Rewrite of Unseen (Book 1) is going extremely well. I’m really blazing through it, which is super because I’ve never even been able to touch the thing before. In fact, I want to start sending out queries to agents this month. Yes, I said it. Sending stuff off.
Book 1 has always been something of a trainwreck for me. I need it to continue to the rest of the story, but it’s never been quite right. It’s always been a bad feeling, that the first book is my weakest one, and that the first three chapters were always the worst of the lot. Rewrites on book 1 have always been like walking into a super, super messy room. Imagine it, I know everyone’s done it. You know it needs to be cleaned up, you can see exactly what needs to be done, but doing it is such a huge undertaking that even starting it is just too much. You throw up your hands and go find something else to do with your time, because eff that.
I got interested in looking at it again because of the giant Race In Fantasy LJ Imbroglio 2009 made me take another look at the portrayals of the characters of color in my book. While my book doesn’t actually contain people of modern real-world races (being a fantasy set in an imaginary world) however, it does contain a lot of characters of color. In fact, characters of color far outnumber the "white" characters, and race, racial identity, racial mixing, racial oppression, racial history… all giant important themes in the book. So I decided to go back through and re-work a lot of the races, make sure they read and felt as "real" and not just as Generic Fantasy Brown Races of various tropes. That involved re-making my concordance, doing a ton of google and researching environments, re-worldbuilding… tons of stuff. It was really exciting and enjoyable… brought me back to remembering why I love creating worlds and the people who live in them.
And then I walked into the damn messy room and went… eff that.
The problems with Book 1 are SO big that it’s always felt like that. And I got to that same point, completely digging in my heels because the job was just too big and ready to toss my binder back onto the bookshelf for another year, waste all the work I’d done on the re-worldbuilding, just to get away from that room. In short I had a big temper tantrum and didn’t wanna do it.
Luckily, I’ve got friends who were there to shake me a little and help me out.
Fox (hinesbp ) managed to give me exactly the "why don’t you open with this?" that I needed and James (zuelaji ) managed to cheerlead me and push me out of my self-pity funk to actually remember why I write. Oh yeah, I like people to read what I write and enjoy it! Duh.
Once I got chapter 1 shaken out – the absolute worst of the chapters, IMO – the direction that took showed me exactly what I needed to do with the rest of the book. Mostly… delete, delete, delete. I spent a couple hours with James and Fox (who I believe are the only people who’ve read all three finished manuscripts) asking them "does this ever become relevant? Does this character matter? Does this ever come up again?" See, I need someone to bounce those questions off of because I’ve had this story in my head for so many years and through so many rewrites sometimes I honestly cannot remember whether the current incarnation contains the information I’m looking for. For the most part, there was a lot of "Nope, kill it."
With so much extraneous crap, infodumps and exposition, excessive characters and descriptions we don’t need taken out of the way, the story is much sleeker. James and Kirstin (the_farstar ) have been reading the chapters as I finish them, and I can’t say how much I needed that feedback. Mom and Cathy used to do it, but for whatever reason they didn’t want to do it with the third manuscript and I totally lost my momentum. I’ve discovered I’m a bit of a feedback whore: it doesn’t have to be positive, but I do need someone reading what I write or I really lack motivation to write it at all. I’ve gotten a lot of comments from James to the effect of "Oh, I love that reveal, it’s much better this time around!" and it’s a reveal that existed in the last version of the chapter. With all the crap cluttering it up, the point of it got lost and he didn’t even remember it being there.
Things are just flowing so much easier from point to point now, it all seems much more coherent and drawn-together. And I think I’ll probably trim a quarter of just fat-words off of the manuscript by the time I’m done here.
I suppose the real proof that I’m feeling better about it is that I want to send it in. I’ve never wanted to send Book 1 in because I’ve always known it sucked, and if Book 1 doesn’t get published, neither do the later books (which were always much better.) I’m averaging a chapter and a half of rework a day at this point, so I should be done with it by mid-next week if I can keep this pace up. Then I can move on to tightening up books 2 and 3 and continuing the fixes that I made in book 1 that change things in later novels. I guess I’m really lucky that I’m doing all this stuff with 3 and a half books already written: I know what stuff never becomes relevant to the plot, and I have the ability to fix things that would screw up later stories before it’s set in stone.
Back to my tweakage!