An Inside Look at Revision: Where to Begin?

Aubrey: Remnants of Transformation is now available on Amazon and Smashwords. With every chapter, I posted notes about the process of revision--why writers add things, delete things, change things. I'm not claiming my decisions were always right or wrong! These posts are rather to illustrate how writing is a process, a series of decisions, culminating quite often in hard work (as in, Uh-oh,  I'm going to have to rewrite that entire section!).

Chapter 1: Leftovers
Julie Manet with Cat by Renoir from Wikimedia*

The first chapter of Aubrey initially began several months before the current novella begins. I removed this initial chapter, put it back in, removed in, put it back . . . The problem was two-fold: (1) the original first chapter raised issues that became moot the more Aubrey was revised; (2) it differed in tone from the rest of the novel.

Tone is one of those odd issues that is more subjective than, say, point of view. Monty Python can tell a funny story that suddenly dives into seriousness and vice versa (although Monty Python is more likely to tell a sarcastic story that suddenly dives into pure weirdness as in Life of Brian). But then Monty Python is rarely aiming for tonal cohesion. James Joyce, on the other hand, never skips between light humor and deadly, deadly seriousness.

Skipping between light humor and sarcastic seriousness is less problematic to a story's overall tone. Aubrey rests somewhere between these two points. After several female readers commented on the darkness of the current Chapter 1, I decided the switch between light and less light would be too extreme. I should start with the seriousness of Aubrey's transformation. Things could get lighter or darker from there.

And, to be honest, I like starting stories in the middle!

*The illustrations for these posts were originally posted alongside the blog Aubrey chapters. Each illustration was chosen from nineteenth century/early-twentieth century pictures and photographs. The tone of the above picture is definitely much less dark than Chapter 1. However, it's a girl and a cat--how appropriate! 

1 comment:

Joe said...

I do think you can over revise, which is why having an editor is a good thing (either to tell you to cut/revise something you like or to stop you from getting too OCD.)

I'm especially critical of people revising previous works in more than a trivial way, even if can prove that was your original intention (looking at you Mr. Lucas) or if you are embarrassed by your work (looking at you Mr. Card.)