Radical Revision

All “R” posts, all the time here. I’d like to touch on something I’m doing recently: Radical Revisions. I mean, taking a story that’s so far removed from what it needs to be that I ended up abandoning or back-burner-ing it… and then scrapping most, and completely remodeling the rest of it. I’ve previously mentioned in this blog my intention to write more careful initial drafts, in the hope of requiring fewer subsequent revisions, and this would seem to contradict that plan. With my newly drafted stories, I’m still following that.

What’s the point, then, of reworking an old story by a method that takes much longer than just rewriting from scratch? I have a few reasons for trying this.

First, some of those old ideas still seem appealing and I’d like to finally see them realized as finished stories that hold together.

Second, it’s a useful editorial challenge to diagnose and fix the most extremely “broken” stories. It’s a sort of self-workshopping test to figure out what’s wrong with these pieces, and what they need added, changed, and removed. Mostly removed.

Third, my goal mindset for first draft composition is to totally trust my “editor brain” to fix any problems later. The more confidence you have in your ability to set things right in future drafts, the more you can cut loose and run. So, part of the point of this editorial challenge is what it will give me in terms of first draft freedom.

This project has me working on some very different material from what I’m accustomed to. I’ve got these:

Code name: Succubus
Originally 14,000 words in 22 scenes, dark fantasy with horror/erotic elements. I’ve cut 7,000 words and most of the scenes, and I’m working toward a 4,500 word finished story, with nine scenes that each accomplish something.

Code name: Pornography
Originally 11,000 words in 13 scenes, also dark fantasy with horror elements, not as racy as the above, nor as drastic a cut-job. Down to about 7,500 words and the goal is 4,000 words, nine scenes, of which two are very short transitions.

Code name: Ash Dream
This wasn’t too long, and it’s in my usual SF realm, so not as drastic as the above. Completely re-writing for POV and voice, resequencing all scenes so much of the story is told out of chronological order. Almost half the story is now in the form of summary or recap through dialogue. Interested to see if this works, but it’ll end up being under 3,000 words, five scenes. Oh, and a totally different ending, centering on the actions of a character who didn’t exist in the prior version.

To me this is sort of like turning an old, rotting, falling-down firehouse into a new, remodeled residence with concrete and big windows and cool art on the walls. It’s hard work, and it seems like a ridiculous impossibility along the way, but it will be so great when it’s done.

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