LESSON #4 IN REVISION
From MIRA, MIRROR draft in 2002:
I stood in awe of glistening black hair and piercing dark eyes. Her frame was willowy and lithe. There were imperfections to be sure, but I hardly noticed those at the time. I did not know how important they would become, to both of us.
She will be like a sister to me, I thought. An older sister who knows the way and will show it to me. I had never had a sister, you see.
My editor wrote in her letter, “I wonder if it might be more effective for Amanda to propose that they consider themselves sisters, instead of coming from Mira. That would show Amanda’s manipulation of Mira, and also her need to be loved. Amanda isn’t all bad, and that’s what makes her interesting.”
So I added later in the text this:
“What of Zerba?” I asked.
“Zerba takes her magic from graveyards and animals ready for slaughter. Such easy magic gives her cures for headaches, love spells, and wart removers.” The apprentice said it with distaste, as though she were listing the tasks of a village gravedigger. “But I will teach you far more. Unless your vision is as limited as hers.”
“No, no,” I said. In fact, my vision had been exactly that limited. But it was beginning to swell.
“Then you will learn from me.” With a pleased expression, she patted my shoulder. “We will work together, you and I, Mira.”
“I—work with you?” I had no idea how I could contribute to the project, since she was the one with all the knowledge. “How?”
“Before you kill a fish to eat for dinner, bring it to me. I will make sure its life is not wasted. And if you ever have the need to kill something larger—I will help you. Old lovers, bullies, enemies from the past—you can profit doubly from their deaths. Provided you share the profit with me. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” I said, not understanding at all. “Of course.”
“Good.” She came close to me, brushing her shoulder against my lower arm, taking my hand in hers. Her voice was so sweet it overwhelmed the smell of dead bird. “Then we will be sisters, you and I.”
“Sisters?” I hardly dared say it, for fear I had mistaken her.
One of the interesting things about this manuscript was that it grew every time I got a revision letter. When I first sold MIRROR, MIRROR it was only 38,000 words long. The final published manuscript is over 72,000 words. It nearly doubled. Much of that was a result of me adding in scenes between the two sisters throughout the book, whereas in the first draft I had only the prologue.
I think I was also learning something about writing fantasy and the need for backstory and explanation of magic in it. In my contemporary fiction book, I cut back enormously in that final revision, but in MIRA, MIRROR, I never did a grand cut. I think I learned better not to over analyze things, but also, fantasy needs a world to go along with it.