m again thinking I should have done more. But I’ll never escape that, even for books I released years ago. All I can do is move on to the next project, giving that my attention.

Rewrites

A few months ago I took a couple of my early novel off sale, as I’m not confident they’re good indicators of my writing for readers who may never have read my stuff before. Basically, my writing craft has improved (relatively) since writing them, and I’m not sure they’re any good. I had vague plans to rewrite them, to see if they could be improved.

I’m not sure I’m capable of that. Apart from these, I also took another look at the first novel I wrote, but never published, a couple of months ago. Having just done an initial revision pass on Broken Worlds, I find myself in a similar position to where I was after that: I’ve no idea what to change, but I’m sure it needs something.

In the case of Broken Worlds, there are at least a couple of things that probably need changing.

  1. During the large fight near the end, I switch viewpoints a lot. It’s the first time out of the viewpoint of the main character. I could probably redo it to be purely from his viewpoint with little loss. But I’m not sure whether it’d also lose the frenetic chaos.
  2. The structure is very episodic, since I was going for a pulpy feel. Some episodes are smaller than others though, and it feels like it could generally be smoothed out.

Having finished the first pass, I’m sure there’s more that needs changing on a fundamental level. But as with Paragon Protocols (my first novel), I just can’t see what to change. They’ve become so fixed in my mind that it’s by this point difficult to imagine them being anything else.

Anything I could afford spending on editors, I’d sooner spend on my newer work. I’ve been looking at these as shorter projects between the new stuff, but that doesn’t seem to be working out.

I could always try rewriting from scratch. Which could well require serious changes to the structure of the story so that it feels new to me. At which point I have to ask whether it’s worth investing the time, rather than doing completely new stuff.

For Broken Worlds, possibly. It established background elements I’ve used in other books, and espoused fundamental elements of the philosophy underlying some of my work. The latter is the main reason I was so reluctant to take it off sale, and I’d still like to have it out there. If I can’t salvage the book, I’ll probably have to find another way to explore the ideas. Which would mean another thing to stick into the overfull queue.

I don’t know that I could face complete rewrite, anyway. The prospect of the amount of work ahead of you when you start writing a new story can be overwhelming. This lump of a story sits before me, waiting to be consumed one mouthful at a time by the craftsman part of my mind, and excreted as words on a page (virtual or real). Outlining helps view it as more digestible chunks, but the overall mass of it all still looms ahead of me.

Doing so with something I’ve already written once is even worse. It’s Sisyphean. It might be different if there was a chance of them selling, but since that’s pretty much just a fantasy now, I’m mainly doing this for my own amusement. So I’ll probably stick to producing new stuff. Or writing it, since producing implies releasing it to the wild.