Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dramatic, Climactic Water Revisions

Yesterday afternoon I'd finally had enough of fiddling with Highbinder and I called it good. This is something like my sixth revision since finishing the draft last January, and I'm pretty sure I'm not done, but I'm as done as I can get right now and keep from being able to recite all 325 pages of it from memory. I sent out a few queries and now I've only to write other things while I wait.

Matt asked me if I was happy with the changes I made. The harder I tried to answer that, the less able I was. I made the changes in order to reflect the climax back on the prologue, and the feedback that led me to these changes was directly on point, but it also led me into a kind of tautology that I doubt a reader will notice but that bothers the hell out of me.

Let me just be clear instead of mincing around it, even if this gives some things away. My main character, Berra, has a big problem with water. She can't be immersed in it for very long without harm. In the prologue, which is self-contained, like a short story (or so I hope/intend), she confronts immersion in water, and while she's not permanently harmed, it's a traumatic experience. The big climax of the book, as written and revised last year, involves Berra causing some property damage with dynamite, after which she's arrested. My miracle reader said, yo, why didn't your climax have any water in it? That's her THING, and you missed the opportunity to inject that type of danger into the scene. Berra didn't confront water in a dangerous way at all for the whole book after you set it up so nicely in the prologue. Wow, man, said I, that was stupid of me. And thence followed an entire year of procrastination while I tried to figure out how I could put water in the climax.

Well, I figured out a way, but only after a number of desperate conversations with Matt where I was just tearing my hair out trying, and really he deserves the credit for setting it straight in my mind, but even so, the whole thing seems kind of precarious. I don't really have a concrete plot-driven justification for the water being there, except that it is, for reasons Berra can't discover either. I hope I'll be able to retcon my way into a good reason in one of the sequels - I have a sorta-reason in mind, but it's flimsy - but as of right now I don't feel that good about it.

Nevertheless, I'm pretty sure that putting water into the climax was the right thing to do. The way it reflects on what happened in the prologue is interesting and worthwhile. Do I feel good about those edits? No. But I don't think I would have felt good about any edits after a year of avoiding them and worrying about them. I'm satisfied with them, for the time being, and if I wake up in the middle of the night with a better idea in two months you bet I'm going to plunge right into a seventh revision.

In other news, I've been on an unlucky streak with books recently. Right now I'm near the end of a novel that is more than a little repulsive, but still promises greater satisfaction than I've had out of the previous three. Maybe I'll switch to poetry for a while, or reread something I know I love. The fall semester is still two months away, but I'm already looking forward to it; I got some good news yesterday that I can't share until it's all certain. I really intended to start on a new short story this week, but it might not work out. We're covering structuralism and poststructuralism in a single day in my summer class, tomorrow, so there's a lot to keep my brain cells occupied. There's other stuff happening, too, but I guess I've forgotten it all, what with learning 2,500 years of literary theory in the past month.

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