Monday, June 24, 2013

To Revisioning and Beyond: Remaking the The Franchise

A few years ago, I wrote a superhero book that was completely different from I, Crimsonstreak. Whereas Christopher Fairborne gives the genre the tongue-in-cheek treatment, this other book (The Franchise) takes a more serious look at the world of superheroes. It's a mix between The Firm and Watchmen set in a retro-futuristic 1960s with pulp heroes thrown in for good measure.

I really believe in this book and its concept. I've worked on it off and on for several years. Based on a pitch, I had an agent request it in 2010. The agent passed.

I've learned a lot more about writing and publishing since then. I'm far from an expert--just ask my publisher about the draft of II Crimsonstreak I submitted--but I'm a better writer than I was in 2010. When that agent passed, I took it hard. It was early in my writing journey, so I felt that was it. The Franchise was a terrible concept and would never work.

After I, Crimsonstreak came out, I started playing with The Franchise some more. I added a new character who's so essential to the book that I don't know how I wrote it without her. I fleshed out the setting--an area I tend to struggle with. I tried to make the main character more of an active part of the story instead of a character who was simply driven by the events around her. I wove in more backstory and added another layer to it.

A draft that was 75,000 became 80,000 words. I didn't cut content as much as I rewrote large sections of text. I created snippets of newspaper copy and text from a company handbook (a concept familiar to anyone who's flipped through Crimsonstreak and its appendices). More satisfied with the direction of the book, I needed a second opinion.

I sent it to my Beta Reader Extraordinaire. This wasn't a high-priority project--I was working on III Crimsonstreak and didn't need immediate feedback--so I told him to take his time. Because he's either partially insane or really, really good at what he does, he sent me pages upon pages of notes. These included suggestions on character arcs as well as things to look at in each chapter.

I went through the feedback and it became clear to me that simply "rewriting existing parts of the book" wouldn't work. Not only did I have a plot MacGuffin that I didn't like, my protagonist still wasn't fully-formed. A major supporting character also ended up being a bit shallow. The novel got too talky at points, so it needed another bit of action. The new character added to the book deserved more scenes and needed to be interwoven into the fabric of the story. The supporting characters--and there were a lot of them--needed to be more memorable.

So, while I haven't been writing anything "new," I have been adding to The Franchise. I'm not ready to give up on it yet because I feel there's a fantastic book hidden in there. The narrative needs to be pulled apart, rearranged, and given several more generous coats of polish. That's what I'm doing now.

In addition to rewriting large sections, I've trimmed a bunch of words and added new scenes. The current draft stands at about 91,000 words. I'm about a third of the way through this latest revision.

It's not always easy to finish a draft of the book and forge ahead with more revisions, but the more you do it, the less you dread it. I've gotten to the point--after getting over the initial shock of "the draft isn't perfect"--where I enjoy revising.

To revisioning and beyond!