About writing

Come Write a Book, 2

Part 1b: The Revision

Novels are made up of scenes. Scenes are a complex of setting, character(s), event, and outcome. Some would be destroyed by any alteration or interruption. Others, as long as the readers don’t know about it so as to sit up and say, “Hey! Wait a minute!” can be altered – if you don’t alter too many of the elements. To be sure, after the alteration it’s a different scene. But you can start the same and end differently, and if you do it right, no one’s the wiser.

So I found a scene like that. Okay, changing a scene when you’re only 27.328% through the book has implications for the rest of the book. Nothing a little ‘Find and Replace’ can’t fix. Okay, you got me again. That can’t fix it, though you will have to do that. Everything isn’t different after that, but many things are. And the big question is, once you’ve got off your former course like that, can you ever get back on it?

I found my scene, and off we went in a different direction. I had to steer one character out of the next few, well…many, scenes. He became a lesser character – which I realized wasn’t so bad because he’d been a lesser character anyway. And I had to deal with some of the real world problems the beefed-up character and my main character would face in their new situation.

One of which was that they didn’t speak the same language. Others of which were that they were adrift in a small boat on a large body of water with which they were unfamiliar, had no food or drinking water, and no idea how to get out of the situation.

That actually changed things up quite a bit. And then, in the process of solving that dilemma, they stumbled into another. Which brought about yet another life-threatening challenge or two and…. Wow. This was really getting to be quite different.

But I liked the new, mega-sized version of the old character, now beefed-up. And I liked the new character that turned up with the new challenges. And I liked the relationships forming among the three characters. So they all had to go through the rest of the book together now that they’d become friends.

Which meant quite a few changes in the rest of the book. In particular, it meant moving a major scene from one side of the York River to the other. Which meant it was a different scene altogether, however similar it might have been to the old scene. Well, at least, it gave me a ‘deleted scene’ to put on the ‘COMPLETE’ DVD.

Having done all that, though, I couldn’t leave them there. What would become of them? What would happen to their friendship? What would happen to the victorious colonies and all their famous people? If I was going to find out, I would have to write the next book.

“So there you have it,” as Emperor Franz Joseph said to Mozart about his difficulty with Mozart’s music. So that’s why there’s going to be another book, the one you’re going to write with me.

The map above shows where my characters were lost (green pin), the site where the old scene was (blue), and the site of the new scene (red).

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