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inigo had it right (and i don’t)

i realize yesterday’s (this morning’s) post confirming the end of the revision was rather lackluster, but sleep deprivation was closing in fast. today, though, i’d intended to spend a little more time with this, only to find myself overwhelmed each time i thought about starting. in the words of the seeker of the six-fingered man: “let me explain. no, there is too much. let me sum up.”

the ups and downs of the last several weeks (as regards the book) have been, more than i realized at the time, quite exhausting. despite a truly delightful and relaxing weekend away from technology and the book*, and the final buzz i had last evening as i rode through to the end of the revision, i was utterly sapped when i finished. it came down on me hard, almost the moment i finished the spell check.

this caught me a little off-guard, and i think caused the subdued post. on further consideration, though, it makes perfect sense. they are almost identical in length, though Witness took me 3+ years to write and No Good Deed has been in process barely 6 1/2 months. seems fair enough to feel a bit tired at the end of that.

is it an apples to apples comparison? of course not. Witness was entirely on my own time outside of a full (plus) time job, where No Good Deed began in the heady days of post-employment this past summer and still enjoys about 1/3 of a given workday during current workweeks, plus evenings and weekends.

also, Witness underwent roughly 12 revisions over the course of things, right up to (and after – $$$) the final submission to iUniverse. No Good Deed has only been through (and we’ll separate them the way they should be, here) 5, to date. does this mean NGD still has 7 to go?**

no, emphatically not. as i’ve mentioned before, i learned a lot from Witness, both on what to, and what not to, do, and NGD has benefitted significantly from this.*** i anticipate one more minor revision, following the input from readers and my own final read after a little time away, and feel very confident about this, though it might be a good idea to check back in a few weeks to see how large the serving of humble pie will be.

hm. for a summary, i’m not doing a very good job. let’s try this again:

  1. revision, up a notch : i have made significant progress in this area with NGD. the identification of what was working and what was not came faster, and felt more accurate and true, than previously. i was less caught up with how i wanted it to work, and more attuned to how it should (compared to previously – i still have a long way to go to catch it before i write it in the first place).
  2. ‘action’ versus ‘drama’ : first, i don’t quite think it’s either fair or accurate to dichotomize these two terms like this, but it serves my current experience. i’ve discovered that writing action feels great when i’m writing it, and is a bear when i’m revising. i’m not 100% sure why that is, yet, but it’s a learning. this doesn’t mean the dramatic or even the mundane items are without blemish, not by any stretch of the imagination, but the work that i do on the action pieces often results in fundamental changes, while the revision of dramatic or mundane items generally relates to tone, word choice, rhythm, etc.
  3. letting go : this is an interesting one, and one i’m experimenting with right now. it’s my nature to want to see things through to the end, to want to understand the whole ‘why’ of a situation or an action.**** as a result, i tend to write all the way from a potential dynamic and exciting beginning to the draining and lifeless end of a situation or rationale, so as to make sure the reader fully understands. it’s taken a little while, but i accept that this is, generally speaking, a bad idea. readers are smart. what’s more, life is full of gaps in understanding. there’s a difference between writing clearly and beating someone over the head with something.
  4. family history : while i had done character backgrounds for Witness, i took it to the next level with NGD, down to birthdays, cousins, anniversaries, neighbors, work history, and where they went to school. i didn’t do all this for all the characters, but i covered a lot of it for most of them, and (the critical point) all of it was done in the outline stage. for the most part, i never had to work out how a character would react to X or Y, because he or she had already told me. this is something i’ve known all along, but never put much stock in until NGD. i read a quote once, i believe from Maya Angelou, that described her process writing everything she knew about each character, well before she started writing her stories, and that from then on, it was just listening. this is what a large part of NGD was, for me.
  5. outline, outline, outline : more than anything else, the outline for this book (which took nearly a month in itself) was the single most important part of NGD. yes, i used one for Witness, but it was not nearly as well thought out. that said, i wasn’t a slave to the outline; rather, the outline had been developed with such care and attention and consideration, that it was more the story in miniature than an outline. because of this work, i was able to identify several potential train wrecks (though not all, of course), before i ever started writing. then, when i did start writing, i wasn’t worrying about trying to figure out the plot, i was able to focus on the story and the characters, which is as it should be.

hm. again. bullets do not a summary make.

the summary, then, is this: i’ve learned a lot and can’t wait to start on the next book!

now, it’s time to get away from the computer and practice some piano.

* we wandered about the mid-coast region, getting buffetted by frigid winds, watching a family of deer watch us back, taking back roads that curved every which way, crossing paths with signs like the one on the rug-hooking shop (‘welcome hookers!’) and the mexican restaurant named ‘el el frijoles’ (the double ‘el’ really snagged us, until we finally remembered ol’ leon leonwood and his boots, and then we laughed ourselves silly [no, it doesn’t really take much]), crossing more than one vertiginous(!) bridge, lounging about in bed with books we’ve been putting off as the sun wandered across the sky, stumbling into a delightful co-op which we desperately wished was closer, eating more than we should and enjoying every bite (particularly the scottish toffee cake dessert at darby’s in belfast which, alone, is worth the trip), and otherwise having a lovely time together.

** the scream you just heard was my wife.

*** that said, even as i type this, my wife, reading the newly printed copy for the first time, just asked me if i meant Mt. Washington instead of Mt. Katahdin in a particular section, which i did. it’s okay. there will be these things. this, kids, is why it’s always important to have someone else read your work.

**** it’s this that causes such problems when i experience many mainstream films and books, because if i don’t believe in the ‘why’, i don’t enjoy the results. plot flaws and continuity errors generally drive me batty. and, unfortunately for her, my wife, who has to listen to me complain about them, because i seem in capable of keeping this kind of frustration to myself.

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