Doing the Thing

Yesterday’s work on “Beasts” involved giving the draft a deep reading, making some notes on where I see problems, creating a checklist of adjustments that need to be made, and starting in on the first section (which totals about 2500 words, give or take).

I’m taking the actual rewrite/revise process pretty slow, and really only focused on the first couple of pages, neither of which I’m entirely satisfied with today. Still, they’re far better than they were yesterday morning, and I have a good sense of the changes I want to make. Today continues that process, and I’m hopeful that, if nothing else, I’ll step away from the keys today happy with those first two pages, and maybe even make some headway into the third.

It’s quite fascinating to me, looking at this manuscript now, how much I’ve grown since I last spent any time on it. The initial draft was written in 2009, the final draft of the original was published in 2011, and I made a stab at reworking it just a bit in mid-2012, before I started on Oath of Blood. When I put it away three years ago, I couldn’t see any way to help it out or make it better. I was just plain blind to its problems.

Now, working my way through the text, I find myself making a variety of unpleasant faces at rookie mistakes, gaping plot holes, and an unhealthy attachment to adverbs, among other things. I’m sure there’s plenty I still can’t see, but just the fact that I can pick up this old piece and see how to improve it now, when I though there was no more improving it, is hopeful. It shows I’ve made substantial progress.

But there’s also good in the old draft: it has a fairly tightly scripted story, and while there are some rough spots, it isn’t fundamentally broken. I still wonder how in the world it ever got published to start with, but I’m not going to question that. It was my first sale, and it served its purpose in that it put me in a mindset where I could say, “Yes, I can do the thing.”

Oh, and readers said nice things about it then, even if I have to hold my nose a little when I read it now.

And for that reason alone, if no other, I’d like it to be accessible in its more refined form. I’ll probably give it a new title, to distinguish it from the 7500-word short story in Jeff’s anthology, as one does, but again, I’m not putting much thought into that right now. Titles are almost always best for me when I assign them last, and/or when they arise organically from the work. For now, the working title will do.

In terms of the work itself, I’m also finding working in a shorter format (10-12k words, projected max) to be a breath of fresh air after the almost 90k sprawl that Oath grew into. I don’t have a lot of room for expository shenanigans or twisty subplots, and there’s no real estate for wasted words at all. Like the pulp stories that originally inspired the setting, it has to hit the ground running and earn its keep quickly.

(Which—that’s true of novels as well, but short formats really turn that demand Up To Eleven.)

In any case, though, I’m going to stare at my page allotment for the day, and after that I have some freelance work to do. Then, this evening is the D&D game in which I actually get to be a player, so I’m excited about that. We’ll see how my hapless half-orc wizard fares in his continued trek through Out of the Abyss.

Demon lords loose in the Underdark! Madness and fell sorcery all around! It’s like every session offers brand-new ways to go insane and die! If he somehow survives, I will be very impressed.

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