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01 February 2007 @ 10:35 am
 
I've been reading an old draft of Peter Beagle's "The Last Unicorn". His legal battles are looking up, but Peter's still pretty much digging up and selling anything he can get his hands on to raise money... And as a result, I get to find out what "The Last Unicorn" was when it had almost entirely different characters, and a substantially different plot.

One of the things that interests me most is that in the scenes that stayed, most of his phrasing is absolutely identical. Sure, a tiny change here and there, but only very occasional. Mostly whole scenes were cut out and replaced with something entirely different. When I read the first draft of "Bridge of Birds", the experience was quite similar. It rather surprises me - you hear a lot about revision being a slow process of repeatedly polishing a story until it shines properly. These examples suggest to me that the polishing is not so much a matter of going over phrases again and again (which I had assumed), as finding the awkward bits, cutting them out and perhaps more around them, and replacing them with large chunks of freshly-written prose.

I'm rather glad of the changes in both cases - the final draft of each is much, much better than the earlier drafts.
 
 
 
taoflaherty on February 1st, 2007 07:19 pm (UTC)
I remember hearing that Douglas Adams would keep rewriting his radio scripts, start to finish, over and over again, and each time he rewrote them, they would get far shorter.
IANALqueen_elvis on February 1st, 2007 08:41 pm (UTC)
As a wordy writer, I find that the bulk of my revisions are finding the stuff that gets in the way of my point and ruthlessly deleting it. Though there's certainly some polishing to be done, too.
(Deleted comment)
Noahangelbob on February 1st, 2007 09:24 pm (UTC)
Subterranean Press is selling the draft in book form.
taoflaherty on February 1st, 2007 09:27 pm (UTC)
What interests me is the input of other people on the artist. Douglas Adams said that being yelled at about what was/wasn't funny/sensical was important while he was writing radio scripts, and he was lucky to later find a editor for his books who would yell at him about stuff.

Did "Notes from the Underground" get/need outside input? How much of a pre-publication audience do most writers use/want?
Noahangelbob on February 1st, 2007 09:32 pm (UTC)
I don't know how many readers Peter had for his earliest "Last Unicorn". He mentions at least one other person who (it sounds like) read and reviewed it...
Krissyrightkindofme on February 1st, 2007 10:29 pm (UTC)
Very few people have the patience to go through and look at obsessively fine details of their work. Most editing is larger passes, especially once you get to book length. Magazines or newspapers can be more fussy about word by word editing.
Noahangelbob on February 1st, 2007 10:34 pm (UTC)
Very few people have the patience to go through and look at obsessively fine details of their work.

I always knew I was special... :-P
connorfc on February 2nd, 2007 02:15 am (UTC)
Hi! Thought I'd drop in and share some things from behind the curtain. The reason certain parts of the first version are virtually identical to the one we all know, and yet are still so polished, is that Peter had already gone over them a dozen times -- just as he had done with everything else in the earlier version. He's not a charge-ahead-and-do-the-while-book-in-first-draft kind of writer. He tends to work on a chunk at a time, and goes over that chunk pretty thoroughly before he moves on.

Oh, and on the "digging up and selling" part -- that's me, not Peter. Peter had forgotten the earlier draft was even in his filing cabinet. When I found it I thought it was interesting enough that fans might like to see it. My plan was to put it out in a set with lots of other filing cabinet things that I found uniquely wonderful (including five never-published complete stories, some unfinished novel starts, and the four chapters Viking took out of A Fine and Private Place). I still plan to do that, but in the meantime Subterranean stepped in and asked to do the
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Hi! Thought I'd drop in and share some things from behind the curtain. The reason certain parts of the first version are virtually identical to the one we all know, and yet are still so polished, is that Peter had already gone over them a dozen times -- just as he had done with everything else in the earlier version. He's not a charge-ahead-and-do-the-while-book-in-first-draft kind of writer. He tends to work on a chunk at a time, and goes over that chunk pretty thoroughly before he moves on.

Oh, and on the "digging up and selling" part -- that's me, not Peter. Peter had forgotten the earlier draft was even in his filing cabinet. When I found it I thought it was interesting enough that fans might like to see it. My plan was to put it out in a set with lots of other filing cabinet things that I found uniquely wonderful (including five never-published complete stories, some unfinished novel starts, and the four chapters Viking took out of <i>A Fine and Private Place</i>). I still plan to do that, but in the meantime Subterranean stepped in and asked to do the <i<Last Unicorn</i>-related part in a separate limited edition.

-- Connor Cochran
Business Manager to Peter S. Beagle
connorfc on February 2nd, 2007 02:17 am (UTC)
Oops.
Noahangelbob on February 2nd, 2007 03:03 am (UTC)
Wow! I'm quite impressed to receive a reply from you personally.

The re-working makes sense. I know that *I* have always been quite impressed with the quality of his prose, and sales figures suggest that I'm not alone :-)

I apologize for attributing actions inappropriately to Peter. I'd just assumed, and your explanation makes sense.

I'll look forward to the other material being published, and to seeing Two Hearts (in April or thereabouts, if memory serves).

Thanks!