Sunday, May 15, 2011

Revisions, revisions

I love revisions, yes I do!  I love revision, how ‘bout you?

I think revising material is my favorite part of writing a new manuscript, especially one that has been so well outlined that the basic foundation is solidly in place.  When that happens, revisions are a matter of playing in the house you have built from scratch, and seeing what improvements you can make along the way.

The current example of this is The Rogue Gentleman, a story featuring an international adventurer who rights wrongs wherever he finds them, which I will release as an e-book this summer.  I am so excited about this story and the characters that I am going to immediately start a sequel.  In fact, while planning the sequel, a line about a character inspired yet another sequel, so you can expect many adventures for the Rogue and his band of merry marauders.

Anyway… I have been going over the book and, from my notes, am making various changes.  This manuscript needs a lot of work, really.  It was written under a cloud of personal turbulence which has, thankfully, settled down.  This manuscript is all action and the story, but the detail that makes such stories come alive is missing.  What I am doing is fleshing out scenes with descriptions, adding character back story where appropriate, and chipping away the stuff that does not work.  And this is where the fun comes in.  Further research on a police character, for example, allowed me to include bits of physical detail and family history not present in the original draft, and I am now sorry that this particular policeman is only in the book for a short time.  I would certainly love to have him take part in more of the action, but forcing him to do so would not work.  So out he goes after the first act.  He can always come back in a sequel…or his own book.

I was reading a Frederick Forsyth novel this week called Avenger and it’s a crackling good read if you have not had the pleasure, and one thing Forsyth does very well is give detailed histories of his characters.  I have been afraid to do that, because such detail, I always believed, bogs down the narrative and never really, to my mind, made much of a difference.  Not so with Forsyth’s style, which means the practitioners who led me to my earlier opinion were not very good at that portion of their craft.  I have emulated the Forsyth Way as best as I could, careful to keep it short, and I must say the result is fantastic.  The characters feel stronger to me than they had previously, and by keeping the bits spread out, a little here and a little there, I think, at the risk of being redundant, that the information really strengthens the whole show.  This is a good thing.  If I feel the characters are stronger surely readers will, too.

There are some authors who say they just make up their stories based on a slapdash outline and never have to revise; I think that that is promotional mumbo-jumbo.  I wrote that way for 15 years while I was learning, thinking I was a hot shot, only to be told that everything I wrote fell flat.  I started outlining, giving characters more attention, adding details and descriptions and arcs, and the resulting improvement showed me that was the way to go.  Perhaps you have had a similar experience.  If not, give it a try.  I think you will like it.  I may not be as cool as those other guys, but who cares?

This is not my first experience with the Joy of Revision; I added a substantial portion to my recent effort, Show No Mercy, which had the same effect.  At the time I wondered, as I do with every book, if I can pull it off again, but my effort on The Rogue Gentleman says yes indeed.  Does every writer think that? 

I cannot wait to release this book!  Or the next one!  I hope you like it, too.

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