Tale of Quasi-Woe

Hey, sorry I’ve been so lame posting this summer.* But I haven’t been totally lazy. I’ve been writing!

What, you may ask? Well, it’s a secret, and I can’t tell you any details about it yet.**

But here’s a funny thing that happened . . .

Quick note: This would be a good time for anyone who works for my publishers to stop reading. No really. Nothing to see, move it a long, because this is SO unrelated to delivery dates or professional issues of any kind. Okay?


So, all you non-publishing types, there I was, 16,000 words (65 pages) into my shiny wonderful new book. Except it wasn’t wonderful; something was deeply, deeply wrong. The voice, the plot, the structure all seemed to be sucking! No matter how much I edited the writing, smoothed the transitions, caffeinated the plot, or voicified the characters, it all just came out flat.

The whole book gave me that icky feeling of inexcusable lameness, like when they rap on Sesame Street, or when my parents would say “The Led Zeppelin” and “Clash,” instead of the other way around. Or when politicians clap along with the musical act before their speeches. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

My novel was to a good book what this object is to a florescent light:

This was taken by me on a NYC street. Is not that the awesomest? What the heck stepped on that light bulb? Godzilla? Truckzilla?

Anyway, back to my tale of quasi-woe. The weird thing was, I was pretty sure that somewhere, maybe just next door to what I was writing about, something pretty cool was happening. The world of the novel was fascinating, but the novel wasn’t.

So let’s skip past many sleepless nights and screaming writing sessions to a day shortly before Christmas. Justine and I were walking to breakfast, and I finally realized the problem . . . I had the wrong point of view.

The main character, the one whose POV I was writing from, was too smug, too knowing, and generally non-likeable. A certain other person in the story was saying and doing much more interesting things. And worse, most of those cool things were being said and done when my POV person wasn’t around, which meant that the reader was only getting told about them.

Which sucked.

So I tossed those 16,000 words, and started over.

Now, I’d like to say this was easy. Like I’m a fearless and industrious perfectionist, who cares only about the final product. But no . . . it came in slow, reluctant stages.

First I said, “Well, we can keep most of this stuff, just change some pronouns and whatnot, and it’ll all seemlessly become Character B’s POV. Just start the story earlier!”

That, of course, failed to work. After all that smoothing and editing, lame Character A had saturated the prose. So I told myself, “Well, maybe we can have two points of view, and I can keep maybe four or five thousand words.”

And that worked even less. Character A dropped back into the story like a led zeppelin, possibly even the led zeppelin.

So after much toing and froing (mostly froing), only a tiny fraction of those lost 16,000 words have been rescued. And all have come at an editing cost roughly equal to writing them from scratch in the first place. Possibly more.

But I promise, the novel is much, much better, and I am a happier writer-person. More importantly, these next months of effort will be far more enjoyable, and the next forty years of having this book on my shelf much less embarrassing. Also, I got to keep 100% of the thinking I’ve already done, free of charge!

And all at the small cost of one month’s work.***

So my words of wisdom for today are:

“Sometimes tossing out vast quantities of words is better than letting a whole book bleed slowly to death. Don’t give up, just start over.”

Okay, maybe that’s not the feel-good story of the year. But these are:

1. The Last Days and Justine’s Magic Lessons have both been nominated for the Aurealis Awards! Yay to us and the other nominees:

Monster Blood Tattoo: Book One. Foundling by D.M. Cornish
The King’s Fool by Amanda Holohan
Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillie

2. After twenty-two months in print, Uglies has joined Pretties and Specials on the NY Times bestseller list. It’s wild for such an old book to appear for the first time on a bestseller list, and it can only mean that you guys are still talking it up to your friends. Yay to you.

3. Last July I blogged about some haiku I wrote for an issue of Subterranean Magazine. This issue can now be downloaded for free. Big yay to those publishers who realize that freely downloadable materials lead to more sales, not fewer.

*Southern hemisphere summer = December to February.
**Don’t even bother asking.
***Okay, maybe two months, if you include Thailand. But seriously, non-publishing dudes, I was chilling in Thailand.

63 thoughts on “Tale of Quasi-Woe

  1. oops, accidentally hit enter

    anyway, Eragon is one of my favorite books and everyone keeps saying the movie was terrible but I thought it was the best movie I had ever ever seen, which just shows I’m wierd.

    Fifteen year olds can write. I liked Eragon before I knew the author was fifteen. Saying fifteen-year-olds can’t write is crushing the dreams of many young book-writers INCLUDING ME

    Back on topic, Scott I’m glad your willing to make your books as fawsome as they can be, no mater what the cost. Good work!

  2. I agree, anyone can write at any age. Being 15 doesn’t mean you can’t write. It means you are fifteen. And maybe that you like to write, if you are fifteen and write.
    Though I do have it from one of my best friends that Eragon was kind of ruined as a movie because the dragon flew through the sky and went from a little “baby” dragon to adult size in a ‘snap’. Which is not what happens in the book.

  3. Horay for having the patience to re-write! For you , at least. I just finished a short story for school, and when I gave it to my friend for peer editing, he rather blatently told me it sucked.
    Gee, thanks man.
    Well I would have rewritten it but the issue is i just don’t have the patience to rewrite a story-that’s right, even one that’s just seven pages long. Well, not entirely surprising, really. You see, I like to think that I would have the patience and the love of writing to rewrite a story that short. I also like to think I have good taste in clothing and that people actually find my sense of humor FUNNY.
    So, obviously, I’ve only proven myself wrong again.
    But I don’t care because I like the story, my clothes are comfortable, and I can laugh at my own jokes without even caring that I look like a lunatic.
    Life carries on.
    So, in short, congrats on your re-writing.

  4. I thought it was excellent, but everyone keeps disagreeing with me so maybe I should just be quiet.

  5. i thought that the author of eragon (i know his name im just not going to even attempt to spell it) spent too much time on descriptions and it took away from the story line and made it hard to get through. it was a wicked awsome book though once you got past that. i didnt see the movie but my friend said it rocked. and she thinks the main character eragon kid is really hot

  6. Hey Scott I just wanted to say that I just started reading Peeps and I already love it! I’m only on chapter 3 lol! But reading the Uglies trilogy inspired me to read more of your work…and I can’t wait to finish Peeps and read Last Days! Oh, and I love how the “vampires” hold only some characteristics of the fantasy vampires we see in many other stories. It makes the whole situation seem MUCH more realistic, and it rocks!

  7. aww poor scott. Im sorry your having trouble. But I would just like to say that I have looked everywhere I know to find So Yesterday and I connot find it!! We even ordered it 2 weeks ago and its still not in! ARG

  8. Eragon is no more than the illegitimate child of everything by Tolkien and everything by Anne McCafferey. There’s so little originality involved, it’s staggering.
    Peeps is a favorite of mine for that exact reason; it takes something overwrought and cliche and makes it somehow new. The dragonrider vs. bad dragonrider book needs a similar treatment, say Scott why not try a fantasy epic? I bet you could actually do something original, unlike those writers who get made into equally lame movies.

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