Monday, June 21, 2010

Half awake, in my fake empire

I don't really mind revising short stories. Oh, sure, I like it better when they spring from the page, fully-formed, but revising a short story isn't that bad. 

Partially, this is because my short stories tend to be short. The minimum word count required to use a story as part of a Clarion application portfolio is 2500 words. Nothing I've sold so far is that long. The longest story I have in circulation right now is 2800, and that's really long for me. So even if I have to completely gut the story during the revision process (and I did for that one), I'm not throwing out a lot, time-wise or text-wise.

But also, I don't mind revising short stories because I tend to use them as places to experiment. So I'll alternate between second person and tight third pov, or write an unreliable narrator, or use the rhythm of Anglo-Saxon alliterative poetry, just to see what will happen. And it's fine if the end result goes flat, or doesn't sell, because writing the story taught me something.

Revising a novel is different. Linger is approximately 80K words right now (actually, on the short side for a novel, and that's one of the things the revision is fixing.) As I cut text, I am very much aware of how much work went into writing the scene that I just gleefully slashed lines through. Sometimes, that's a very discouraging sensation.

Last night, I realized that the subplot that needed fixing was woven more tightly into the main thread of the story that I had let myself remember when I decided it needed changing. So I am, I suppose, not actually revising, but rewriting the last two-thirds of Linger. Not in the sense of, oh, hey, I just dumped 250 pages into the recycling, but there is definitely going to be a lot more new writing than I had bargained on.

This is actually not a discouraging sensation, but feels rather akin to having skidded to a stop right before plummeting off a cliff. Things could have gone badly. I have the chance to make sure they don't. 


  1. Word Economy is the trickiest of all economies.

    Forget the current recession.

  2. I am sharing the 5th circle of hell with you. I truly enjoy the revision process in short stories, but the novels kill me. On the plus side, I think you learn *so much* getting things fixed in a novel. It's not the pure experimentation of short story learning, but a deeper sense of how story works and how details matter.

    Thank goodness for caffeine & chocolate!

  3. Wendy - I don't know if I am actively learning anything revising the novel. That sounds defeatist, and I don't mean it to. I just mean that I don't notice - I have these things that I need the story to do, and my brain is so full of thinking of ways to get the story to do them, there's no room for anything else. Everyone's process is different, right?

    Good luck with your own revision. Perhaps we can climb out of Hell together.