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30 January 2009 @ 11:51 am

I have been having the nagging feeling that I don’t really have a *plot* in place here in this book. That’s not necessarily unusual for this stage: I’m about halfway through and I tend to lose confidence around here. So, in an attempt to shore up my confidence, I went and re-read the synopsis, which I’d been kind of deliberately ignoring because we’d changed a bunch of stuff around and the synopsis didn’t really reflect certainly the way the book ends anymore, at least.

Unfortunately, what it does reflect is a plot. One that is, in fact, missing from the book as it’s written. Part of me, right now, is going, “No, no, no! We can make it work! It’ll be okay! It’s going to be fine! Keep going!”

That’s the same part that felt vaguely uncomfortable with, and said the same thing about, HOUSE OF CARDS. Those of you who’ve been reading that long may remember that HoC got a revision letter back that said, “Take a look at these six things,” and the six things required me to throw out two thirds of the book and rewrite the remaining third so the book had a plot.


Do not let it be said I cannot learn from my mistakes. I will not keep going, blithely hoping that somehow nobody will notice the book is missing a plot, because somebody will. Instead I will now rewrite everything that I’ve written this year, on the order of 30K words.

The book is due February 28th.

I am so screwed.

Well, no. I’m not, because in fact the worst case scenario amount of rewriting means 3K a day, which I can *do*. I don’t particularly want to *have* to, but that’s what I get for fucking the book up. I am, however, plenty pissed off at myself, and not at all happy about this turn of events.

Know what the hardest part about this is? Not even having screwed up, not the rewriting, but the shaking off of the old story and *facing* having to start over. I want, very very badly, to be able to salvage what I’ve written, and I *can’t*. There are ideas in some of what I’ve done that are good, and I may be able to implement some of them, but I cannot let myself approach this from a ‘revise these scenes’ angle. I have got to go back and *rewrite* everything. A hundred and thirty pages. I swear to god, I could kill myself for stupidity right now.

All right. I am going to go upstairs and build a new directory for the revisions, put all the old stuff away, and try really hard to pretend it’s not there. And then I’m going to come down here, have lunch, and go back to work trying to pretend I haven’t done anything on this book for the last month and start anew.


(x-posted from the essential kit)
Current Mood: pissed offpissed off
plums deifyalmond_tiger on January 30th, 2009 12:00 pm (UTC)
I really dislike this feeling (and I only have my own deadlines, not a publisher's!) I hope you find your plot and it inspires you as much as the first idea of the book ever did.
kitmizkit on January 30th, 2009 12:04 pm (UTC)
Oh, I've got the plot now that I've looked at the synopsis. I know exactly what I need to do for the first rewritten chapter bit, which is *good*, but doesn't make it any less *frustrating*. Grr.
Autopopeautopope on January 30th, 2009 12:01 pm (UTC)

Email your editor now. Tell them what's going on, and that you've got to ditch 30K words and rewrite, and tell them why -- it's to avoid giving them the extra work of writing that revision letter.

You'll probably get a pat on the head and an extra month. Editors like it when authors save them work -- and if you hand in a sub-standard MS on deadline it won't get published any faster. All they need to know is that you're asking for extra time for a good reason, which they can raise in the marketing meeting when everyone else asks where the book is.

(Confession -- I've done this, more than once. The unforgivable crime in an editor's eye is not being late -- authors are expected to be late once in a while -- but not warning them in advance. Editors dislike surprises more than they dislike late manuscripts.)

Also: shovel the dead words into a sack and stash them somewhere. You never know -- you might be able to recycle them in a different novel some time.
kitmizkit on January 30th, 2009 12:04 pm (UTC)
Already emailed her. The thing that I really hate is that I've got another book due June 1, and so cannot afford, if it's at all possible, for this one to be late.

And I always keep the drafts, they're just stuffed into their own directories so I don't have to stare at them. :)
Autopopeautopope on January 30th, 2009 12:15 pm (UTC)
The thing that I really hate is that I've got another book due June 1, and so cannot afford, if it's at all possible, for this one to be late.

I feel your pain.

I've got 72% of a book written that's due March 1st with Publisher A. Trouble is, I've got 0% written of a book that was due July 31st with Publisher B -- until I told my editor at Publisher B what the problem was. (I am hoping she decides that book C, which is due in 2010 but is already 100% written, can be slotted in as a substitute, suddenly giving me a 12 month extension for the one that was due July 31st, and which needs it badly.)

Seriously? Tell her it's going to have a scheduling knock-on effect. If they're both books with the same publisher, she ought to be able to juggle your deadlines accordingly. (If necessary remind her that you aren't doing this out of pique -- you need the money.)
kitmizkit on January 30th, 2009 12:17 pm (UTC)
Sadly, they're for different publishers.

Good luck getting your own schedule re-arranged. I'm going back to my writing computer now, there to open a vein...
Autopopeautopope on January 30th, 2009 12:20 pm (UTC)
Mine are with different publishers too. Seriously, your editors must know you're with different publishers, don't they? Do you have follow-on books with both publishers? If so, there's your leverage. "I need more time inserting in my schedule now, for this book -- and don't try to claw it back from the next book's schedule. Otherwise there will be knock-on effects all down the line."

(We ought to compare multi-publisher scheduling horror stories at P-Con. Doubt it'd make a panel anyone other than the other professionals would be interested in, though ...)

Edited at 2009-01-30 12:21 pm (UTC)
Laura Anne Gilman: madness tollsuricattus on January 30th, 2009 12:23 pm (UTC)
*feels your pain*

*passes the home-made chocolate chip-and-[safe]peanut-butter chunk cookies*

*goes back to dealing with her own pain and a 4 February deadline*
Maura McHugh: beleagueredsplinister on January 30th, 2009 12:45 pm (UTC)
Argh, how dreadful!

You are disheartened, but remember you've made a hard decision - the right decision - and now it's a whole new book. Once you get past the murderous anger, hopefully you'll be energised by the prospect.

Best of luck with the book! Don't beat yourself up too much - you recognised the problem and tackled it now. That takes courage.
kitmizkit on January 30th, 2009 03:42 pm (UTC)
The murderous anger seems to be very useful right now, really. If I could keep it harnessed for the next two weeks I'd be in good shape, but I fear it will be replaced by gloomy determination. :)
The Green Knight: Beegreen_knight on January 30th, 2009 12:46 pm (UTC)
I sympathize with the mystery of the missing plot - I've once written, happily out-of-order (which turned out to be a bad decision, leaving all the hard parts for last), 92K of disconnected scenes. When I did get around to turning them into a novel, around the 35K mark, I noticed this gaping hole where a plot ought to reside.

Err, ooops. Good on you for noticing it early. Best of luck with it.
All Over The Mapjemck on January 30th, 2009 01:06 pm (UTC)
Has the world stopped spinning on its axis?

Yes, I know it feels like it has, but just go check, okay?

No, it hasn't, has it?

Have Ted and the cats packed all your possessions in a red spotty hanky and tied it to a stick and shoved you out the door?

Nope, coz they all still love you.

This is absolutely not to belittle your pain.

Trust in my unbounded sympathies here, right?

But this too will pass.

(and what Charlie says, pretty much, as well)
kitmizkit on January 30th, 2009 03:43 pm (UTC)
Has the world stopped spinning on its axis?


oh okay probably not but still GRRLGLGHHGH
Pamelajeditigger on January 30th, 2009 01:45 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I have to go with the prevailing sentiment here. You are an exceptionally gifted writer who can get this handled because it's the sort of thing that happens to writers, alas. Timing's bad, but I am absolutely certain what'll come out February 28th is all the better for this redo.

Good luck. We all have faith in you.
(Deleted comment)
kitmizkit on January 30th, 2009 03:49 pm (UTC)
Probably not. A few chapters might be salvageable for *this* book, but I don't generally write stuff that can be revised and put into something else.
sammywolsammywol on January 30th, 2009 02:37 pm (UTC)
Passes chocolate on the end of a very long stick. So sorry!

At what point do publishers get to the Douglas Adams style of amused tolerance/acceptance of possibly getting the book in the same decade as the deadline stipulated? Or has that gone out like platform boots and winkle pickers?
kitmizkit on January 30th, 2009 03:49 pm (UTC)
When you're Douglas Adams.
UrsulaVursulav on January 30th, 2009 02:47 pm (UTC)
Uf da.

I can add very little constructive, but I throw sympathy in your direction!
Kevenn: Elphabakevenn on January 30th, 2009 02:56 pm (UTC)
Oh boy. That's not fun. God luck with the massive re-write! :/
Kristine Smith: hammerkristine_smith on January 30th, 2009 03:00 pm (UTC)
I don't have any words of comfort to offer. I am facing a formidable amount of revision myself and a month in which to do it. I read your words, and they could be mine. I've had to trash significant portions of every book I've written. A few weeks before, I would have looked at what I had and sworn it was fine, that it only needed a tweak here or there. But then the revision letter arrives and once again I realize that dammit, I left whole entire chunks of marble hanging on that block that is the work in question.

I'm not even including the pre-revision "even Kris realizes this isn't working and must be trashed" stage, which results in a first draft that is serviceable. But still, someone else's eyes and insight are needed to divine the problems. Which I was aware of sorta kinda even as I hoped that THIS TIME, AT THIS POINT IN MY CAREER, I had built the book well enough to stand on its own.


I hear you.
kitmizkit on January 30th, 2009 03:50 pm (UTC)
*pours you a stiff drink and does revisions with you*
S. L. Grayshadowhwk on January 30th, 2009 04:35 pm (UTC)
-offers all she can-

Which looks a lot like sympathy.
desperancedesperance on January 30th, 2009 06:28 pm (UTC)
Oh, glory. I hate that kind of do-it-over rewrite more than I hate anything else ever, including being mugged. It's kind of like a mental/creative mugging, only you are obliged to do it to yourself...

Also, I have never had to do it from that far in, going back that far. Oh, except that there is a novella which must be on the order of 50K that needs rewriting from the bottom up, not exactly for lack of plot but, well, nothing actually goes wrong at any point in the course of it, and probably it ought to, don'tcha think...?

But the point is that I haven't done that rewrite, because I can't bear the thought of it. Every time I think of it, I flinch away and poke at something else instead.

So here is your Medal of Heroic Authorship, First Class, from somebody who flunked his own. Now go forth and earn it...
robinowenswriterobinowenswrite on February 1st, 2009 03:39 am (UTC)
You Can Do IT!
Yeah, rah-rah. I've been so late on so many books for the last few years that I cringe at your pain, but am clutching my heart in relief that I am a couple of days away from finishing a book due Feb 28. Of course I'm thinking it is 50 pages too long (haven't actually put it together), so cutting/tightening will be hard, but it will be SHEER luxury to let it sit or tinker with it for a month.

I am SO sorry for your pain. You CAN do it!
love, robin
Brian: panda bouncinglogrusboy on February 2nd, 2009 05:36 am (UTC)
Now that it's happened to you twice, are you going to have to hang a big sign over your computer that says "Remember the plot!"?
kitmizkit on February 2nd, 2009 11:00 am (UTC)
Perhaps one that says, "Remember, remember the 5th of November, gunpowder, treason and ***PLOT***!!!!!!" :)
Brianlogrusboy on February 2nd, 2009 03:30 pm (UTC)
You gotta write with a Pee-Ell-Oh-Teee-eee!