Monday, April 22, 2013

Building a house of cards, part four: The Subsequent Drafts

Reflections of Undertakers of Rain

As I explained last time, I benefited from the writing four manuscripts before I began work on Undertakers of Rain. This experience made it easier for me to work and I was more efficient at it too. Also, it is my belief that anyone can write a novel. Even though I had developed a system of writing three drafts concurrently, see The Novel, Guerrilla Style series, three drafts are just not enough.

I set the manuscript on its side like a bottle of wine and locked it away somewhere dark. I wish that's the way it went down. Truth is, I had to leave Undertakers of Rain aside because of all the novels I wanted (needed) to write.

By the time I looked at the manuscript again, so many things had changed. Life with Umbrella Factory Magazine had begun, namely. I taught a semester of basic college skills at an early college. I begun work as a screenwriter at Rocket House Studio. Basically, I grew up as a writer between the time I finished Undertakers of Rain and the time when I opened it back up to work some rewrites.

Why the time was good.

Time and distance between me and Undertakers of Rain was good. Sure, the whole fresh eyes thing. Sure, I could easily spot problems and idiosyncrasies more easily. These things aside, the most important aspect of time and distance: I had no emotional hangups with the manuscript. With a lack of emotion to it, I looked at the work very objectively. For instance, in the initial manuscript I had nearly 20 pages of Sam and John beating the hell out of some Southeast Portland hippies. Directly after the manuscript was finished, there was no way I would have cut one word out of this scene, despite the fact that my closest colleagues and confidants told me it was excessive and boring. A few years later, I agreed. The hippie beat down scene is absolutely crucial to the story, just not 20 pages of it. This is one example. There were dozens of places like this. Working free from ego and emotion is refreshing. Only time and distance could do this for me.

How many revisions are enough?

Don't ask me. Ask Walt Whitman. He revised Leaves of Grass every so often for his entire life. Rewrite it, revise it, rework it, redo it. This really is what it means to be a writer. There comes a point when it's just masochistic to continue revising something. Although I have never been around dead horses, I'm told that beating once it's dead doesn't do anything. With any project, there is a time for it to leave you. Whether it is perfect on not, you just have to own it. After the initial three draft procedure, Undertakers of Rain weathered 32 revisions for a total 75 hours.

Next time: Rejection

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