Wednesday, May 25, 2011

ship 'o' scripts

From INTERN's personal dictionary of literary terms:

The Athenian Manuscript Paradox: What happens when you replace every #%$% detail of your story so many #^@%# times you can hardly #^$%# recognize it any more.

The ship manuscript wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned from Crete their first draft had thirty oars chapters, and was preserved by the Athenians down even to the time of Demetrius Phalereus, for they took away the old planks scenes as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber writing in their place, insomuch that this ship manuscript became a standing example among the philosophers, for the logical question of things that grow; one side holding that the ship manuscript remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same.
—Plutarch, Theseus[1]

Over to you: at what point are you still revising the same story, and at what point have you ended up with a completely different book? INTERN wants to know!


  1. I'm currently revising my first book, and while the "story" remains the same, I'm pretty sure it's going to end up a completely different book (i.e., a different read).

    The manuscript is in v.4 stage, but all the other changes in different versions were mainly cosmetic. Now it's all about adding scenes, deepening relationships, and, at least for the first chapter, completely re-envisioning it (though, again, the overall story is still the same).

  2. I think this is a pretty common affliction. So far only one of my (unfinished) manuscripts has morphed into something almost unrecognizable from the original idea... and it totally killed the story for me. (Hence the "unfinished" part.) So I'm going to have to take it back to the basic idea and try again.

    But it doesn't always happen that way! One of my other manuscripts is being completely reworked, with the basic idea intact, and its SO MUCH BETTER (now that, you know, stuff actually happens). I think a second idea is going to undergo the same operation, with a similarly positive result.

    (All this AFTER I finish my current manuscript, which I actually took the time to think through and semi-plan, and lo and behold, is halfway done and still steadily on course!)

  3. Well, get rid of all the corrections you made in your post, and you will have a newspaper...errr...papyrus article that landed on my doorstep the day I started.

  4. My first book went that way. I wrote it, rewrote it, rewrote it again, rewrote the rewrite, and can hardly remember why I wrote it in the first place. I finally had a burial service for it, laying it to rest on my external hard drive.

    It was time to let it go. The next book I wrote was much, much better...but you never forget your first. *sigh*

  5. Yup, that's my ms, too.

    Oddly enough, that also describes an ax my husband inherited from his grandfather. It's been in his family for sixty years. Only had to replace the head twice and the handle three times. ;)

  6. I've only been at my current WIP for 3 weeks, have less than 10,000 words, but have gone through several iterations already.

    Step One: formulating a plot based on who I think my character is and what she wants.

    Step Two: invariably I learn more about her and find out some of the things I've plotted (and/or written, cough cough) aren't feasible for who I know she is now. Cut, slash, rewrite, but keep the nuggets that work.

    Rinse and repeat ad infinitum. [g]

  7. I met an incredibly talented crit partner on AW that nicely suggested ways I could rewrite most of my YA contemporary. I hardly recognize it now, but it was totally worth it. I can't wait for her to read the revisions now so I can start querying.

  8. you have made me giddy. I am so proud to see Plutarch used to illustrate a literary point. I'm a classicist/writer and this brings me much joy.

  9. I'm about to embark on a major rewrite, like 1/2 the current book will be gone.

    But I still think of it as the same book because the two main characters are the same people with the same problems...but that's about all that will stay the same.

  10. Princess L: sometimes an Athenian ship is better than a leaky ship, right? glad to hear it was worth it! :)

  11. I think that if the basic plot remains the same, it's the same book. If you realize in revisions that your characters belong in a completely different story and overhaul the same thing, then it's a different book.

  12. Don't knock revision. Good writing is re-writing.