Sunday, January 26, 2014

Revision Blues

I'm mostly a short story writer. I'm mostly a short story reader. I fucking hate revision, I like getting a story there 95% of the way the first time out even if it takes a lot longer. And yet, here I find myself revising a novel. What have I become?

I'm also using Scrivener. I might as well go all in and write in a coffee shop.

Writing and/or revising a novel is a lot different from short storying. A LOT different. For one thing, you can't write them in one shot, unless you're mainlining Red Bull laced with trucker speed. The fact that they can't be written in one session means there's the possibility of inconsistencies, both in plot details and also in the writing itself. There are parts of this thing that need almost no revision at all! Those were written on "good days." Other parts (most parts) need drastic rewriting. I can tell if a short story is going to fail or succeed (in my estimation, not talking about the marketplace) almost as soon as I've finished writing it. With a novel, I have to hope that the revision will yield something of value, that I'm not just throwing time and effort down a giant sewer.

I know people who love writing novels, which is great for them! I hope to be one of those people someday! But right now, it feels like the worst thing ever. Can you imagine writing a series of these things? Well, you probably can, because most SF/F writers love series. I know people who say writing a series is easier than writing a short story, which is absolutely insane. So much to keep track of! So much text to keep in your head at once!

This is my short fiction writing process: I basically have the entire thing plotted out in my head (not on paper, never on paper) before I touch fingertip to keyboard. First line and last line are set. If the stars are right, the story just comes out. Boom! We're done here. Then it goes to my in-house editor for a pass, and after some revision, it's sent to magazines who will either publish it or they won't. Super easy, super fast, with built-in validation in the form of occasional sales.

Novels though, man. First you have to write a first draft, which is probably not even going to be close to your real draft. You have to find beta readers, because a novel is much too much work for an unpaid in-house editor to take on alone, or maybe you don't have an in-house editor. Then you have to revise a manuscript that is of inconsistent quality. It could take years before you're given that yea/nay by a wise and all-knowing publisher. (Around eight years and counting for me, although I was retired for most of that time.)

I do know that I need to find a way to up my writing speed if I'm going to write novels. When I'm actually writing, I'm extremely fast. But with short storying, I basically don't write until I'm ready to write. Write every day? Fuck no I don't write every day, that way lies mediocrity in the short story game. But now that I'm really knuckling down on this revision, I see the wisdom in writing or at least revising or at least opening up the document every day. Because writing short stories is about inspiration, but writing novels is about persistence. I have the one, but not the other.

So yeah, the slog continues. I hope to be finished with this draft (which is probably not even the real and final draft, fuuuuck) by the time we move to Portland, at which time I can send it off to others and get started on another. Fucking. Novel. I guess. Maybe I should take a break to write a flash fiction piece, that will make me feel better about life.