Polishing the Work

Revision is on my mind, since I recently completed another revision on my Grandmother Martha’s story. I’ve been writing for many years, but sometimes the work takes an uptick when I feel I’ve reached a new level. Somebody shows me something new, I take a workshop, join a critique group, get some valuable feedback, something. I apply that to whatever I’m working on. But once that’s done, I look at my other work I still consider viable for publishing, and I want to apply the same treatment to those stories.

One of the recent treatments I mentioned in a previous blog was the matter of trimming. Cutting words. Making everything move a little faster. The industry has changed since I started writing. Paper costs more so publishers want shorter books. People’s lives seem to move faster so their attention spans are shorter. They want shorter books. Writers have to pick up the pace. Some people may write tighter than I do in the beginning. I’ve always focused more on flow and clarity and the art of storytelling. All of that is important, but it’s surprising how easy it is to get along with fewer words.

I’ve started reworking my historical novels. Fortunately historicals are allowed a few more words, given the need to create a world the reader may not be familiar with. However, tightening can help them too.

One thing that happens when I start revising, the threads in the tapestry begin to loosen. I’m not always quite sure the work is holding together. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes I see threads that don’t work for me anymore. On my story of Minoan Crete a question came up and I went online to check it. A funny thing happens when I go online to answer one question. Several more tend to pop up, and I find answers to questions I hadn’t even thought of. With these stories of ancient times much of the basis of the work is archeology. And those archeologists keep digging. They come up with new stuff. I read somewhere that if you get three archeologists in a room and ask a question you’ll get five answers. Of course with a little poetic license I can pretty well pick the answer that works best for my story. But when a lot of scholars are agreeing on a new find, I like to pay attention to that. So some details may need changed.

A cool thing that happened this time. When the threads loosened, the story came to life for me again. I can tell when that happens because ideas begin to flood my mind—often in the wee hours of the morning, but I take inspiration where I can get it. The book is improving. It feels more real. I hope the changes will help me find a home for it.