Once upon a time, there was a story.
At its heart, it was a good story – a twisting tale of life and love, death and drama, and supernatural secrets so well kept that even the author wasn’t aware of them until several books into the series. The characters were strong. The dialogue was golden. Unfortunately, the author – immature in her craft – was all natural talent and no practiced skill, and so the story was told rather poorly indeed. Were it ever to see the light of day and a bookstore’s shelf, the narrative would need a major overhaul.
Uncertain that the tale’s renaissance would ever come, but not without all hope that it would, the author created a folder dubiously named the Possibly Salvageable Junk Pile. There she placed the numerous documents containing the mutilated fragments of the storyline, and there they would remain until such a time as the author felt ready to turn the heap of refuse into a book worthy of the story it would contain.
And that author… *solemn nods* …was me.
Epilogue: A handful of years later, the day of salvation is nigh. As of this post’s drafting*, I am in the process of digging through the hundreds of thousands of well-intentioned but collectively sorry old words in preparation to raise the story back to life. …Which, at this outlining stage, feels disconcertingly like robbing graves to piece together a creature ripe for reanimation by lightning.
(*Current progress report: Outlining behind me. Deep into section 1-of-3 of the book. Encouragement and reassurances from Writing Buddy frequently all that stands between me and writerly despair. Morale is fickle.)
I’ve never attempted “the act or process of reconsidering and changing or modifying” like this before. Sure, I’ve written a book halfway, scrapped it, and started over. But that’s one book, during a single sitting, as it were. This is several books, to be condensed into one in three parts, long after I’ve moved on to countless other projects. It’s an odd combination of familiar and alien territory.
It will be hard to refrain from copy-and-pasting significant chunks of text and working outward from there, but refrain I shall, lest I undermine the whole point of this revision. If I want a better version of the story, then a better writer has to write it, and I’m relieved to note that I am a much better writer now than I was a quarter of my life ago. (That bodes well for my writing another quarter of my life into the future. *big thumbs-up smile*)
My view on the project before me is pretty well summed up this way: “Early drafts often have something good going for them, but they very rarely have everything going for them [I jump in to hug the use of the word “rarely”. Blanket statements get under my skin. Allow for the exceptional. Now, back to the quote…]; the real beginning of revision comes when you can see that. From that point onward, the key is to take the best core aspect of your work more seriously than you take the little particulars of a given draft. You honor your stories not by clinging to your early attempts to capture things, but instead by letting them go, by asking yourself what you’re really after and doing whatever it takes to get there.” (David Ebenbach, “Re-Envisioning in Revision”)
So that’s where I am, right now – what’s old-made-new in my world. Wish me better luck than Doc Frankenstein.