I seem to be having a spectacular month. I am a little terrified and a lot happy. That is to say: my story “Ekphrasis” will appear in Rose Lemberg’s ALPHABET OF EMBERS anthology sometime next year. I am incredibly excited about this; I get to share a ToC with a bunch of people I admire. (It is also the first time I’ve sold something to an anthology, which is one other little milestone to check off the list.)
I am so pleased about this sale that this blog post is not going to be the blog post about how I don’t know how to write a novel and it’s scary and hard and I suck at it. You’ll probably get that one later. Instead: some thoughts on revision!
When I first started submitting stories seriously about two years ago (– and y’know, I think I’ve never thanked Taz Muir (go read her webcomic Apothecia!) publicly for getting me to take the plunge, so thanks Taz, I wouldn’t be doing this without you –) I gleaned by collective osmosis that the revise/resubmit request was an extremely rare beast. Submissions were as a rule either rejected or accepted. Revise/resubmit was not something that one should ever expect to happen.
I’ve now sold four stories. And have received three revise/resubmit requests, including on the most recent sale.
As far as I know, this is still not common. I could be wrong. I did get this impression of the general dearth of revise/resubmit through that mysterious General Sense Of How Things Go. But if it is as rare as I think it is — and Duotrope would confirm my bias, there are very few revise/resubmits that show up there — then I am really interested in why it keeps happening to me. Especially because of the kind of revision requests I get.
I seem to be succeeding on: voice, prose, character, setting, and surface plot comprehensibility (go me)
And I seem to be failing on: incluing the not-surface plot. I know a lot of whys about what is happening in my story, but editor after editor is not seeing them. Because editors are awesome, all three of the ones I have worked with have pointed out that this was the problem they were having with my story, all in different ways. Once, I even inadvertently inclued something else entirely from what I meant.
So clearly I’m not hooking up my deep plot with my surface plot, and not noticing I’m failing to do so.
This is when I confess that I write 1.5 drafts of everything at most. And that I think maybe I need to start adding at least another 0.5 of a draft to that total.
I’m terrible at drafting. Honestly, I’m terrible at writing, as a process. (… but I said this wasn’t going to be the post about how I am failing to write a novel.) Essentially I am one of those people who writes extremely clean first drafts, quite slowly. Most of the good lines in a story that I get are there on the first round. And then there’s the problem that I’m completely made of bravado and fuck it why not do the thing impulsiveness, and thus have a tendency to, well. Submit just-finished-yesterday stories to Clarkesworld. (This may be why I have never yet sold to Clarkesworld.) Over the past couple of years I have gotten to the point where I can let a draft sit for a day, so I can read it for clunky language errors and get them out. But I am hideously bad at doing Second Drafts, the real ones where you shore up all the hanging threads and, y’know, make sure your incluing works. I’m bad at seeing second drafts. At seeing what needs to be done.
I think I need to get better. Especially if I want to keep this sales momentum going.
But it’s hard to get past that blissful bubble-moment of I finished it! It’s gorgeous! Everyone will buy it! Let’s SEND IT OUT! which is honestly how I manage to not hate my work in the immediate aftermath of having written it.
Mph. Process. But I’m learning.