On revisions and food analogies.

“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.”
—Octavia E. Butler

When I started writing novels, it was because of National Novel Writing Month. One of the wisest pieces of advice shares a theme with the above. “Give yourself permission to write crap.”

I have fortunately never labored under the illusion that my first draft is publishable. Before I presented Bloody Murder to a publisher in 2004, I had been editing and revising it for over two years. The publisher, who shall remain nameless, told me his liked the book, wanted to publish it, but the following year. The thing was, he never gave me a contract. Eventually, he introduced me to another publisher who rejected the book.

To me, revisions are the difference between creating and crafting. I create the rough draft, but that’s like creating a lump of clay that hasn’t been thrown on the wheel yet. It’s not soup yet, it other words.

Soup is a better analogy, really. Zofia makes good soup, a quality of mine that I gave her (I did not give her my screwed-up childhood or my misanthropy).  You start with ingredients and turn them into food. You need broth (setting)  (which is a creation process on its own, remind me to update Knives, Fire & Fun again soon), you need spices (descriptive language), you need protein (plot), you need characters (aromatics), you need dialogue (vegetables).

And then it needs to simmer, and you need the fat skimmed off, and the spices need to be tweaked. Tasted, perhaps, if the beta reader isn’t busy.

That’s what’s going on now. I’m partway through the first revision of #4 and I think it’s coming along pretty well. I also have a new supporting character debuting. I will be thanking someone for allowing me to base the character on them, but I have to put my own touches, of course.

So, we’re in the crafting stage. The ingredients have been put together, now it’s time to make it soup.


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