The Latest Revision, Revised; or, Another Form of Writer’s Block

(This posting originally appeared on The Melt-Ink Pot)

One of the things that has been on my writing “to do” list since mid-August has been the overhaul of the first two chapters of my space pirate adventure, The Vedia Gamble. This overhaul is the result of my having participated in the writer’s workshop at this year’s World Science Fiction Convention in Montreal.

The workshop consisted of groups of two professional authors and three amateurs. Each of the three amateurs submitted the first couple of chapters of their work (along with a synopsis), for a total of up to 10,000 words. The work was then critiqued by both the professional authors and the other amateurs.

I have to admit that I approached the experience with perhaps a little more confidence than I should have. So it came as a major crushing blow to learn that the foundation of my little story had some major flaws, and that I had what were perceived as some inconsistencies in tone between the first and second chapters. (It also appears that I can’t write a synopsis to save my life, but that’s a topic for another time.)

I didn’t actually cry. But my spirit was somewhat … daunted, shall we say. Yes, I think daunted is a good word to describe how I felt.

Enough so that I set the work aside and didn’t even look at it for the next two and a half months. The problems pointed out were such that I couldn’t see any way to solve them. And if I couldn’t solve them, there was no point in working on revisions to the book, let alone its monster-sized sequel, or in starting the third book to the series. Nor could I seem to interest myself in working on much of anything else, truth be told. I was afflicted with a form of writer’s block the likes of which I had never encountered before.

Was this a sign that I was not destined to be a writer? After all, I’d been told time and again that one sign of a true writer is that you can’t not write. And yet, here I was, not writing.

Except, of course, that I was. During that time, I’ve still been composing and posting entries here. I’ve also been working on my Web site (here’s hoping I can get that up and running sometime soon!). I even dabbled a little on the beginning of the third book in the space pirate series. But more importantly, I wrote some things for actual publication — two magazine articles that will appear in periodicals published by my employer.

You see, I figured it was just a matter of time before I found a way to solve the problems with my story. But I also knew that I might just have to let my brain percolate for a while before the solution became apparent.

Lo and behold, the week before last, some ideas began to suggest themselves for how to solve my story’s problems. And last weekend, at MileHiCon, I actually sat down during a free hour between panels and started hacking away at the chapters and making revisions.

I won’t say that the fact that one of the guests of honor at MileHiCon was one of the professionals who had critiqued my work was a motivating factor. But I won’t say that it wasn’t, either. I mean, after all, what if I ran into her and she recognized me and asked what I’d done with the story since WorldCon? (For the record, she did not.)

Another motivating factor is that all of the participants in the WorldCon workshops have grouped together to form an on-line workshop group. I’m scheduled to post something there the second week in November, and I was really hoping it could be my revised chapters.

Be that as it may, I’ve now hacked the first two chapters of a novel into bits, stirred them around a bit, picked out the pieces I want to save, and added in some new bits where needed. In other words, extensive revision happened. It was difficult to do, because there were some parts that I really liked that needed extensive changes, and others that just needed to be jettisoned altogether. I made myself feel better about the whole thing by saving a copy of the manuscript prior to making any changes. That way, if I really hated the way the changes came out, I could always revert to the prior version.

Overall, I’m pleased with the results. Or I will be, until the workshoppers and my other critiquers get a chance to read it and tell me everything that’s wrong with it!

So how do other folks approach revision?

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About sheilamcclune

Aspiring author, sharing the tidbits I've learned along the way.
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