Revision, humility, and self-development

I’ve spent some time over the past few days, around the things mentioned in my previous post and especially yesterday after that post, reworking Lamia as the next formal release. While this experience is probably very good for me as a writer, it’s currently rather frustrating. Somehow, a single major flaw with three consequences has been slipping past me ever since I finished the first version in the late 90s. Since I’ve now spotted it, I’m going to have to un-weave and re-weave an extensive amount of text – I’m unsure just how great the extent of the damage is or what it will take. *sigh* I’m grateful that I saw it before putting it on Smashwords, but given that I’ve been proud of Lamia and have considered it fundamentally complete for over a decade, it’s turning into a lesson in humility as well.

In fact, since I’m currently considering approaches to how to fix it (that’s a polite way of saying, Idunno what to do yet) I’m probably going to set it aside and take a look at BlackWolf instead with an eye to revision for official Smashwords release – although since I wrote BlackWolf several years before Lamia, I have to admit, that idea is making me a bit apprehensive. Alternatively, I could try taking Renegade more seriously.

The rest of this might make more sense if you sneak a peek at the Lamia page for the description.

Basic problem? Lamia started as a sandbox what-if story: suppose you have a predator that preys on humans and therefore would need to live as close as possible to humans without being detected as such. What would be the ultimate camouflage? Well, it’s fantasy, no need for real-world limits, so at least one answer would be: Transformation, one form for hunting and one form for the rest of the time. What change would make most human societies look right over someone? There are a number, but one that seemed intriguing was: Swap sex. Toss in a character who’s aware that said predators and other weirdness exist, and see what happens. The two central characters start off as if they’d simply materialized in the house, with a vague idea that the house actually belonged to Christian’s absent grandfather. Now, that works for exploring an idea. Yin-Yang started much the same way, in fact. However, it’s a problem in a finished novel.

What it comes down to is:

1) Christian’s absolute ignorance of other witches, including the antagonists, is incredibly negligent on the part of his family: his grandfather and parents leave him alone with the house, and an extremely valuable hidden library, while they go to his mother’s family in Scotland, without ever telling him what the Bad Guys are like or even making sure he’s in contact with friendly witches in the same part of the world. There is no way there are so many witches around in 1990s south-eastern Ontario that they’re unaware of each other, and odds of family/marriage connections are high. Trying to keep the existence of the Fellowship from Christian on grounds of protecting him from their values strikes me as disturbingly like trying to claim that keeping kids from access to info about LGBT or about viable belief systems other than those of their parents is “protecting” them.

2) Chris’ deceased grandmother and great-aunt are mentioned by others but never by him. Who the heck were they? Where is his grandmother from and why would he not know her family?

3) Where has Alexandra been since she reached maturity and went out on her own, and what’s she been doing? Why does she seem to know so much about witches when most lamias typically see humans only as prey? Yes, she’s an unusual lamia, but I need to know and so does the reader.

The first point is by far the most damaging, and the extent of it is clearer as I try to repair it.

Now, a number of people have read Lamia, and not one has ever pointed out this flaw. Did they not see it? Did they overlook it because they were otherwise enjoying it? Were they being polite? I have no idea. I know I sometimes overlook flaws in the logic of books or the few movies or the little TV I watch because I’m caught up in the reality being presented to me and I’m accepting whatever comes; sometimes, once the spell breaks, I notice the inconsistencies. I don’t like inconsistencies, though, or shaky logic for the sake of making the story move. Much of my drive to improve as a writer has been in the direction of ensuring that what happens makes sense within the context. Possibly this is because my earliest writing is lacking this to a painful degree.

Knowing it’s there, though, can I possibly release it without fixing it? Um, no. Not even it it takes a massive overhaul.

On the other hand, the fact that I did spot it now is rather positive. It suggests that I’m reaching a new level of perception as far as analyzing my own work, and that’s a tricky skill to learn at all. So, yay, Level Up! on my editing skills, I guess. But Aargh! on the unexpectedly large amount of work facing me on what I thought would be a fairly easy project, and time spent on that can’t go to something new.

Life would be easier if I didn’t hold my own work to such high standards!

2 Comments

  1. If I could fix the Plot Hole of Doom in Sarya’s Song, anything can be fixed. It took a complete re-envisioning of the whole background behind the story, but once the background was adjusted, the actual plot stayed pretty much the same.

    In all honesty, I did kind of notice that Christian had been very over-protected, but, you know, some families make that choice in how to raise their kids. It doesn’t always work out so good, but I’ve seen it done.

    • Gotta love those plot holes. :roll: I’m sure it’s fixable, but it’s going to take some serious reconstruction. If Chris is less ignorant of other witches, then an obvious group his family would consider reasonably safe would be the Lyndells, Eric’s family. (Odds strike me as high that Eric’s grandmother Margaret should know Chris’ grandparents and/or great-aunt: independent witches not impossibly far away and of the same generation? And does this mean that Christian and Eric should already know each other, or at least have met at some point, or something?) That significantly changes a number of dynamics and has serious implications for Jade’s plotting. A lot of the novel will be the same, and that’s the reason I’m not tossing it out the window, but I need to think about how to tackle it without destroying any of the good parts.

      I know there are families that raise their kids ultra-sheltered. I have yet to see it turn out to be a good thing in the end, having someone completely unprepared for reality. It also doesn’t match what I do know about Chris’ family: they’re worried enough to find him an improbable protector, not enough to tell him to be careful of anyone who says, “Come join us, we have cookies”? Faith in Chris’ common sense and wanting him to make his own decisions is great to a point, but some basic info helps too.

      That said, there are kids who sort of shelter themselves (yours truly, who combined a protective mom with an obsession with books and successfully hid from reality for a long time) and manage to learn the essentials fairly quickly when they’re tossed in the deep end. I suspect that was what I was thinking when I first finished it, and from Chris’ perspective it makes sense… but the actions of his family don’t. At some point, if only before leaving Canada, someone should’ve told him to close the darned book and pay attention.

      Oddly, I’m more than 10% of the way into BlackWolf with only trivial corrections. Unless I trip over a massive flaw of some sort in it too, maybe I can finish it and send it off to test readers while I wrestle with Lamia. :-)

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