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Done, With 4 Days to Spare

May 1, 2008 at 2:36 pm

Today is my deadline for submitting the manuscript of Bitter Seeds to my editor at Tor. I'm very happy to say that I beat the deadline by four days. Hooray!

In fact, I could have submitted the manuscript almost two months ago, but I'm an incorrigible rewriter. (And I'd like to think that it's now a stronger manuscript than it was two months ago.) After finishing the first draft, I spent about six weeks on a fairly extensive cover-to-cover rewrite. Part of that was simply because I know the characters so much better now than I did when I started this book, and also because my skills have (I hope) improved a little bit over the course of writing it. (Which was the sole purpose of this exercise when I first contemplated it.) But I'd also acquired many great notes and suggestions on this book via workshopping, and most of those didn't get incorporated into the first draft. That's what second drafts are for.

Editing and rewriting is my favorite part of the writing process -- I rewrite better than I write. I enjoy working on something that's already on paper, filing down the burrs, slicing away the imprecision, finding more succinct ways to express myself. (Something I obviously never do here.) It's rewarding. I suppose it's a little bit like polishing rocks-- the first draft is coarse, jagged, dirt-crusted prose. But after quality time in the tumbler (or, in my case, with a red ballpoint pen) it turns into something different. Smooth. Shiny. Purty. Well, purtier than it was, anyway.

I enjoy physically seeing the improvements in a draft. So I do most of my editing and rewriting on paper, with a red pen. For some reason, my brain works more effectively at a keyboard when I'm doing the original composition, but it works more effectively with pen and paper when I'm doing revisions. Every experiment with reversing that has ended in failure. So, for Bitter Seeds, I printed out all 500-plus pages of the first draft and stuck them into a 3-ring binder. (The fattest binder that Office Depot hadin stock at the moment, as a matter of fact.) Then I sat down with a pen and a cup of coffee, and opened the binder to page one.

That's not to say the book is finished. Not by any means. An entire cycle of editorial notes and revisions looms in the future. I'm looking forward to that, because it will make the book smoother and shinier. But for now, as of today (well, four days ago) the current manuscript represents my very best effort. Burrs and all.

Comments

Bob Pogainis May 2, 2008 at 4:13 am
Does this mean the release date has been moved up to "2009 minus 4 days"? Congratulations, and I hope you enjoy having a couple days off.
Ian May 2, 2008 at 7:46 am
Thanks, Bob! I think the release date depends on when the stars will be properly aligned... It's not uncommon for a year (or more) to pass between when the manuscript is submitted and when it hits the shelves.. It's possible I could be working on the final book in the trilogy when the first one hits the shelves. Thanks for stopping by. Hope Belgium is treating you guys well. :)
Maggie May 3, 2008 at 6:41 am
Wow, is this really the cousin Ian that I used to play bumper pool with in our grandparent's basement on Lake Vermillion? Hey...it's Maggie. Maren (yes, another long lost relative)sent me the link to your website. Congratulations on all you've got going on! Very impressive... I've been living in Italy for the past 4 months and am headed back to Ohio for my clinical hours on Tuesday (went back to grad school for psychology). I posted the link to my blog which has my email on it if you feel like getting in contact. If not, no big deal, just wanted to say hi and way to go! Take care, Maggie
Maggie May 3, 2008 at 6:41 am
Wow, is this really the cousin Ian that I used to play bumper pool with in our grandparent's basement on Lake Vermillion? Hey...it's Maggie. Maren (yes, another long lost relative)sent me the link to your website. Congratulations on all you've got going on! Very impressive... I've been living in Italy for the past 4 months and am headed back to Ohio for my clinical hours on Tuesday (went back to grad school for psychology). I posted the link to my blog which has my email on it if you feel like getting in contact. If not, no big deal, just wanted to say hi and way to go! Take care, Maggie
richard May 3, 2008 at 7:00 am
That's got to feel good. Save the red-marked-up copy, it could be worth something someday.
Joe Hallett May 3, 2008 at 9:50 am
For 30 years I've had a book in my head, but newspapering always took up too much time to write the damn thing (at least that's been my excuse). There's another thing: Like Salinger, I've only got ONE novel in my head, so it's got to be literature, not churn-it-out crap. Finding you again after all these years and seeing what you are doing has inspired me to go at it, because I'm not getting any younger. I'm happy for you -- and hope you're well. Uncle Joe.
Ian May 3, 2008 at 10:51 am
Wow, indeed! Long time no see, eh? What a lovely surprise to hear from you. I see from your blog that you've become quite the accomplished world traveler since we last crossed paths. Fantastic! I hope someday to fit more travel into my life-- I'll look to you as a role model. And congratulations on your career achievements, too. Thank you so much for dropping by!
Ian May 3, 2008 at 11:03 am
I think the only value to the marked-up manuscript for Bitter Seeds will be sentimental in nature. I recently had the complete paper manuscript to the next Wild Cards novel, Busted Flush, in my possession (on loan from GRRM), and I'd be lying if I said I hadn't felt tempted to hock it on Ebay.
Ian May 3, 2008 at 11:05 am
Gosh, two reunions in the same day-- that record won't fall any time soon...

Hi, Uncle Joe! Thanks for visiting. You know, I was just on the Columbus Dispatch website not 2 weeks ago-- I poked around and was happy to see your name there.

As for our artistic aspirations... if it helps, I make no claims about the literary merits of my trilogy. A good story, well told-- that's my goal. If I can spin a yarn that keeps people entertained, I'm happy. So go to it, and set your novel loose!

S.C. Butler May 3, 2008 at 3:29 pm
Excellent, you pro writer you! Finished on deadline. And how big would that binder be anyway? Five inches?
Ian May 3, 2008 at 3:40 pm
19 inches. I print my first drafts on vellum.
Ty May 5, 2008 at 4:22 pm
I sent in my short story on stone tablets. 5000 words never looked so thick.
Melinda Snodgrass May 8, 2008 at 8:35 am
You really ought to hang onto that marked up manuscript. I tend to do most of my rewriting on the computer which is causing howls of despair from librarians. I know it feels strange and arrogant, but libraries really do want your papers. I donated all of mine to the Williamson collection at ENMU because they specialize in science fiction, and because I have close friends and associations down there. I bet the University of Minnesota would love to have your papers
Sarah Prineas May 8, 2008 at 7:39 pm
Woo hoo! Congratulations on finishing. I can't wait to see the final version.
Ian May 8, 2008 at 7:59 pm
Thanks for the woohoo, Sarah. I don't know if my rewrite did justice to your excellent critique, but I sure tried :) I'm jazzed to start seeing The Magic Thief on shelves very soon now! I'll be one of the first to buy a copy.
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