I tell my
writing students all the time that they need to draft long before the
assignment is due. There is nothing that improves revision like time away from
away from Being Blue for six weeks, having given it over to an editor.
He’s now sending it back to me in chunks: So many corrections. So many
editor claims the narrator has no personality, I think, “Of course he does!”
but after six weeks away, I read the edited draft and I can see what he meant.
So what do I
process is new. Usually I’m looking at something that hasn’t yet been revised
and the errors are so obvious, they’re easy to address. But this is the seventh
version of Being Blue.
revisions I answered the big, obvious questions:
What is the
Who is this
person, the narrator?
To whom is he
telling the story and why?
harder this time. Those questions are insufficient. They are macro questions,
they deal with the novel as a whole, its entirety. In version seven, I have to
look at the scenes, individually, and ask micro questions.
The last time
I experienced this, I was working on the opening scene of After December,
a book currently under consideration by a publisher. In the first scene, the
main character is naked in bed with his girlfriend and answers the phone when
his father calls.
seventh revision I asked, “Why would he answer the phone?”
is a complex narrative with two concurrent stories, one in Geneva, Switzerland
in 1816 and one in Ransom, Kansas, in 2002. I made a choice early on to call
the narratives Geneva and Kansas - not the micro level city name and not the
macro level country name, but in between - state and province.
between is a precarious place.
sits there, everything in his life is “in between.” His narrative therefore is
not detailed enough to be micro but not distant enough to be macro.
has to challenge Blue’s precarious balance: Between being a vampire and acting
human, between being immortal and killing to sustain himself. Between
protecting his sire’s wife and wanting her for himself. Between respecting his
sire and wanting to kill him.
the entire novel at crossroads, trying like hell to keep from choosing despite
everyone around him forcing a choice. Why won’t he choose? Why does he think
balance is so important?
safety. What could possibly be more difficult to balance than a time-traveling
focuses on balance, everyone else must challenge it. Establishing balance will
require Blue to be aware of the imbalance and his narrative of that awareness
should add more depth to his voice.
micro details with the answers to the macro questions. Ensure every scene works
within the overall concept. That’s the work of the seventh revision.