Revision geekery

So revising a book, in a tear-it-apart-and-put-it-together-as-a-new-thing way, is always interesting.

There are things where I’m all, “But no! I loved that thing!” even while seeing how structurally the book is better off without them.

For a very few of those places I come back around to “Wait! I need to keep that after all!” and scramble to pull a thing back in, only in a better way. (But not the javelinas. Never the javelinas.)

And then there are other places, where I find myself saying, “Wait, that thing that actually was a little bit of a stretch in the old draft, even though I didn’t quite realize it and/or admit it to myself? It makes way more sense now.”

As if those things were always part of another, stronger book, and they were just waiting for me to figure it out.

“But you had to come along, didn’t you / tear down the doors / throw open windows”

I don’t believe in the outside world anymore. There’s this book. And more of this book. That’s all.


Dear Tertiary Character Who Was Created With Somewhat Mocking Intentions,

One of the surprises of this book is that your primary purpose is not to be amusing in your flakiness.

You’re not flaky at all, but a legitimate and compassionate and real character.

I love you for that.

You don’t even seem to hold it against me, that I almost got it wrong. Because that’s just who you are.



Dear All Characters,

What’s with all the smiling? Seriously, this isn’t that happy a book.

It could be worse. You could be trying to breathe, or something.

But still.


P.S. Ditto the laughing. What’s with the laughing?


(Wanders off to ponder the personalities of rivers and the plot arcs of Cheetos.)

Fourth draft! And, thoughts on emotion and structure.

‎(stares hollowly at screen) I think it’s a fourth draft.

Which means I get to collapse for a day, before trying to do some tightening, especially over the final chapters, over the next week. (I like when I finish drafts Friday nights, Saturday being my designated day off anyway.)

As I’ve been working on rewrites, I’ve been thinking about a couple different critique group comments.

The first was jennifer_j_s, who said to me, after reading an earlier draft, “I never cried.”

The second was lnhammer saying, “I did feel a catch in the throat. But not there.” And telling me where he did.

This got me to thinking about something. In my own books, I don’t get a catch in my throat during moments of loss, hard as writing those moments can be. I get a catch in my throat during moments when loss is redeemed.

So, say, in Thief Eyes (scroll over spoilers to read) I don’t feel that catch when Freki or even Haley’s mother die, devastating as those scenes were for me to write. But I do feel it when Haley runs by Freki’s side at the end of the book, and when thinks that now she knows what happened to her mother, and that that’s something, at least. I can think of similar moments in the Bones of Faerie books.

Experience is hugely subjective. When I cry may not be when the reader cries. The reader may not cry at all. But knowing where I cry is important, because it provides me with valuable structural information, though I hadn’t quite articulated that until now.

The point where lnhammer felt that emotional catch in the current book–where, when I thought about it, I felt it too–was a point that I’d been thinking of as something of an epilogue, existing out beyond the story’s denouement–beyond the story’s main inner and outer resolutions.

Except I realized my epilogue wasn’t an epilogue at all, but the thing the entire story was working towards.

This hugely informed my rewrites, of course, moving from the third draft to the fourth. And it’s something I’m continuing to think about, as I spend this next week on final revisions before sending the book off.

But first tonight and tomorrow are for stepping back, and gaining some perspective on same.

And also for trying to finally decide on a title. 🙂

“She stumbled through the door / tripping over expectations / she never knew before”

Dear Book,

I agree. You are so very much stronger now that your characters don’t sit around with whiteboard and dry-erase markers brainstorming sensible solutions.

Still, I do miss the doughnuts they consumed while they did.

Also the javelinas who crashed the party, eating said doughnuts uninvited.


“She’s found a common balance/ where you do your work / and you do your love”

Dear Fourth Draft of the Current Book,

You and I, we have drunk so much iced tea together this month.

And yet we have so much iced tea yet to drink.



It’s that part of the book.

When things are finally, hopefully clicking together. Where so much of me is in the story, and so middle of me is left in me, that I’m at once madly driven to keep writing and possessed with a wild desire to take off for an undisclosed location to just stare at the walls or at some wilderness sky for a week. (Fortunately, this book has wilderness sky of its own. Not that same, but still.)

Either way, the book needs to be finished, both for external deadline purposes and internal I’m-so-close-I-can-taste-it purposes. So I keep writing, and as I do the world within the book begins to feel a little more real than the world outside of it.

If I seem a bit scattered and not-consistently-present-online through the month of September, this would pretty much be why. 🙂

Four drafts of a scene-in-progress

Today I was working on a descriptive passage that’s pretty much an introduction to the landscape of my story, and, curious, went back to see how the details had changed since the first draft. It’s fascinating to me to see all the ways in which these few lines have evolved, so I’m sharing them in case they’re interesting to others too, compressed glimpse-into-process that they are.


First draft:

By the time we crossed the Arizona state line it was ravens for sure, perched on the telephone poles, glossy wings bright as they winged through the sky, but, well, they didn’t seem any different from the ravens in New Mexico, or Texas, or Oklahoma. Most ravens are just ravens, after all …

We drove up the dirt road into Reddington, the nearest town to Raven’s Butte, in the dust of a June morning, beneath a huge cloudless–and I mean that literally–blue sky … I don’t think I’d realized how blue the sky could really be.


Second draft (after both a geographic and a pov shift):

He stared out the passenger window of Aunt Marissa’s faded pickup at dusty rolling hills broken up only by green bushes, dying grasses, and a few of the mutant palm trees his aunt called yucca. In the distance, pink-and-tan cliffs reached for the sky, but around them there was only barbed wire, scrubby ranchland. Above, the sky’s deep blue was the only color that didn’t seem washed out by the dust, blue so close and low–who knew the world had so much sky? He scanned that blue, but he didn’t see any ravens.


Third draft:

He stared out the passenger window of Aunt Marissa’s battered, once-red pickup at dusty brown hills broken up only by stunted trees, dying yellow grasses, and a few mutant palm trees his aunt called yucca. Barbed wire protected tired-looking cows and the occasional ranch house from, well, whatever it was cows needed protecting from. In the distance, faded pink cliffs reached for the sky.

Nate scanned that sky, but he didn’t see any ravens. There should be ravens, so close to the Monument … There should be people, buildings, something more than the endless blue that was the only real color in this place, blue so wide and low he half-thought it would crush him.


Fourth draft:

He stared out the passenger window of Aunt Marissa’s pickup at a land of twisted gray trees, dying yellow grasses, and dried-out cactus paddles. Barbed wire protected weary cows and the occasional ranch house from, well, whatever it was cows needed protecting from. Buckled brown hills sulked in the distance, like clay thrown down and abandoned to bake in the sun, a few pale green shrubs tossed in for good measure. The blue sky was obscenely bright against the washed-out land, like spilled fingerpaint on faded paper.

Nate scanned that sky, hoping to at least see some ravens, but the blue went on and on.

Now I’m _really_ heading into the fourth draft

Right. Spent the past week or so addressing several dozen stray research notes, all of which are now addressed or in the process of being addressed.

Time to focus back in on the story–to immerse myself in writing the next draft, sharpening the descriptions, bringing some of the things behind the words up to the surface, and making decisions about several plot threads, along with deciding just how powerful shapeshifters and rivers both are.