April 13th, 2009


Nightmare on Elm Street VIII: Manuscript Massacre.

Late Eclipses—formerly Late Eclipses of the Sun, before I admitted that if even I wasn't calling the book by its full title, there was no point—was originally finished, in its first draft form, towards the end of last year. (This is the fourth Toby book, for those of you playing the home game. Which is essentially everyone but me, in this particular case.) It was a lumpy, sort of misshapen monster of a thing, but that's not uncommon for first drafts, and besides, it was mine, and I loved it. Not all of it, true, and there were some parts I even came close to outright disliking, but still. We try not to judge our children.

Thankfully, my various proofreaders—and perhaps more importantly, The Agent—have no such compunctions about judging me, and my manuscript was sent home beaten, bleeding, and covered in corrections. Many of them were structural, since there were large chunks of text that seemed intent on playing ring-around-the-rosie with one another.

(As a small digression, some of these same sequences would have seemed amazing if I'd produced them, say, a year ago. Two years ago? The skies would have opened and angels would have descended to sing "Listen to Jesus, Jimmy" in six-part harmony. This is the problem with writing constantly: you get better, and then people expect better, because they know you're capable of it. Sometimes I feel like I'm tap-dancing on an ice floe surrounded by hungry polar bears with attention deficit disorder. If I ever run out of shiny things, I'll become some lucky bear's new picnic basket, filled with lovely things to eat. Like my spleen.)

I've been working on revising Late Eclipses for the last several weeks, with varying degrees of success. Oh, I'm constantly succeeding—the text is changing, the book is getting shorter (it was previously almost 15,000 words longer than a "normal" Toby book, and it didn't need to be), and the action is getting more linear—but the rate of success is exceedingly variable, and can sometimes feel like I'm swimming through vanilla frosting. Mmm. Vanilla frosting. Anyway. Last night? Last night, I basically sliced the book open, ripped out half its guts, and stuffed them back into the chest cavity in a new, more aesthetically pleasing arrangement. Last night, I dropped from 115,000 words to 109,000, and the counter is still descending. I cut a chapter, transplanted another chapter to a point later in the book, and then combined the transplanted chapter with the chapter it was now adjacent to in a variety of interesting patchwork ways.

I am totally exhausted. My book is a battlefield. It's like Elm Street in here; dead darlings everywhere, blood on the ceiling, and the vague, sticky fear of a sequel (in this case, it's called The Brightest Fell). But the book is getting better. It's sort of awesome, in a "baby, when I finish this, plain ol' Philadelphia Burke is going to be Delphi forever and ever" sort of a way. Plus, it's eventually going to be fun to tell this story at conventions and watch people check their copies of the book for scars.

I just don't know if I'm ever going to get the blood out of my hair.