In June I’m supposed to talk with the publishers of Seven Archangels: Annihilation and discuss the future of Seven Archangels: An Arrow In Flight and Seven Archangels: Sacred Cups.
In prep for that, I rewrote one of the sections of “An Arrow In Flight” and then began browsing the rest of the manuscript.
The last time the file was updated was in 2007. Since then, I’ve finished one novel and written all of ♥My Book♥.
I guess “shocked” is my best word to encapsulate how I feel as I re-read the manuscript. Because in the intervening two years, I’ve learned something I didn’t realize I needed to learn. Namely, how to keep tight management over the mood of the piece.
I wrote Arrow first in 1991, around the same time as The Guardian, and set it aside. Five years later I revised it. In 2006, I revised it again, with final revisions in 2007. I thought it was done. DONE. Finis. It had been put through the literary food processor. Ivy and Wendy had read it and given it a passing grade.
Only now I read it and see the banter as annoying, the mood as completely out of control, and the scenes unfocused. ♥My Book♥ is tight-tight-tight and Arrow is ranging all over the place.
I feel like a contractor looking over a project and scrawling on the estimate, “This no be cheap.”
It’s worst because I pass from scenes that had their first start in 1991 into scenes written for the first time in 2007, because there you can see the difference in control. The 2007 scenes are bang-on, focused, and even when the mood temporarily lifts from intense to humorous, it’s still a dry, focused humor.
I’m going to need to play german shepherd to this flock of words, obviously. Culling out huge sections (I’ve already earmarked one to go) and rolling up my sleeves to get in the depths of this story with a shovel and a chain-saw.
I had three side-stories I was planning to use as “bonus material” on the book’s website, but one of them may fit in now if I pull enough other material out. Because ironically, the side-stories were written in 2006 and therefore show at least the beginnings of competency.
I hate that moment of “Criminy, this is garbage.”
I love the moment of “Oh my goodness, this is the best fix ever!” But you can’t get to that if you don’t go through the “criminy” moment first.
Do other artists experience this as well? Do visual artists feel the urge to re-draw old pieces in light of new skill levels? Cricket, do you have the same experience with story-telling? I’d love to ask my favorite violinist if he listens to old recordings of himself and flinches, wanting to re-record with whatever technical skills he’s improved since then. I know Yehudi Menuhin looked at a recording of himself, 40 years earlier, playing “Air on the G String” and said, “I’m surprised I played so well when I was so young.” Does the opposite happen too? Surely it can’t be only writers who have this experience.
Editing is both a blessing and a curse. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a scythe to sharpen.