The Magic of Revisions: Right Time, Right Place

Oh and believe me, I had to resist “write time, write place” up there, but I’d smack myself for it later.

Anyway, funny thing happened to me last night. There I was, having dinner (uncured brats on gluten-free buns with baked sweet potato fries, thanks for asking) and I realized that I had left my last unread critique on the table. During a lull in conversation with the wife I picked it up and read the overall critique of that portion of the story.


As usual, he had some valid points and some points that would clear up as the story progresses, but what really grabbed me was a comment about how much easier one group had it than the other in this particular scene. No spoilers here, so don’t ask, but one of the issues he brought up was this particularly nasty little strike force that shows up in the early half of the book. Exquisite timing. I’m in the middle of writing another battle scene toward the end of the book and needed to fill in some of the blanks on this scene. The scene just felt uneven and lacking an emotional depth that was necessary.

Cue this comment. A particularly emotional event occurs in that earlier scene, which ends with a character vowing revenge on the strike team. The later scene already comes together so that the character who made that vow (Omarosa, from the Station) is present at the exact point where I should insert that strike force. They aren’t in the first draft, but they sure as hell belong there. I made a nice long note to myself that the second draft would feature the strike force and the denouement of that earlier promise.

Now, why not rewrite the scene if I just finished it? That was my first impulse, believe me, but I’m coming to realize that it’s just as important psychologically to get through that first draft, which means that revisions like that should come on the second pass. Especially when I have changes to make to that earlier scene. Some characters could change and all that effort would be for naught.

I guess what I’m saying is that there are two levels of timing here: one is the timing of reading that comment at the right moment. That kind of timing is very important, and it’s led to some critical breakthroughs for other artists in the past.

The other timing is one that you create. It’s born from knowing the right time to pull the trigger. Sometimes it might be right to make that change immediately and strike while the iron is hot. Other times, such as this, it might be best to let the scene simmer and come back to it with a fresher perspective. These are the kinds of decisions that truly shape your work, and you certainly get better at recognizing them with more experience.

By the way, for dedicated readers, the end of this battle scene is…well, I hate to say something is pretty cool when it comes to my own work, but I’m quite pleased with how it’s  all going down. I mean, there’s no way to avoid it: this is going to be a weird book, and the third book will be even weirder. I’m doing a lot of things that likely won’t do the book any favors when it comes to selling. This story was always meant to walk the fine edge between insanity and stupidity. I’d rather fall on the side of insanity, personally.

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