Cynthia Kuhn’s Semester of our Discontent
Cynthia Kuhn strolled by, and we had a lovely chat about revisions, revising, and revising revisions. How many times do you revise your story?
The Semester of Our Discontent
1st in Series
Publisher: Henery Press (April 5, 2016)
“It’s Tempting” by Cynthia Kuhn
Writing teachers are always singing the praises of writing as a process. We celebrate stages: prewrite/plan, write/draft, revise/rewrite/edit until you get the piece where it needs to be. Many authors have said, in various ways, that good writing comes from rewriting. I’ve always spent the majority of my time in the revision phase. I draft fast, then go back and rework, rework, rework. During the writing of The Semester of Our Discontent, I numbered my drafts and saved them all. (You never know when you are going to want to go back and retrieve something you thought you didn’t want.) Between the day I began the book and the day I submitted the manuscript, I’d done 30 revisions. Plus, I’d read each one of those 30 versions multiple times, making notes before revising the manuscript proper, and every read-through was assigned a different color ink, so by the time I got to the computer updates, there would be a veritable Rainbow Extravaganza of changes to be made. While perhaps pretty, inkwise, it was daunting.
And I should clarify that when I say revision, I don’t mean small alterations—I mean deep undoings and rewritings that hurt. One time, I cut 10K in a single day, knowing I’d have to generate at least that many new words. That was particularly painful. There were tears involved. So it’s not smooth sailing, by any means. In fact, it can be a bit of a shipwreck at times. That’s why, when I read a fascinating article written by a man who had literally watched a famous author write his latest book (sitting in the same room), I started to rethink things. According to the article, the author would be submitting the manuscript immediately after completing it.
Wait, what? One time through? Just send it off after typing THE END? How very tempting! Imagine how many more books I could produce if I adopted that method! It’s pretty efficient if you think about it. And others have been said to do it, too. The most legendary example of the one-draft method might be Jack Kerouac writing On the Road in a frenzied sprint on a continuous scroll. That story has been repeated endlessly (though it’s also been said that he did in fact revise later). In any case, kudos to those who can write that well in one fell swoop. It’s incredible.
I would like to do that, believe me. But I can’t. I just have to accept that revision—no matter how excruciating and time-consuming—will always be part of my process. Revision and Rainbow Extravaganzas.
Thanks, Cynthia, for stopping by. You are welcome back anytime!
English professor Lila Maclean is thrilled about her new job at prestigious Stonedale University, until she finds one of her colleagues dead. She soon learns that everyone, from the chancellor to the detective working the case, believes Lila—or someone she is protecting—may be responsible for the horrific event, so she assigns herself the task of identifying the killer.
More attacks on professors follow, the only connection a curious symbol at each of the crime scenes. Putting her scholarly skills to the test, Lila gathers evidence, but her search is complicated by an unexpected nemesis, a suspicious investigator, and an ominous secret society. Rather than earning an “A” for effort, she receives a threat featuring the mysterious emblem and must act quickly to avoid failing her assignment…and becoming the next victim.
Cynthia Kuhn teaches and writes in Colorado. Her work has appeared in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Literary Mama, Copper Nickel, Prick of the Spindle, Mama PhD and other publications. She is the current president of Sisters in Crime-Colorado and blogs with Mysteristas. Visit her at cynthiakuhn.net or @cynthiakuhn.
Author Cynthia Kuhn’s Links