the incredible shrinking book

it’s lost 32 pages in this revision. well, not really. or not as much as it might seem. coming into this revision, i had 474 pages; as of right now, i have 442. have i really cut 32 pages of unnecessary babbling? well, it’s not to say that it couldn’t use it, but those 474 pages were split into 72 chapters; as of now, there are only 61. so, 11 of those disappearing pages were nothing more than the loss of new chapter start pages. there were also a couple other accidental blank pages in there, between chapters which i got rid of.

that said, that still leaves nearly 20 pages of tightened prose. a distinct accomplishment, if a slightly back-handed one (why couldn’t i see that bloat in the previous revisions?). however, that’s what this whole process is about, right? getting better, learning the craft, developing my eye, continuing to grow.

which brings me to a minor incident today that may well have massive impact for the book as a whole.*

i’ve mentioned my difficulty with action scenes, and how i feel those are the most difficult for me to revise. well, this doesn’t mean the non-action scenes are much better. today, i was working on a particularly dramatic section, not physically but emotionally. tensions are a bit high and folks are getting frazzled. as a result, there’s an eventual meltdown between a couple characters. from draft 1, the interchange has been largely untouched; though i felt something was off with it somewhere, i couldn’t quite place it. it was a little drawn out, but not terribly so, so i left it, chalking my concern up to unrealistic perfectionism.

however, today, while making the minor edits to it that i’d written, i found myself doing more to it. yes, re-revising, my beloved bogeyman. but there was something to it. i took the length approach, and started trimming away anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary, snipping, tucking, slicing, and finally chopping.

it was only after a fair bit of doing this, though, that i realized what my subconscious was needling me about: they were using all the wrong words. i was correct that the moment was a dramatic one, but i had it for all the wrong reasons. i’d utterly glossed over the true difficulty between the two characters, and had them arguing over something that, while superficially a problem, had none of the emotional kick that the core issue warranted. moreover, i realized that the characters already had that argument-about-things-other-than-the-real-things-we-need-to-argue-over’ argument, and that this was the time for the real deal.

once i had that out in the clear, the revision shot along, revealing a scene that may well be the most emblematic encapsulation of the main character in the book, with both intensity and humanity. it felt that good, and recharged me with a sense of that character and a clarity of focus, tightening a number of themes which i hadn’t realized were slack.

of course, then i asked myself how i could miss this all this time, but the only answer i can offer is practice, i think. i hope, anyway.

and with that, good night.

* no dear, i’m not re-structuring the book and forcing yet another revision.


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