revision

Stepping back and some other random thoughts

I’ve spent much of today shaking off the cobwebs from a week-long vacation (check out the latest chapter of The Bazaar!). Also on my mind, in no particular order:

  1. Thinking it would be a good idea to try networking with some local writers
  2. Ready to launch myself back into promoting “Vampire Brides from Planet Hell,” possibly with some paid advertising (more on that to come as I investigate options)
  3. Realized I need to set a short story aside for a couple weeks before attacking a second draft

Item #3 relates to a story I’ve mentioned on this blog before. It was originally titled “Sweet Home,” then “Mirror, Mirror” and now “Tail Risk.” The story itself has changed as much as the titles. It’s a long short story (if that makes sense) that merges both horror and sci-fi elements. I like where I’ve gotten with it, but frankly have run into something of a brick wall as I work my way toward the end of the first full draft.

I always set stuff aside when I start to get blocked. I’m confident in my ability to finish what I start. Also, I find that coming back to a draft with fresh eyes yields better results then slugging through the pain at times like this. I hope to clear my brain with some free writing before coming back to “Tail Risk.”

Here’s the opening, in case you’re interested:

I’m ready for the biggest score of my career. I sit up all night thinking about it, propped up on a couple thousand dollar pillows. It’s not the coke keeping me up. I’m not high. I don’t feel even remotely high. This isn’t drug-induced euphoria. This is the fucking inevitability of success electrifying my brain matter.

“Ten million dollars.”

“Mmm?” the blonde in bed beside me rolls onto her stomach. She’s got a constellation of moles on her back. I vaguely remember making a pattern out of them earlier through an alcoholic haze while she was doing the reverse cowgirl on my five thousand dollar Italian leather couch.

I can’t wait for the morning meeting.

I can’t sleep, either, so I run through the score in my head. Every detail. Every eventuality. All that risk management bullshit Pike bitches and moans about. I run it all, again and again and again on a loop. I get out of bed and scratch the numbers out on a yellow legal pad in my office. Don’t even bother with a light. I’m so wired I can see in the dark. Fucking night vision. Like a fucking owl or eagle or some other killer bird. Suck it Pike. Bet you can’t see in the dark. A lot of good your risk management bullshit will do you there.

I figure I can clear ten to thirteen million on this thing. Ten million, easy.

That’ll mean senior trader. Partner. The world.

I pace the length of the room in the dark.

Bloody Mary watches from he shadows. She’s a vaguely human shape in the dark. Not that her appearance ever changes.

Scraggly hair hangs down around her face, in her face, in her eyes — a wet mop of a hairstyle. She wears an old-fashioned nightgown. It’s got to be at least two hundred years old. It’s got these ridiculous ruffles all down the front and little pink hearts embroidered at odd spaces. Also she’s covered in blood. Hair, face, nightgown. She’s soaked through with blood, as if someone’s drenched her in buckets and buckets of it.

Request for revision from Every Day Fiction

Some time ago I submitted a flash fiction piece to Every Day Fiction. Yesterday I got back a request for revision. Some writers probably look at this as rejection. But to me a request for revision (and the accompanying critical feedback) can be more rewarding than even a string of unqualified acceptances. After all, success isn’t half as good a learning opportunity as failure. Besides, when people stop telling you no and just accept everything you put out you run the risk of ending up like George Lucas.

Specifically this request has to do with character development. Namely that there should be more of it. This is something I struggle with in short fiction – particularly flash fiction. I fall into the trap of viewing very short pieces as snapshots more than fully formed stories. Telling a complete story with three-dimensional characters is not the easiest thing to do in 1,000 words.

I said I would take another look and submit a second draft by Sunday.

Is there such thing as too much revision?

Beginning writers beware: few pitfalls are more dangerous than the “never-ending cycle of revision.” A.k.a “when is my draft actually a draft?” It’s all too tempting to proofread and tweak, never quite getting to that point where you actually show someone what you’ve produced.

For me there is rarely a clear break between drafts. That is to say, I can’t go back and produce a Draft v1.0, Draft v2.0, etc. I don’t outline (a nasty habit I broke myself of years ago). Instead I go with my gut. When it feels like I’m making transformative changes it’s time to go back to the beginning and look at the manuscript from a fresh point of view.

I know I’m ready for beta readers when the plot is complete and momentum has ground to a halt. That means for the moment I can’t find anything substantive left to tweak. Then it’s time to get some distance and a second opinion.

I’m getting to that point with my latest work, “The Bazaar.” I am looking forward to sharing it with you.

In the meantime, I’d be curious to know how any of you interrupt the (potentially) endless cycle of revision.