Sinister Regard : Revising

Draft validation


From my agent, a generally positive assessment of the third draft of The Accidental Terrorist:

I've read your revision and I'm pretty darn happy with it. I think you've done a good job synthesizing and compacting huge swaths of material into a much more manageable narrative. I'm also happy with the choices you've made in adding flashback material. All in all, this is a strong piece of revision, and it makes me confident that we'll be able to whip this monster into submission shape sooner rather than later....

I'm very happy with the work you've done thus far, and very impressed. It was a huge haul you just went through, and while this new revision won't be easy, you have gotten over the hump. This book is much, much closer than it ever was. Good work.

In the elided portion, he went into some suggested adjustments of voice in the sections leading up to the subclimax and climax, where the writing might have lost some necessary passion, and I think he's probably right about that. But the fact that he likes what I did with this draft is a huge validation and relief.

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Okay, I've taken the memoir about as far down as I can go now, from 947 pages to 833. That a little more than 12% shrinkage, or almost an eighth of the book. Wow! I've also gone from 47 chapters to 41.

Now I have just one more chapter to write—the money shot, "Words and Phrases You Must Never Use in Airports"—before I'm at a place where I can send the nearly damn complete manuscript to my agent for forwarding to HarperCollins. Tomorrow!

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Missionary Man


So my agent has an editor at HarperCollins interested in the memoir. Unfortunately, a different Harper editor has already rejected it, so the title has to change for this new submission. Therefore, the book henceforth is called Missionary Man, not The Accidental Terrorist. (It will also help, of course, that there's now almost twice as much book as there was on the previous submission. That will go far toward helping everyone involved pretend this is a fresh submission.)

In preparation for delivering the almost-complete manuscript, I've been eliminating some chapters that have given other editors pause, including the three chapters about my stint at the Clarion science-fiction writing workshop in the summer of 1985. I'm pleased to say that in the past week I've whittled the ms down from 947 to 855 pages, and I still have one more unnecessary chapter to purge. The tricky thing has been finding ways to interpolate condensations of some of the salient backstory from the material I've eliminated into the remaining narrative. But I'm just about done! With luck I'll have the ms in the mail to Shawna on Monday.

Anyway, that's why, when I resume the new-chapter postings, the chapter and page counts will have shrunk.

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