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The Spike

The writing tracker in the sidebar might suggest a sudden surge in productivity today, but in fact, that’s partly illusory.

Part of the illusion is that I’m tracking “revised” words, now, which means any text that doesn’t need to be rewritten gets included. Still, I’m approximately a third of the way through my revision of “Jjangguk and the Madman of Pyongyang,” and and my pace is holding.

I should note exactly what this means. I am about 35% of the way through the first complete revision of draft number 7 of the story. This doesn’t mean I’ve drafted it seven times, though. I’m a very careful archiver of versions of stories — earlier drafts and such — and sometimes a version number gets tacked on just to keep an earlier version on file before I make some minor revisions.

However, this story does have a long, convoluted history. I had started it about the second or third week of Clarion West, and after spending half a week trying to draft it, gave up because it was not going anywhere. (Which is why the second half of the story is so much tighter than the first half, which I drafted in a hurry and in a mood of increasing consternation.)

After the workshop, I visited my Mom in Canada for a little while. This was enough of a rest so that, on the way back to Korea, I dove into the story again, working on it some more. I then worked on it off and on, and then on, and then off, for quite some time. The last third of the story is the third idea I had after first writing a horrible ending, then writing something that ended up being WAY too much like the superhero auditions in the wonderful superhero comedy Mystery Men. Only on the third try did I figure out how my story was supposed to end, and that meant a bunch of changes, including removing a major character — a red-faced Japanese flier named Tengu who makes a cameo appearance towards the end, because I couldn’t bear to just disappear him from the story altogether.

Finally, near the end of October, I submitted the story for critique among my classmates. Over a period of a few weeks, I received pages and pages of nits, commentary, challenges, thoughts, suggestions, counter-suggestions, dittoes, and anti-dittoes. When I printed out the critiques, it was more than 20 pages of text! This, as you can imagine, daunted me.

But finally, after letting it sit for a while, I decided to get back at it. Namely, when “A Killing in Burma” ground to a halt. Now, the last couple of days were taken up mostly with me tidying, collating the comments, rereading the (currently 20,000 word) novella a few times, and thinking about it. The fact that I finally got some real revising done today makes it looks like a huge spike of activity, but I’ve been bloody busy the last few days. Which is a good thing — I mean to get this story down to 15,000-16,000 words, without losing much of the substance. I might not be possible, so my realistic goal is 18,000 words, but I also think that, honestly, if I could cut 20% off “Cai and her Ten Thousand Husbands,” the last story I substantiall overhauled, then I might be able to cut the same proportion — about 4,000-5,000 words — off this story. That’s be nice, since it’d add one or two more places where I could submit the story.

Then again, being that it’s political commentary and it’s superheroes, it might be that there are markets of which I do not know which would be interested in this. Hmmmm.

Anyway, don’t be fooled by the 35% figure. There’s at least one more round of print/read/polish waiting after this, as well as a possible round of nasty excisions of bits I love but which are clogging the story, if I don’t manage to get it down to 15,000 words.

Lots more work left on it, but not tonight. I have a staff meeting tomorrow morning, and should get some sleep.

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