Sunday, August 17, 2014

An Undefinable Something: Thoughts from Revision Process

My fabulous Critique Partner, KT Simpson, has read three of my novels so far.

She recently tore through what I refer to on Twitter as #FairyPrisonBook, staying up late into the night to finish within a few days of receiving it, sending all-caps reaction texts at two in the morning.

She’s now reading a different novel, and it’s going slower. No reactionary texts to speak of.

This is understandable to me, considering I wrote the last 30k of #FairyPrisonBook in three days, careening through the latter half easily, and excitedly—

While this other novel rewrite dragged.

I recently saw KT’s face LIVE AND IN PERSON FOR THE SECOND TIME EVER (I’ll try to refrain from bragging) and at one point we stumbled into a conversation about this, and the tangible difference between #FairyPrisonBook and the other projects she’s read for me.

When I searched around for words and landed on “It has a heart that the others don’t yet,” she knew exactly what I meant, and agreed.

Now, to a certain extent, this feeling rises up every time I switch to actively work on a new project. Whatever I’m working on at the time feels like it’s becoming the best thing I’ve ever done. This is the project that will make it, this is the one that readers will adore and agents will fall over each other to represent.

I could refer to it in any number of ways that we’ve all heard before—heart, inspiration, spark, it-factor.

But none of those words entirely encompass the feeling in my gut.

Frankly I feel kind of ridiculous writing a blog post about something so undefinable and vague and impossible to replicate.

I just want to document this feeling right now, because it feels like something different.

The fact that KT felt it too, that there is something separating #FairyPrisonBook from the other things I’ve put before her? It feels like confirmation that there is something there.

I’ve managed to start scraping some of that something that was missing onto the page.

I feel this way so strongly in some parts of the book that I can spot certain places where it’s not there. And then after tweaking sentences again and again, I can feel it start to come back. It’s like that quote about carving away every bit of stone that’s not a statue…

Which of course does not mean that this is definitively The Book.

There’s no guarantee #FairyPrisonBook will get published. For all I know, this feeling’s all in my head.

But I do know where I’ve stumbled across the spark before—often enough to know that it was missing in my own work.

Certain published books I’ve read have it. Not always the most well-crafted, not always the most profound or the most ambitious. And it’s not always there for everyone else.

But certain books, I love. I gush over. I connect for no reason I can put words to, other than this undefinable something.

I’m not saying #FairyPrisonBook is to that level, obviously. Not yet, though it’s closer than I’ve ever come before.

And I know a big part of this is that it is a newer project, crafted after everything I’ve learned from those other drafts. Pacing, tension, balance, character—all the other individual elements that make up a book. I’ve gotten better at handling them the longer I write, and some of that improvement might just finally be making it into the draft as a whole.

But it’s not just that, either.

Is it improvement in craft? Is it just passion for the specific themes in this particular project? Or is it all my imagination, something to look back on in fifteen years and laugh over how close I thought I was back when I didn’t really know anything?

I have no idea what it is.

But it’s here, or it’s starting to be, and I hope I can keep the feeling going.

*more on #FairyPrisonBook here, and earlier today I happened across this post "Finding My Voice in Fantasy" by Lev Grossman that kind of reminded me of the feeling I'm talking about*

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