Writing Life #14: Screwing Up; Moving On

Oh, man. The Writing Life is killing me right now!

I have self-imposed a deadline: By September 1, I have to finish new drafts of both I Hunt Killers and The Book That Will Kill Me. The reason for this is that as of September 1, I’ll be taking a vacation (my first in years) and I don’t want either book hanging over my head while I’m gone. I’m not trying to rush or anything — I fully plan on going through them again when I get back. I just want both books in a good place before I leave.

But this is proving more difficult that it might have seemed at first.

The Book That Will Kill Me is, of course, monstrous. You saw the picture last week. I’ve managed to read through it since then and the news is…mixed.

See, when I was writing the book, it felt very, very…complicated. Difficult. But when I read it this past week, it was a breeze. It wasn’t difficult to read at all.

Now, you may be thinking, “Isn’t that a good thing, Barry? Don’t you want people not to have to struggle to read your work?” And, yeah, that’s fine, but it’s just that… I’ve never been in this position before, where in the writing of something, it felt so firmly and assuredly X, only to discover that it’s really Y. It means I’m taking extra care in the revision process, trying to make sure my revisions fit in with what the book actually is, not what I think it is.

Does that make any sense? Probably not to anyone but me. 🙂

As to Killers. Well. Two beta readers had time to take a look at it last week and — horror of horrors — they both pointed out the same thing. The sort of thing where, as a writer, you think someone might notice it, but you figure 99% of readers aren’t going to, so you convince yourself to let it slide.

And my first two readers pointed it out.

That’s the sort of news that really makes me want to head to the liquor cabinet, folks. One person noticing? Hell, that’s just a perceptive and/or lucky reader. But two people?

That means one thing, and one thing only: Author error. In technical terms, I fucked up.

I know exactly what I did wrong. I know exactly how to fix it.

Well, that’s not precisely true. There are actually two ways to fix it. One is easy.

One is hard.

The easy one, sad to say, feels like a bit of a cheat. I could probably do it, but… I wouldn’t feel right about it.

So I think I’m going to take the hard way out. Which means re-thinking a chunk of the book, making room for some new material, and just generally opening up the guts of it and poking around to see what I can see. Not my idea of a fun time.

But you know what? It’s OK. Ultimately, this is going to make for a stronger book.

A while back, I blogged about how I don’t revise a lot, how what ends up being published is very close to my first drafts. And how I suspected that this year I would end up having to do a lot of revising. An oracle I’m not, but I nailed that particular prediction.

The reason, of course, is because I’m trying new things as a writer. New kinds of stories for new audiences (and, hopefully, for the old audience, too!). This means taking some chances, taking some risks. Tripping over my own feet. Falling down. Getting back up. Tending to the occasional skinned knee. I could keep extending this metaphor, but I’m afraid I’d strain something.

In short, while it’s a definite annoyance to see that I have a little more work cut out for myself than I’d intended or hoped, it’s a good thing in the long run. I have many, many kinds of stories I want to tell in this Writing Life. That means I’ll always be making mistakes, figuring out new things, and learning as I write.

I can think of a lot worse things.

See you next week!

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