Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Revision Process

I spent yesterday trying to switch mental gears from contemporary fantasy involving fairy folklore to steampunk (no pun intended with the "gears"). It's been a couple of years since I last worked on this book, so it took reminding myself about it. One thing that usually works to re-immerse myself in a project is listening to the book's soundtrack, but that didn't work because the soundtrack didn't ring a bell to me at all. For a while, I even thought it might have been a first draft soundtrack, before I changed my mind about a lot of stuff, but then I found in my notebook where I'd associated certain songs with certain scenes. This soundtrack was more about finding the particular emotion in each scene than about finding the overall sense of the book.

The trick is that it's hard to capture "steampunk" in music. There are steampunk bands, but they don't sound to me like this world. There's a band in my book that incorporates calliope with fiddle, guitar and drums, and to me, that's what a true steampunk band would sound like, but I doubt there's a real band like that anywhere (if there is, I must find it). I've mostly used Celtic music for mood setting, but then that doesn't help much in the gear switching because that's also what I used for the fantasy book I was working on, although that was more ethereal Celtic instead of acoustic party Celtic (Enya vs. traditional Irish music). I think I may need to do another pass through iTunes and create a "mood" soundtrack in addition to the scene-by-scene soundtrack. Yes, that does sound like Advanced Procrastination Methods, but all this time, I'm mulling over the editor's notes in the revision letter and thinking of how that would play out. I've already come up with some new ideas and how to implement them.

The revision phase of writing, especially when it's revision based on someone else's comments, is always a challenge. It's more about thinking than about execution because it requires changing your mindset. You wrote things a certain way in the first place because that seemed like the best idea at the time. Now you have to revisit those things, look at them from someone else's perspective, and be honest with yourself about whether or not there's a better way to go. Fixing something may be more about the scenes leading up to it rather than fixing that one scene. For me, I generally have to give myself a day or so of griping and whining to get that out of my system before I can look back and realize that the editor really did have a point. Yes, an editor can be wrong -- even empirically, as in a reading comprehension issue or having missed something that was directly stated -- but even so, if the editor could miss it, a reader could, as well, and the miscomprehension could still come back to being my fault. I've only ever had a couple of cases where it was a pure case of someone missing the obvious that was made very clear, and there was no need to fix anything.

One thing that's going to be tricky with this book is that it's an alternate history. Because of certain things that are different, events didn't play out the same way as they did in our timeline. Some of the same events are happening, but in a different time and place. The American Revolution didn't happen in the 1770s. It's taking longer to get to that point, so it's starting in the 1880s, but some of it is starting in a very similar way, just in the different time. I did a ton of research to find events I could morph and move to this point. But this is a young adult novel, and I can't expect teen readers to have the same level of historical knowledge that I have after extensive research. The editor suggested adding an author's note, which is a good idea and means that I don't have to find a way to have characters who don't know that they're in a different timeline talking about how their timeline is different. I may take a look at Scott Westerfeld's steampunk trilogy to see what his author's notes looked like (I remember them being in those books). I'll also probably add an extensive section on history to my web site when this book is released, with a list of books I read for research.

Today's choir day, so I won't have as much time to work. I have to do my lesson plan, make a sample of our craft project and rehearse some of my choir music. Meanwhile, my thighs are very angry at me because I apparently was a wee bit too enthusiastic in ballet class last night. Ow.

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