The Joy of Revision

The Joy of Revision

Photo by: Sama Hotoke

I got a Writer’s Digest workbook “Write Your Novel in 30 Days” because reading these things gets the Muses going even better than reading fiction or watching films for some odd reason. It has great advice of second drafts as well. In there is a list off agents’  pet peeves and among them is beginning a story with dialogue.

I was in theater for most of my life and love films and writing screenplays, so sometimes dialogue is what gets me into a story. This happened with The Roses of the Moon (Which I wrote the first draft of in 30 days in November 2007 without even knowing there was this Novel in 30 days  thing going on.) My editor told me it was very bad to open with dialogue, so I grudgingly brainstormed a setting description. It improves the book a lot!

The Lady in Yellow opened with  an entire page of dialogue I wasn’t sure about that, but reading the agents’ pet peeves convinced me to open with the setting. I think it improves the book a lot!

Won’t argue with that any more.

I’d be curious what you think is better.

EXAMPLES:

This was the old opening of my novel ( to be released this fall) The Roses of the Moon:

The Roses of the Moon

“Marcsa Virag! Get away from the door!”

The voice burst out like a blast of cold wind, blowing me into the shadows below the torchlight. The points of my shoes caught in the swirling hem of my shirts, tripping me to the floor. I broke my fall with my hands and, winded for a moment, glanced around for my doll. She was gone. I turned to look back the way I had come and, through a blur of tears, saw my doll’s small, dark shape lying in a wand of firelight between the wall and the door cracked open upon the private chambers of the Countess Orzsebet.

 

NEW VERSION:

The Roses of the Moon

Our castle was full of echoes. In the daylight hours, the walls reverberated with the noises of men going about their business. Sharp footsteps, low conversations, doors briskly opened and shut reassured me that the world was as in its proper order, that we were safe. But at night, the isolated sounds of women threaded through the maze of corridors and stairs: skirts rustling, hinges creaking, whispers, cries, and songs. Sometimes there were screams.

One evening, at dusk, I heard a voice like a golden bell ringing along an eerie minor scale. The voice led me down a long corridor to a door that was always closed to me. A seam of firelight streamed along its lower edge, a snort of dragon’s blood seeped out. The beautiful voice held me in its spell, then slowly faded away and the emptiness was filled with a chorus of deeper voices, chanting.

Clutching my doll to my heart, I pushed the door open just wide enough to see clouds of smoke, flashing candlelight, and white, disembodied faces.

“Marcsa Virag! Get away from the door!”

The reprimand struck like a blast of cold wind, blowing me back into the shadows below the torchlight. The points of my shoes caught in the swirling hem of my shirts, tripping me to the floor. I broke my fall with my hands and, lying winded for a moment, glanced around for my doll. She was gone. I turned to look back the way I had come and, through a blur of tears, saw its small, dark shape lying in a wand of firelight between the wall and the door, holding it open upon the private chambers of the Countess Orzsebet.

****

The Lady in Yellow – a tale of Victorian werewolves inspired by Henry James Turn of the Screw, will be available on Kindle this coming week.

A young governess takes a job at remote Belden House only to find herself falling deeply in love with a werewolf…

The first version of The Lady in Yellow is in the previous post. Compare it to this and tell me what you think:

The Lady in Yellow

Chapter One

*

The spindly agent stood behind his shining Chippendale desk reading Veronica‘s reference letter. The stack of papers neatly squared on his blotter was much higher than the the mere covering letter and two references she had sent him. Veronica shifted her gaze to the classical sculptures, the enormous paintings, the imposing floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. He’d said he had the perfect position for her: governess to a pair of twins. The bonnet ribbon tied at her throat felt much too tight. When the agent cleared his throat, so did her smile.

“Miss Everly?”

“Yes, Sir?”

The agent leveled an assessing gaze at Veronica through a pince nez perched on the end of his long, elevated nose. She straightened her shoulders, grateful for the support of her stays, and tucked the scuffed toes of her shoes under her hem.

He set the letter down on top of the stack of papers, squared them, and tapped them with the tip of his boney finger.  Then he picked it up again and, pacing away from the desk, perused the missive one more time. He sighed.

“You must understand, the twins are a bit difficult. Am I correct in seeing in your covering letter that you have had experience with a mad child?”

****

Trouble with writing is that you never stop learning. It makes me very glad that I have 10-12 years of unpublished manuscripts, that I never submitted them and that they have sat stewing until I know what to do an why to make them the best they can be. I hope once I get these polished and out the door, that the next several books I have cooking will come together much faster. Have I reached mastery? Guess I’ll  have to wait to find out.

I have to polish up:

Salome: The Seventh Queen – novella about Salome who danced for the head of John the Baptist and then regrets it. Now she must dance to bring him back to life. Horrific!

Memento Mori – novella of a remote English village haunted by ghosts of those who died of bubonic plague in 1666

Rosewolf – YA  novel about a girl werewolf

 Once those are done and out in the world, I am back to the fabulous right-brain world of writing a first draft!

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