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Surprising things I have been able to change in revision:

1. Making the mirror human. Originally, in the first draft of MIRA, MIRROR, the mirror was just a mirror that had learned to be human (such as it was) watching the queen.

2. Giving George animal magic. Originally, he was trying to learn how to be a king, and trying to understand the mystery of the princess and the hound, but he didn’t have any magic of his own.

3. Moving the entire story forward in time by six months, so that the character’s development begins at the beginning of the story. This was what I did for THE MONSTER IN ME.

4. Making characters more rounded, so we see them in more circumstances. This isn’t the same as changing the main character, and is easier because you are just adding snippets here and there and it doesn’t change the whole book, just a few scenes with that character.

5. Adding backstory. This is so easy for me in fantasy books, I guess because I could go on for ages inventing legends and other characters that fit into the background. Much harder to cut back once I’ve put those things in, because then they feel like part of the book to me.

6. Explaining the rules of the magic. I know many, many authors who are told this as they revise their fantasy novels. In fact, I am not sure I know any authors who have not been told this as they revise fantasy novels. People need to know the rules of magic and the rules can’t always be changing. But even for someone like JK Rowling (with her legions of readers and editors), it’s hard to remember all the rules you’ve made and to stick to them. Nonetheless, we try. It depends on how strictly you envision your rules working, and also how many there are. I try for my books to make pretty much one rule for magic and then develop from there, but also it doesn’t hurt for the rules of magic not to be absolutely known by anyone, so you can blame any inconsistencies on that.

7. Time frame issues need to be clarified. Usually not too difficult, although you may find that you can’t have all that happen in one night. Or in one room, without anyone having the chance to go to the bathroom, for example.

8. Endings. More than once, I have had editors ask me to end with a slightly happier ending than the one I first envisioned. These editors have invariably been right. I think with my German literature background I have a rather European sense of what an ending looks like, and avoid anything that stinks of the “Hollywood ending” that we mocked so much in graduate school. On the other hand, there can be a middle ground. Most people wouldn’t say that MIRA, MIRROR ended happily, but if you want to be depressed, I could show you the original ending to that one. And it’s also true that killing everyone off is a bit of a cop out.

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Copyright Mette Ivie Harrison 2011 all rights reserved.
Last revised August 10, 2011.