On Revisions and the Wanky Bits

22 May

First up, free fiction. The lovely Dagan Books folks are posting many of the Cthulhurotica V. 1 stories to the website just now, and mine, which is a bit of a shipwreck tale, is available now. Yay! Check it here:

Transfigured Night

In an interview we did for the blog when the book dropped, we were asked to pick one line from the story. I picked this one: “I either need to jerk off more, or throw myself into the ocean and get it over with.” But it’s scary, promise! It sprang from a re-reading of Lovecraft’s “The Temple”, for the record. A pretty, dead boy with a creepy artifact. You know I’m all over it.

In other news, revisions are done. ALL the revisions. Both vicious vampireboy Liam and my newly accepted romance novel, By the River, got facelifts. While Liam was me getting rid of some of my bad habits and paring things down yet again, River was me getting rid of some of my bad habits, but mostly plumping . I added 5k to that fucker — and it was only 25k to start.

Oh, what an illustration of the kind of writer I was and the kind of writer I have become. I’m nowhere near finished in this evolution and I never will be til I finally drop, but it’s telling, that’s for damn sure.

When I first wrote Liam it was like 120k. I was 20 or 21 years old and had only written for my best friend’s eyes and my own amusement before that. Really, that was for my own amusement too, but then I started writing fanfiction and people seemed to like it. No one was more surprised than me. One of these awesome people, Sue Penkivech, asked to see my original stuff and was like, “Hey, this is good!”

(Yep. It’s her fault.)

I worked on it for years before trying a few queries (I do mean, like, five), but the response was always the same: “This is really good, but too long for what it is.” I was totally lost, of course, because someone telling you, “Just cut a few [notes] and it’ll be perfect,” when you have zero idea what you’re doing — I don’t know, they might as well be speaking Moon Language or something. How does one cut a bit? Which bit? I give up, I’m writing another book!

I did. Like, loads of them. I actually have no idea  how many books I’ve written and I fear it would horrify me to find out. The count from last year alone made me want to sleep for days. The material point is that I learned not only how to cut, but how to not write the bits that need cut (which I affectionately refer to as “the wanky bits” — the bits no one but the author gives a shit about, therefore, author wank) in the first place.

Liam had long since been pared to a svelte 85k when I finally worked up the courage to send him off to Belfire last year. This last little runthrough wasn’t even really a revision, more a bit of tinkering to take out all the times I used “felt” constructions (we know it’s Liam feeling it — he’s telling the goddamn story!) or too many -ing constructions. Tweaking some of the language that felt off, that kind of thing.

Which leads me to the revisions I just sent to my romance editor for River. It’s a tiny little magical realist love story, quite different from the other romance novels I’ve done — equally simple, but a bit more with the pretty and emo. And my revision notes from Raven and TPTB were mostly* along the lines of: “More, please.”

I’m thinking, “But… I didn’t write the wanky bits. You want me to put them in?”

And then I answered myself (oh, you know you do it too), “Those aren’t wanky, Kate. Those are character development. It’s kind of important.”

That 5k I added was already written in my head at one time or another. I had considered upping the conflict with one of the boys’ family. I had thought about showing a little more in the bedroom (if you haven’t read one of those things, I’m a big proponent of the sex scene as a window into a character’s personality — what the hell else is it there for?). I had considered writing out a tense scene that I off-paneled.** But I thought, “Nah, no one wants to read that.” With this editorial directive, I added all of it in, and oh my god, this book is so. much. better.

And so I finally come to the point — speaking of wanky bits, but hey, that’s what a blog is for. I have officially swung the other direction. All four of my romance novels this year have had similar notes. (Though I do take it as a sign that I’m improving with that, even, since the notes went from “this scene and that scene” to a general “more, please”.)

Will I find the middle ground? Of course I’ll never please everyone, but to please the people for whom I’m specifically writing and maybe even myself would be lovely. Or will I swing back the other direction and start spilling authorwank like so many (who shall not be named but yes, I am looking at you, epic fantasy) others?

I have no idea. But we all know that awesome feeling of looking back and saying, “Okay, I figured that out, at least.” So I got that going for me.


*The other one was: “Can the MC possibly be less of a moron at this bit?” Good point. Poor Adam, he is a bit clueless.

**I don’t know what that’s called, off-panel is a comic book term. Um… off-stage? D’oh.

3 Responses to “On Revisions and the Wanky Bits”

  1. Megan Derr May 22, 2012 at 7:00 pm #

    My biggest problem is that I can be too concise. I’m very minimalist. People tend not to believe me when I’ve written books that go all the way up to 200k (NEVER AGAIN), but I assure them that any other fantasy writer would have made it five times that length and required four books.

    So, I’m almost never ordered to take stuff out, but man do I get yelled at to add stuff. Just today my editor was like ‘it’s very nice he feels sad. maybe you should elaborate on why.’

    • Katey May 23, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

      See, that’s exactly my problem these days! I used to be the opposite, but now I’d say 80% of the activity I come up with surrounding a story I go, “Eh, don’t need it. Fast forward!” Thank god for editors.

      It’s actually comforting that this happens with you too, considering how much I like your pacing. <3

  2. Meghan June 7, 2012 at 11:13 pm #

    Huh. Interesting – because I think I’ve done the same thing. I wonder if it’s a natural stage in the Evolution Of A Writer?

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