Monday, January 30, 2012

Revising Violently

This Saturday I printed out the first arc of The Beginner GM and curled up on the couch to make my first editing pass. It was a massacre. I shed so much red ink that I'm not sure the ME would be able to identify the body. I slashed paragraphs and carved similes into imagery. I ripped the metaphorical throat out of some of those passages, and then I put it back in backwards. In my defense, those pages deserved it. I'm not sorry I did it, and first chance I get, I'm going to do it again!

I've never liked to revise, or even proofread, for most of my life. I'm not sure why. When I clean and think I am done, I take a last look to catch anything I missed. If I'm eating a good meal, you'd better be sure I check the pot before giving up my plate. Revising, however, I hated. I don't know why. Perhaps it was admitting I had been wrong, or that I could have done it better, though you'd think I was used to that. Maybe it just felt like too much work. It could be that I was scared to see how bad it was. Whatever the reason, When I threw down my pen and pages, I was done, for better or worse. I promise you, it was worse.

Revision, as detestable as it might be to some, is critical to good writing. I don't know why it's impossible to do it right the first time, but it is. I've never ever heard of a successful writer that didn't revise. Moreover, every time I recall an author talking about revision, they talked about how MUCH they revise! Many authors are still mentally revising their work after it's been published.

So, I can't tell you why we need to do it, but I can tell you how it helps. The most obvious is basic proofreading. People make mistakes, all the time. Proofing lets you spot and fix those mistakes before someone else does. Revision allows you to see the places in your story that need tightening, or loosening, or more explanation, or less exposition. It lets you follow the voice of your characters, and better recognize when they shift, than when you were writing mad about the wet newspaper and it soaked into your characters.

I think Writing and Reading are two different parts of the brain, perhaps editing is as well. When you take a second look at what you've written, after letting it cool for a time, you see it as a reader instead of the person writing it, and that makes all the difference. Writers have no clue when they have screwed up. Readers can always smell it. Fortunately, the best writers are both.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Switching Gears

Despite what I said in my last blog post, I'm switching gears. I had planned to finish editing and revising The Beginner GM and then return to work on Hero Games, which I had practically abandoned last summer. However, Fantasy Faction has thrown a metaphorical wrench into my plans.
The wrench they threw into my machine is their new Anthology and the contest for the valued slots for unpublished authors.

Their submission requirements are pretty strict: anything fantasy. I can do that. Targeting about 8,000 words.

So, over the holidays, I had an idea for a story based on the Mayan calendar's end of time. I theorized that maybe the 2012 deadline wasn't predicting the end of the world, but a major change in the world as we know it. (A little quick research lent substantial credibility to such a theory.) So I figure, if the world is going to completely change, why not play with physics? The story I have planned will take the world from science to magic, much like it did ages ago when the pendulum swung the other way. One will slowly fade, and the other will grow in power and awareness.

So, for those who care, that's my new agenda and why. Sometimes, a wrench in the gears just means your machine does something new.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Pretend This is a Creative Blog Post Title

It is a new year, and with new years come... calories, if we're going to be honest about it.

Over the holidays (and just after), I finished Elven Fire for the Beginner GM, which was my NaNoWriMo project this year. (I did hit my goal, but had some finishing pieces I wanted to add.) Now it's time for that to go into revisions so it can be published this spring. The actual game manual went out last summer. That has been a fun experience, and a new type of project for me.

Once that's done, I'll be going back to work on Hero Games, which I abandoned in the middle. I've decided to try an unusual (for me) approach, though, and writing each character's storyline independently, then weaving them all together. With the plot well mapped, it should be doable, and may help to maintain the continuity of their voice.

One night over the holidays, I had to get up in the middle of the night to write down a couple of story concepts so that I could sleep, and hopefully not lose the ideas. When I shared the ideas with my wife later, she praised the concepts, but commented that she thinks I have enough projects on my plate.

Even ignoring the "real life" commitments of teaching and family, she's right. I have just finished writing one project that requires editing before a deadline for publications; I am still in the midst of a challenging novel with a dozen main characters, each with their own subplot. I have at least three other novels-in-progress awaiting their turn in line. I have a Santa's List of story ideas waiting to become works-in-progress. I have blogging that I try to do weekly, Tweeting that I do whenever I can, which isn't often enough. On Common Ground is gathering dust waiting to be edited. On top of all that, I really should be trying to build my portfolio by entering contests, submitting short stories to magazines, networking within the blogosphere. Oh, I'd completely forgotten that Derek Daniels, my poor Nanite Chaser, is desperately in need of another episode or five.

How does a writer do it? Do we throw some of these wonderful ideas away? Should I start a Writer's Idea Bank and store them there in the hopes that some other author may be able to use one? It makes me wonder, of those amazing authors that are out there, the prolific, and the departed, how many of their stories went unwritten? How many amazing tales have passed unpenned? I hope there's a library in heaven, and I hope Satan's not in charge of the publishing house.