Tag Archives: rewriting

Summer Sunday Stats #7: The Real Last Summer Sunday.

No wonder it’s such a nice day:  it’s still summer.  The autumnal equinox is tomorrow.  D’oh.  (If you didn’t see Summer Sunday Stats #6A or Summer Sunday Stats #6B, then this probably doesn’t mean anything to you; carry on, then.)

Miles run:  8.46 miles in 1:22:48.  Nice and slooooow.  I took the entire week off after the Chicago Half Marathon — I didn’t run a step between last Sunday and today, except to catch the train.  While I never got full out sick after my last post, but I’ve definitely been fighting off a cold, so I took it easy this morning.  I’m glad I went out, though; it’s a beautiful day, warm and sunny but not too hot.

What was playing on my iPod during my run:  absolutely nothing.  I couldn’t find my arm band case for the iPod, so I went without it.  Just as well, as it turns out.

Words of Meet the Larssons written this week:  3,146, for a total of 96,094, which sounds pretty good to me considering the week I had.  Not included in that total is the 600 words of notes I typed out last night and this morning with ideas for revisions when I’m ready for the second draft.  I hit a point this week where I can see the end of the story, and my vague feelings of dissatisfaction with the story arc began to really coalesce.  Last night, I finally realized what was wrong with it, and by this morning, I started to figure out how I needed to change the story to save it.  By the time I left for my run, I had a pretty good idea as to what the revised structure of the novel would be, but I was a little overwhelmed by the amount of rewriting I thought it would require.  I thought I might have to throw out as much as half of what I’ve written — not just edit or revise or even rewrite, but throw 50,000 words completely out the window.

When I couldn’t find my iPod case, I just grabbed my keys and left.  I thought I could use the time to think through the changes I’d need to make.  Instead, in the course of an 80-minute run, I figured out that most of what I thought I’d have to pitch could actually be salvaged, that the biggest problem with the story so far isn’t what I’ve written, but the order in which I’ve written it.  The same events — hell, even the same dialogue in several scenes — which are just vignettes the way I’ve written them in the first draft, which add nothing to the plot or just serve to make the characters jump through particular hoops on their way to a predetermined end, would make perfect sense and build the dramatic tension if only they appeared in a different order.  Instead of shitcanning 50,000 words, I would need to cut maybe 10,000 words completely, and revise or rewrite another 10,000 while changing the order in which those scenes appear.  Then I’ve got ideas for probably another 10,000 to 20,000 words of new scenes on top of that, to tie the new structure together. None of this excuses me from finishing the first draft, but I feel a lot better knowing where the revisions are going to go.

It does, however, tell me that NaNoWriMo is not an option this year.  I’m going to finish the first draft of MTL in the next three weeks or so, certainly by Halloween, but I think probably before then.  Then I’m going to take a few weeks away from it and work on getting one or two more short stories finished, cleaned up, and submitted.  By mid-November or so, I’d like to get cracking on making these revisions.  If at all possible, I’d like to have the revised draft done by the end of January (I’d really like to have it done by the end of the year, but I can’t see how that’s realistic).  That’s not the submission draft, but by the end of it I should have fixed any big problems with the book.

What about the marathon?  The jury’s still out on that, but I’m skeptical about my ability to take that much time off of work.

Gotta go – it’s official homework time for the kids, and the weekend is the only time I get to help.

A Few More Rejection Slips

To continue the thread from Friday’s post: I didn’t give up submitting my science fiction stories to professional magazines after my first rejection for “The Laws of Chaos.” I had completely forgotten about that story until I dug out my old story file on Thursday night. I haven’t had the guts to read it, but even without reviewing my likely abominable teenage writing, I can tell you why it was, and should have been, rejected: the ending reveals that it was all a dream, a horrible, horrible dream. In other words, it was all a cliche, a horrible, horrible cliche.

You may find this hard to believe, but when I resubmitted it to Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Gardner Dozois rejected it, too. Shocking, really.

But I was persistent. Just for example, on October 29, 1985, IASFM rejected “Democracy”:

iasfm-10291985-3.jpg

I thought it was particularly kind that Mr. Dozois did not add “In your case, it was all of the above.” That would have been wrong, of course; my spelling, even in high school, has always been pretty good (unlike my handwriting).

The hits just kept on coming, but really, what did it cost me? Some paper (which I “borrowed” from my parents, anyway), but not much, because my stories were always very short, because (1) I had read that shorter stories were easier to sell, and (2) I had a very short attention span. The cost of envelopes and postage. Some stories I sent in cheap plastic report covers, because I thought it made them look more professional.

The only real cost was my time, and I didn’t count that, because I would have been writing anyway. I could have written more, I suppose, but I had the usual high school student distractions: friends, girls, a demanding after-school job at a local newspaper, and writing for an underground high school zine loosely modeled after The Weekly World News. So when it came to fiction writing, I was productive, but not prolific.

I kept writing in college, but I definitely slowed down. I moved to a new city (Chicago), had much harder classes which I occasionally had to attend, fell into theater and later the newspaper, and met the future Mrs. Unfocused (then known as Unfocused Girlfriend). I still wrote, on a little electric typewriter/primitive word processor, with a two-line screen and a 2K memory, which meant I could type for about two pages before I had to print, instead of my father’s old Royal. I still sent the stories off, but not nearly as often as in high school.

Apparently, this was no great loss to the science fiction publishing world. From my freshman year, here’s a January 14, 1988 rejection from Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact for a story called “Exposure”:

ASF 01141988

The IASFM and ASF rejection slips acted as FAQs for authors. Why was my story rejected? What can I do to improve my story and my chances of getting published in your magazine? Every time I received one of these forms, I reread it as if it would tell me something new. I did try, I think, to follow the advice contained in the rejections. I was young, undisciplined, and, in the immortal words of Homer Simpson, “Lord help me, I’m just not that bright.” I’m perfectly capable of making the same mistakes over and over again.

I think the biggest problem with my writing in high school and college (aside from a lack of an original plot, sympathetic characters, or interesting dialogue) was that I refused to even consider editing a story once I finished it. I had read that Robert Heinlein never rewrote anything (Robert J. Sawyer lists this as Heinlein’s Third Rule of Writing: “You Must Refrain From Rewriting, Except to Editorial Order”). Ladies and gentlemen, I am here to tell you that I have read a lot of Robert Heinlein novels and stories, I feel like I know Robert Heinlein, and I am no Robert Heinlein. If 13 years of drafting briefs, motions, and nastygrams has taught me anything, it is that for me, rewriting is not just a good idea, it’s the law.

But I didn’t know that then. In the next day or two, I’ll post my last rejection slips.