The Red Pen

Your pardon at the quality of the pictures, but I took those with my phone which does not have the best camera. They get the point across, though. I received feedback from an agent awhile back, feedback I was uncertain about. I never rush right into feedback assuming that a person is right or wrong. I weigh everything on a case-by-case basis. In this case, she pointed out a "defect" that wasn't actually a defect because it was intentional (I had intentionally slowed the pacing as a parallel to the bureaucracy of the setting).

Not to dismiss this feedback out of hand, I pondered on it long and hard. Not just long or hard, but both long and hard together, which is proven to yield better results. What I found was two things. 1) She was correct that, regardless of the atmosphere of the setting, there was an element of the craft that needed improvement. I could do better. 2) Whether I write it intentionally or not, slow-paced books are not the way for a first-time author to get published.

All this meant little until I realized a mistake I had made. I made it in the original draft and thought I fixed it in the final but never went far enough on the correction. This was the key! Not only would I fix the error, but I would improve the pacing and everyone would be happy.

So that's exactly what I did. I set about taking a comb a la Spaceballs in the desert scene. I chopped something like six-eight thousand words, combined chapters, rewrote two entirely, and in the end, the story was so much stronger for it.

So I go back to said agent and say, madam you are wise and virtuous. I have followed your inspired criticism and proffer to you a better draft, should you be willing to accept it. Her response was: send me the first three chapters.

You know that sound effect where the car tires screech and then there's a loud crash? Yeah, that happened in my brain. The first three chapters? But my revisions start in chapter 4!

Again, not to dismiss things out of hand, I ask myself, could these chapters use attention as well? I had already cut some five thousand words from them just during my normal revision process (yeah, they were big). Looking at the word counts and previous feedback, it seemed like chapter two had room to give. There was a lot of cool stuff that established character background and setting but didn't do a lot for the story.

So how do we approach this? I mean, this is serious. This is the time. Make it or break it. Do it or die. We need...THE RED PEN!

I don't use hardcopy much any more. I'm 100 times faster on my computer. I write on my PC. I revise on my PC. I revise again on my PC. But sometimes there is a time when things are important enough that I have to go old school.

Now very few of you (and by few I mean 1, unless you came over from Book Country where I reviewed some others) have ever experienced my critiquing. To put it mildly, I am ruthless. I don't normally offer to review other people's work for a variety of reasons, but chief among them is that they don't like me when I'm done. (That might be an exaggeration. I made one guy cry, but we became very close after that.)

What those people don't realize is that I'm equally hard on myself. And so you don't have to take my word for it, here is my long-form photographic evidence.

Here we go, making changes.

Wow, this needs tightening. Move stuff. Get rid of that. And that.

Okay, really? What they hell were you thinking. Just no. Don't do that.