Stephanie Burgis
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Links & inspiration
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Laini Taylor recently posted a blog entry about revision that really struck a chord with me, especially since I spent most of last month revising madly. She has a great metaphor for the goal of revision:
It's that I want the story to be like a strand of diamonds.

What I mean by that is that I want the book, which is an adventure book for middle-grade through adult readers, to move from one sharp and glittering moment to the next. I don't want it to be meandering and muzzy, stretched out and fuzzy. I want it to pass quickly from one distinct moment to the next, each scene a diamond, strung up against another diamond, and so on. I want to carve those scenes into their own individual perfect little entities, each leading into the next like diamonds on a strand.
(Read the whole entry.)

Even though I'm not revising right now, it was still great timing for me to read that entry. Yesterday morning I wrote a scene that left me feeling vaguely dissatisfied all day, but without knowing exactly what was wrong with it. Then I read Laini's entry and thought: Aha! It was a structural issue. I'd gone for muzzy soft-focus in the scene I'd written, when what I really needed - especially at this point, leading up to the climax of the novel - was a sharp-edged diamond leading straight to the next diamond, events becoming more and more fraught and tightly-paced. I zoomed back to Kat by Starlight, threw out half of what I'd written earlier to tighten the whole scene, wrote an all-new ending to the scene (and chapter) that led straight into the next Complication/Revelation/Disaster, and felt sooooo much better about the whole thing.

And in terms of much larger-scale inspiration, I discovered a really wonderful 20-minute speech online that filled me with happiness. It's JK Rowling's Harvard Commencement Speech, which you can watch as a video or download as an mp3. Whether or not you like the Harry Potter books, the speech is just wonderful. It's called “The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination", and there were so many parts that resonated deeply with me. Here's one of my favorites:
So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

You can watch/listen to the whole speech here. I loved it.

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