Revisions: Wait, What About This One?
I just sent the fourth version of the latest chapter in my WIP to one of my critique partners. That is, the fourth official version of the chapter. There are three earlier versions I saved as possible alternatives or had lines in them I liked but didn’t quite fit where they were and might be used later. There were many, many other versions where bits and pieces were added or deleted then brought in under one of the keepers. One only has so much capacity to save junk.
While rewriting and revising are part of the game, this particular chapter was a real PITA. No, it’s not the one I alluded to in my last post. That one comes later--though this one does have some sexual tension in it and a thwarted attempt at intimacy. But it wasn’t the sexual mechanics of the scene that kicked my butt and led to a week or so of musing and keyboard-to-head frustration.
Initially, the scene was one of simple seduction, of two characters finally getting a chance to act upon their mutual attraction. OK, not so simple, and I had some doubts about how the scene was working out, but that’s what crit partners are for. I’d always planned on the protagonist to stop things short of the actual sex act, thereby (I hoped) building the tension between the two leads until the big “first time together” scene later. But somewhere along the line, between the submission of the first draft to my crit partner and my re-reading of it, the protag’s motivation did a 180, going from reluctant snubber to pursuer. Crap. And the second character (yes, I’m intentionally being dodgy with information about them) did a 180 the other way, going from the one who gets snubbed to the one who backs off. And damned if it doesn’t work better. OK, I think it works better. Again, a job for my crit partners to tackle at this point.
Easy, right? If I could come up with the fact that they changed direction then their reasons should be obvious. But it wasn’t so easy. The relationship between the two develops along two different lines, with two different motivations for pursuit. When the two switched sides, I had to figure out why. Each character, each scene, each story, needs to have three things: goal, motivation, and conflict (Thank you, Debra Dixon!).
I thought I had these taken care of, but apparently not. I think I know my characters pretty well going into a story, but now and again they surprise me by not doing what I want them to do. I’m not a writer who *speaks* to her characters. I don’t have visions of them in my head stamping their wee feet at me with petulant little pouts on their full lips. I do see scenes play out in my head, like a mini movie, but the characters don’t talk to me directly. What happens is that scenes just don’t work. They read flat and boring. It’s like watching a movie on an ancient projector with a sticky feed; the film in my brain stutters and the action stops. I have to go back and rewind, figure out what was going on before that point in the story and what will be going on later. I’m not a strict plotter, so sometimes this happens at turning points that need to be addressed with more depth than I’d previously considered. Which is fine. Most of the time, I catch it before sending bits out to my CPs. This time, not so much. So I revised. And revised, and revised, and revised. And I think it's a lot better than it was. Is it perfect? No, but that’s what my crit partners are for : )
And if this story is ever sold, chances are it will be revised again to some degree. But that’s fine too. Any agent or editor who wants to work with me and get me closer to publication is more than welcome to ask for revisions.