Thursday, February 5, 2015

If every word is changed, is it the still same book?

We aren't wearing the same bodies we were born with -- the cells have all been replaced, and yet we still are who we are. (I'm not sure of the science of this, but you get the point.)

When I first finished Faerylander, I knew it had problems.  I set it aside.  Looking back, I'd have to say about 70% of the book was wrong, about 30% right.  The 70% that was wrong required extensive rewriting.  I didn't think I could face that.

Not to mention, I'd sort of figured out how not to make so many mistakes -- thanks largely to my experience with Faerylander -- and it was just easier to write a new book.  And another.

But eventually I went back and addressed the worst of the problems.  I came away with a book that was probably 60% wrong, and 40% right.

Again, I went away and wrote other things.  By now a couple of years had passed.

I came back to Faerylander because I still liked the ideas and the characters.  During these rewrites I also changed the tone of the book several times, and that doesn't even include the structural changes.

So I came back and worked on it again, and after several attempts, I'd say I got about 60% right and 40% wrong.

Again, I went away,

I came back again. By now, almost 4 years had passed and I'd written multiple books, many of which were published.

But I still wanted my first book to work.  I realized that in order to make the 40% right, I'd have to change much of the 60% that was already fixed.  So I threw it all in the blender and tried again.  In each attempt at fixing the book, I wrote new chapters and threw out old chapters.  At one point I put together a "Director's Cut" which included everything I wrote (whether they contradicted each other or not.)

I came up with a version that more or less worked.  About half the size of the Director's Cut.  Lots of inconsistencies had been ironed out -- and yet, I sensed it still wasn't ready.

Still, I thought I would go with it. "Good enough," I thought.

The very second I made that decision, I was somehow empowered to think about what final steps I could take to fix it.

And down the rabbit hole I went.

As those of you who read this blog know, in each and every attempt I thought I had fixed it.  But each and every time I held back with the suspicion I didn't quite have it.

So this time around has required yet more trying to fix chapters that had already been fixed, in order to fix the problem chapters.

Out of the first third of the book, I'd say I needed to fix about 10%; out of the last third of the book, the same thing.

It was the middle third that required complete rewriting -- the plot simply went in circles, not getting anywhere.  Too many duplications of scenes, too much explication, not enough forward movement.

So this last rewrite (Oh, Please Let It Be The Last Rewrite!) means pretty much rewriting over a half the book again.

By now, there is almost nothing left of the original book.  It has all been replaced, rewritten, removed.

But it is still the same book, just more deeply thought out.  In fact, this book has more backstory than any book I've written.  All that stuff I discarded is still part of the history -- just not necessary for the forward momentum of the story.

Truth is -- the book always needed to be discarded and started over.  I just couldn't face it.  So instead, I fooled myself into thinking I could fix it partly.

Funny thing happened -- each part fix added up.  I could face working on a third of the book at a time, and that's what I did.

I think -- I'm pretty sure -- I've got it this time.  

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