Finding Real Story


Revision time!  I broke out the red pen and started marking up that fancy-bound copy of Far From Light.  The quote that is ruling me throughout this process is:

“If you wrote the book you want to read, you should enjoy reading the book you wrote.”

Currently, I only enjoy reading one in four pages of what I wrote, so I have a long way to go.  Revising is not going through line by line and changing words with thesaurus in hand, that’s editing, and I’ll labor through that later.  What I am trying to do now is make sure I have nothing but pure story on every page.  This makes me think of Michelangelo’s statue of David.  When asked how he could possibly have carved such perfection out of a single block of marble 18 ft high Michelangelo replied, “David was in the marble all the time – I just had to chip away the pieces.”  A story is the same way.  It’s so easy to throw in my own words, my own ideas, and make the characters dance for my pleasure, but all that crap has to be removed so that the reader is presented with the truest image of the idea that is in my head.

Another way to look at this is a bit Neoplatonic: the idea that originated in the head (perhaps by divine frenzy, for those familiar with Plato’s Phaedrus), diminishes as it travels through the mind and becomes physical in the form of the written word, so that it is but a shadow of the real idea.  Am I reaching a bit?  Not really.  Consider mythology and classical drama.  Those stories were passed on by oral tradition for generations, gradually being perfected as people threw out the silly parts and added their own twists to make the tales more complete, more believable–more real.  When they were finally written, they were in a perfect state, and that’s why they’re still so loved and revered today.  People love real stories.  It takes time and effort to listen to the idea and present it to the world in its purest form.

The temptation is to just fix the madness that is the first draft, but a writer has to go back to the original idea and see what it was, and what it became as it was written.  This often means throwing out a whole pile of pages and starting over, completely reworking the story.  In my case, some of it came out well, much of came out like a rabid, blaspheming bastard, and then there were plenty of surprises, like a part of a song I’ve never noticed before.  I now have to reshape the story so that it has more of its true form, and finally becomes what I wanted it to be.  It’s like a constant process of discovery, where I’m realizing, “Oh, that’s what I meant,” or, “this is how it’s supposed to be.”

I had hopes of burning through a revision fast and furious so I could have a readable draft by January.  We’ll see how real that idea is as I go along :-)  I certainly surprised myself during NaNoWriMo, so it just might happen!

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