February 1st, 2007

tolkien lacked teens in glitter

(no subject)

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.