Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky. (slithytove) wrote,
Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky.

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Readercon, Saturday, July 19

Genius is 90% Higher Standards: The "Unecessary" Rewrite. Suzy McKee Charnas, Daryl Gregory, Marty Halpern, James Patrick Kelly, Kit Reed, Michael Swanwick.

Suzy Charnas: sometimes she realizes during editing that the story is actually about something different than what she thought it was about, and needs an entire rewrite.
Kit Reed: early on she tried to 'get away' with stuff she realized wasn't quite right -- and it wouldn't sell. Learn to trust your inner critic when she says, "Don't do that." [I've read this before: if you think it might be lousy: it's lousy.]
James Patrick Kelly: We've all heard about the writer's Creator vs. the writer's Critic. Let the Creator do his thing before you let the Critic start hacking at things. Sometimes the Critic can be too critical, and kill good stuff. [Note that this contradicts the advice directly above. Incidentally, Kelly said elsewhere that he is an 'organic' writer, so maybe this advice is appropriate for organics, but not for, um, inorganic writers. Those of us made of rebar, Helium-3, and buckyfibre.]
Michael Swanwick: Sometimes the story is too perfect, and needs some dirt rubbed in.
Marty Halpern: Tied in Swanwick's remark to Vandermeer's 'Triumph of Competence' critique [which had its own panel elsewhere, which I didn't attend].
Swanwick: When I wrote my first novel, I was trying to write a novel. When William Gibson wrote his first novel, he was trying to remake the vocabulary of SF. I succeeded. He failed. I won't make that mistake again. [audience laughter] [I've run across that line from Swanwick before, but I can't find it on the net right now.]
Charnas: Sometimes you can get so far outside the formula of reader expectations that the reader won't accept the result. [Her example had to do with the nature of the vampire story.]
Swanwick: co-authored a story for Penthouse [can't remember the title, sorry: he's published there twice] that the editors accepted, but only if it could be cut to 6,000 words. The story was 12,000 words. He started cutting scenes, then paragraphs, then phrases, then modifiers, then changed every possible word combination to a contraction that could be changed. He wound up with 6100 words. He says the process made him a better writer.
Halpern: M. Rickert's "Map of Dreams" was cut from 43,000 words to just under 40,000 for commercial purposes, so it could be published as a novella. However, Rickert decided to cut out one scene, and in retrospect, she and Halpern both realized that that cut improved the story significantly. The story was nominated for World Fantasy.

Question: what existing stories do you think need editing?
Swanwick: C.L. Moore's "Shambleau." This was Moore's first story. Great ideas, but the story is not well written. The climax, in particular, is too long.
James Patrick Kelly: Wall-E. Ending needs to be darker.
Charnas: "How Love Came to Professor Guildea." However, she never said how she would edit it, because no one else there had read it.
Swanwick: Never write about guns or horses, unless you have actually shot a horse yourself. [After Kelly told an anecdote about making an error about revolvers in a story, and never hearing the end of it from gun enthusiasts]

Question: When do you stop editing?
Charnas: When you're sick of the story.
Swanwick: When the story 'hardens'.
[Someone else]: When you find yourself changing stuff back to the way it was the first time.
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