Burning my baby, AKA when revision means rewriting
I confess: I’m not that good of a writer. But I’m willing to work at it.
What brings on this spate of humility? Why, I’m revising my epic fantasy, THE IRON KEY (An undead sorceress plots to destroy the world, and all that stands in her way is a pregnant ex-concubine), for submission. Does this bring on a sense of deja-vu? Wasn’t I talking about this, oh I dunno, a year ago?
Yes, I moved house with a toddler. But that’s an excuse. The truth is, THE IRON KEY was the only egg in my basket. If I couldn’t find an agent for it, I was back to square one. I was paralyzed- until I started a new project, the alternate-history/fantasy MONSTERS (A German naturalist travels to the remote Ural Mountains of Russia searching for a cure for his werewolf-mauled daughter). By the time I had 10k on MONSTERS, I felt ready to look at TIK. So I sat down and read my hard copy. And you know what? I was surprised and pleased at how good most of it was.
Most of it.
Now that I had put some distance between myself and the MS, I was able to perceive the difference in quality of writing between the protagonist Sahrel’s chapters and the other character’s chapters. Sahrel came to me first, I wrote her first. And it’s obvious that a less seasoned writer put those words down. Compared to the other storylines, her chapters feel flat, compressed.
What created that feeling of flatness? Well, let’s have a gander at a paragraph within the first 5 pages. Sahrel is in the middle of doing something mischievous and dastardly when she realizes she’s being watched:
A Noro servant stood with her back to the harem door, her face distant as she waited for an order. No matter. The Noro never told tales. They hadn’t tongues to speak with.
What did this mealy-mouthed paragraph just do for me?
A. It boiled away tension by neutering a conflict, turning it into a mere detail. Oh no, someone saw me? Someone strange and interesting? Oh, no matter. *scratches left cheek.* Even though Sahrel is in the middle of some hi-jinx, she’s still being passive. Yikes.
B. It made the protagonist look like an idiot AND a snob. Just because someone’s mute, or of a lesser station, doesn’t mean they’re helpless to stop you. I don’t like reading about stuck-up fools, why would anyone else want to?
C. It added passive voice via “they hadn’t.” Oh, how very very. (And let’s not even mention the part where I end a sentence on a preposition).
What should my heroine do? Confront the situation directly. So what do I do with this scene? BURN IT AND START OVER.
Happy Labor Day, everybody. You roast your wienies, and I’ll roast mine.