Fanmail Q&A: Revision

Pat,

I know from your comments on facebook and your postings on the blog that you’re busy revising. What’s more, that you’ve been doing it for months. What I’m wondering is what, exactly, you do when you’re revising that it takes you so long to do it? Please don’t get me wrong. This isn’t another bitchy mewling e-mails from people complaining about waiting for WMF. I’m genuinely curious. You see, I’m not a writer or anything. The most I’ve ever written is papers for classes, and those I pretty much write, spellcheck, print, and then hand them in.

Consequently, this whole revision process is a big mystery to me. I know writers do it. And I know some writers (like you) seem to spend a lot more time on it than others. Back when I was a kid, I read about Piers Anthony’s revision process in his author’s notes. Where he would write the first draft of his books longhand, then revise them as he typed them into the computer. Then he was pretty much done. I know your books are much more complex than his, and a buttload longer. But still, I’m curious. Is there anything you can do to explain to us non-writers out here what exactly happens in the revision process? Can you show us how it’s done?

A big fan,

James

When you ask about *the* revision process, James, I get nervous. Every writer has their own way of doing things. I can only talk about *my* revision process, because that’s the only one I know.

Still, you aren’t the first person to ask about this. So I decided to take some notes on what exactly I did over the course of a night’s revision.

Here’s what I wrote down: (And don’t worry, there aren’t any spoilers below. I don’t go in for that sort of thing:)

1. Changed a curse to be more culturally appropriate for the person using it.

2. Looked at all instances of the word “bustle” in the book to see if I’m overusing the word.

3. Considered modifying the POV in a particular scene. Decided against it.

4. Added paragraph about the Mews.

5. Changed the name of a mythic figure in the world to something that sounds better.

6. Spent some time figuring out the particular mechanisms of sygaldry to prevent consistency problems.

7. Reconsidered changing POV in same scene as before. Decided to just tweak it a little instead.

8. Trimmed two excess paragraphs.

9. Looked at my use of the word “vague” to see if I’ve been using it too much.

10. Removed about 20 instances of the word “vague” from the book.

11. Spoke with beta reader on the phone, getting their general impression of the book. Asked questions about several issues/concerns I have about the book. Took some notes.

12. Added two paragraphs to a chapter in order to adjust reader’s expectations for the following chapter.

13. Tightened dialogue in two key scenes, making them move a little more quickly.

14. Went through a manuscript copy of the book returned by one of my beta-readers. Fixed the typos they noticed, read their comments, and made a few minor adjustments to fix areas of the book where they were slightly confused.

15. Expanded scene to improve pacing and dramatic tension.

16. Considered moving a chapter to earlier in the book.

17. Moved chapter.

18. Read section of the book with new chapter order.

19. Moved chapter back to where it was before.

20. Re read several new-ish scenes to check their clarity and make sure they’re properly integrated into the book. Made small adjustments to smooth things out.

21. Invented several new religious terms.

22. Added paragraph to clarify character motivation.

23. Developed several new elements of the Commonwealth legal system.

24. Resisted the urge to add a 4000 word chapter so WMF would be longer than Brandon Sanderson’s Way of Kings.

25. Changed chapter ending to add slight foreshadowing.

26. Read the book for about two hours, making many small changes to tighten, clarify, and generally improve the language used.

That’s how I spent my Friday night, James. Altogether it took me about 11 hours. (10:30 PM to 9:30 AM the following morning.)

Some of these pieces of revision take more time than others. Something like #8 is relatively quick and easy once I’ve decided to do it. But something like 6  or 16-19 might take me an hour, and result in nothing at all in the book being different when I’m finished.

While most of these are in no particular order, the last one, # 26, is how I normally finish out my night, re-reading the book on the computer and tweaking the language it in a thousand small ways. When I do this, I also try to trim some of my excess wordage a bit. My first drafts are fairly verbose, and stories are better when the language is lean.

I know that sounds strange coming from someone whose novel is almost 400,000 words long, but brevity is something I really strive for. Everything in the book is there for a purpose. Every scene has to pay for itself. Every piece of description really needs to be worth reading.

During the two hours I tweaked the book, I trimmed out about 300 words, removing little bits of sentences and superfluous bits of description. I’d say over the last year, I’ve removed over 100,000 words from the book. Some of that was whole scenes and chapters, some of it just little bits and pieces.

I realize a lot of this is kinda vague. I apologize for that, but I don’t want to spoil any of book two by saying things like, “Added two sentences so it would be more of a surprise when Bast and Chronicler kiss.”

But since you asked me to “show you how it’s done,” I will. Since you admitted your letter that you only tend to write a first draft, I hope you won’t be offended if I revise your letter.

(Editor’s note: I felt weird doing this, so I e-mailed James to ask for permission. He said it was cool.)

Here’s how your letter looks after I gave it the same treatment that I give the book. I read through it twice, fiddled, tweaked, and tightened up the language.

Pat,

I know from facebook and your blog that you’re in the midst of revisions. I’m curious. What do you do when you revise, and why does it take so long?

Please don’t get me wrong. This isn’t another bitchy, mewling e-mail complaining about the wait for WMF. I’m genuinely curious. The only things I’ve ever written are papers for school. I just write, spellcheck, print, and hand them in.

Consequently, the revision process is a big mystery to me. Back when I was a kid, I read about Piers Anthony’s revision process in his author’s notes. He writes the first draft of his books longhand, then revises them while typing them into the computer.

I’m guessing your process is more involved than that. Your books are more complex than his, and a buttload longer. Is there anything you can do to explain the revision process to us non-writers? Can you show us how it’s done?

A big fan,

James

First off, James, I don’t mean to imply that your letter was in desperate need of revising. There’s a reason I answered yours and not someone else’s. Your e-mail was delightfully polite. It had punctuation and capital letters. It even looks like you spellchecked it. It was a lovely letter.

I just did this to show you what exactly I’m talking about when I say I tweak things around. I like shorter sentences and paragraphs because they’re bite-sized and easier for the reader to digest. Also, now each paragraph centers around a separate idea. That makes it easier for the reader to follow your points.

Also, my revised version is about 30% shorter. I clipped out a few phrases and some repetition. I removed prepositions when I could and combined some sentences. It says pretty much the same thing, but it’s about 160 words long instead of 225.

That’s what I’ve been doing all these months. Except instead of doing it once to a tiny letter, I’m doing it a billion times to a huge, bugfuckeringly complex metafictional narrative.

Hope this clears things up a bit,

pat

This entry was posted in BJ Hiorns Art, Fanmail Q + A, Revision, the craft of writing. By Pat123 Responses

123 Comments

  1. Murdoc the Mad
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 1:55 AM | Permalink

    “Bugfuckeringly” is definitely working its way into my everyday lexicon.

    • grandwigg
      Posted August 16, 2010 at 11:27 AM | Permalink

      Indeed.

    • Skoivan
      Posted August 16, 2010 at 11:41 PM | Permalink

      The wait is forgiven as long as you use the word bugfuckeringly in the book somewhere…

      That the book will be spectacular is a given. I mean come on, it was written by a guy who created the word bugfuckeringly! Uber win.

  2. borvise
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 1:59 AM | Permalink

    Damn. Now we know. Thanks Pat!
    (and I second the love of bugfuckeringly)

  3. ike28
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 2:03 AM | Permalink

    I really enjoyed this, thanks for your nice way of saying, “get off my back, i am just making a bugfuckeringless book”

  4. SavvyP
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 2:07 AM | Permalink

    This sounds maddeningly like my revision process. Of course, I’m not revising your book. Do you find you spend more time revising than writing?

  5. Posted August 16, 2010 at 2:21 AM | Permalink

    This is sofa king cool. Thanks for sharing. I’m working on my own book at the moment, and I had just sent off a snippet to a friend to read. He said it was too wordy, so I told him first drafts are usually wordy and get shortened in revising. Your post is timely.

    #24 made me laugh since I follow all Brandon’s tweets about his revising and had just used him as an example to my friend.

    I’m adding bugfuckeringly to my dictionary.

    Again, thanks for this post.

  6. Charis
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 2:22 AM | Permalink

    Do you always work at night? It must be hard to keep any sort of normal sleeping/eating/family time pattern.

    • Posted August 16, 2010 at 3:05 PM | Permalink

      It is.

      • Posted August 21, 2010 at 11:09 AM | Permalink

        But then it’s always nice and quiet in the house, and the sun won’t move and shine in your eyes, and you won’t be bothered by anyone or anything because they’re asleep…Its very nice, I think.

    • caro
      Posted August 31, 2010 at 5:35 PM | Permalink

      It’s half past midnight in Germany now and I’m working on an important paper right now. I absolutely agree with k_ruehe. No bothering and sunshine to worry about;)

  7. Posted August 16, 2010 at 2:29 AM | Permalink

    Pat, this post is a work of art. Really loved it. Meant to say “good job”, but that would be an understatement since all of your posts are good – that one’s even better. Unfortunately, now I’m going to be damn nervous and triple-check every single one of my comments here :D

    • Posted August 16, 2010 at 2:35 AM | Permalink

      I know, right? I edited mine three times, and it’s still too wordy. (And I almost left the comma out of that last sentence. And is comma one m or two? Gah!)

  8. geekd
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 2:32 AM | Permalink

    Pat, do you use any revision control software?

    I am a software developer. I write and maintain a large code base, hundreds of thousands of lines of code, written by 6 or 8 people. Every time I make a change I check it into our revision control software (SVN). Then I revert to any point in the past, see what changed when, who did it, etc.

    I’m just wondering what you do when you think, “I’ve messed with this part too much, it was better yesterday.” How do you go back?

    • Richard
      Posted August 16, 2010 at 2:37 AM | Permalink

      “Pat, do you use any revision control software?”

      I just registered for this blog five minutes ago, after following it for a year, to ask this very question, and find someone was faster…

      Anyway, if you’re not using version control yet, I’d strongly recommend looking into it.

      • Tacroy
        Posted August 16, 2010 at 12:30 PM | Permalink

        The problem with most version control software (the good open source stuff, at least) is that it tends to treat Word documents like the illegible binary blobs they are. Unfortunately, I kinda doubt Pat is using plain text or LaTeX or ODF or some other compatible format to draft his books, so version control would probably be more of a hassle than it’s worth in this case.

        That being said, I totally agree with the version control recommendation.

        • Posted August 16, 2010 at 3:08 PM | Permalink

          I keep old versions of the book around in case I need to check the way things used to be, but generally speaking, when I make a change I trust it’s a good one.

          And if it isn’t, I’ll catch it on my next revision and change it back.

          • Rebsky
            Posted August 18, 2010 at 4:22 PM | Permalink

            But… what if you fall into an infinite loop changing and re-changing the same aspect over and over and over again? What then?

          • kungfusinger
            Posted August 21, 2010 at 1:08 PM | Permalink

            Hey,

            I think this blog limits the number of nests. I can’t reply to Rebsky! I think that if it ends up as an infinite loop of revising the same thing over and over, then in all likelihood, it is equally awesome either way, and that would be the only reason that Pat couldn’t decide.

          • maine character
            Posted August 21, 2010 at 11:03 PM | Permalink

            what if you fall into an infinite loop changing and re-changing the same aspect over and over and over again? What then?

            Then you know it’s time to turn the sucker in.

  9. katelyn
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 2:40 AM | Permalink

    I love this. From all of us who are writers in one sense or another, thank you. Writing is an art form, but it’s also a lot of bugfuckering work, and not everyone realizes it. But, after a zillion revisions, there’s nothing better than sending 10-20 (ok, in your case 400,000) pages of work to several well-qualified people and having all copies come back pristine and without a single change. Good work, good luck, and I can’t wait to read it!!

  10. JennaPeterson88
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 2:42 AM | Permalink

    Hey, it could be worse! A former professor of mine once mentioned an author (Stoker?) who would write a draft, discard it, and start again several times without referring back to the previous drafts. I can’t imagine that was the most efficient way to do it!

    • kungfusinger
      Posted August 16, 2010 at 11:39 AM | Permalink

      I don’t know about stoker, but Tolkien did that. His family described his writing process as happening in “waves” with each version just a little longer, until he had a product he liked.

  11. Posted August 16, 2010 at 2:52 AM | Permalink

    “bugfuckeringly” ?

    Well im the new biggest fan of that word! Ha! Thank you.

  12. Erzberger
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 3:50 AM | Permalink

    Looks like you didn´t overuse the word “bustle”. :)

    Thanks for the insight. It was very interesting.

  13. Sarah
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 3:57 AM | Permalink

    I SO look forward to Bast and Chronicler kissing! Though I’d like a KvothexBast scene better to be honest :)

    • kungfusinger
      Posted August 16, 2010 at 11:40 AM | Permalink

      Oh, you KNOW he only put that in as a metaspoiler to get us all hot and bothered. Bast probably never kisses anyone in the whole series.

    • Widow Of Sirius
      Posted August 19, 2010 at 7:31 PM | Permalink

      But there’s so much more TENSION between Bast and Chronicler! It makes it so much more intense when they give in to their passions and first embrace.

      • kungfusinger
        Posted August 21, 2010 at 1:05 PM | Permalink

        Oh, I agree. But I won’t get my hopes up because I would hate to have them crushed bitterly under Pat’s bootheel when he doesn’t include that.

  14. Ivi
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 5:11 AM | Permalink

    I noticed you used “I’m curious” and “I’m genuinely curious” in consecutive paragraphs. Now I’m curious – was the repetition for effect or an accident?

  15. Oykib
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 5:16 AM | Permalink

    I got a good laugh that out of everything he posted everyone here is commenting on “bugfuckeringly”!

  16. Bjorn
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 6:06 AM | Permalink

    “I can only talk about *my* revision process, because that’s the only one I know.”

    Well I’m not an expert on revisions but as one of your readers I must say that the result of your revisions is fantastic.

    When I read your book it felt effortless to read, in the way that you could truly submerge into the characters and the World. It felt like every word had its own purpose and no chapter, sentence or word was unnecessary. It was pure joy.

    So take all the time you need to finish your next master work. I appreciate every hour you put into this book and I can’t wait to get to read it. (Don’t overwork yourself thou, you need sleep too) :D

  17. quisty244
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 6:32 AM | Permalink

    Man, thank gods for computers and word processors! I’ve talked to my mom before about what it was like to have to type school papers on a typewriter…..I can’t even imagine trying to revise an 800-page book on one!
    Or even further back, before they had typewriters? Gaaaaaah! Hooray for modern times!

  18. Mickey
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 6:51 AM | Permalink

    Were it not for this ( now beatifully explained ) editing process we would all have to have bought a bugfuckeringly huge book, not that I would have minded more and more and more…..

    Still though, “editing” just sounds so bland Pat ! Maybe it’s actually called ensmallening or perhaps shorterizing ? No one adds to the dictionary like you do.

    Shorterize that manuscript like a dainty shark !

    • kungfusinger
      Posted August 16, 2010 at 11:43 AM | Permalink

      I like “shortenize” better.

    • Posted August 16, 2010 at 3:11 PM | Permalink

      The technical term is “enshortening.”

      • Erzberger
        Posted August 16, 2010 at 3:39 PM | Permalink

        Someone´s been watching the Simpsons

      • Robo
        Posted August 16, 2010 at 6:09 PM | Permalink

        I “enshortened” once. My wife was not happy about it. Thankfully Pfizer makes a pill so…all good!

      • DaveL
        Posted August 17, 2010 at 10:01 AM | Permalink

        Funny, I picture “enshortening” differently. Say, dunking someone in shortening.

        Having done this with jello before, I think it could be big.

        • Robo
          Posted August 17, 2010 at 11:10 AM | Permalink

          It has potential. If the Olympics can do curling and that silly trampoline competition, why not this?

      • Mickey
        Posted August 17, 2010 at 3:16 PM | Permalink

        I knew you would have something applicable floating around in there somewhere.

      • j$
        Posted August 18, 2010 at 2:46 PM | Permalink

        Which is not an antonym to “deshortening.”

        • Daniel Cressman
          Posted August 19, 2010 at 11:44 AM | Permalink

          Isn’t that “embiggening”? Definitely one of the best words I’ve learned from the blog.

  19. fordified
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 7:28 AM | Permalink

    That was a good read Pat.

    I will definitely be adding that 14-letter word to my dictionary and I hope all is well.

  20. jdcb
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 8:02 AM | Permalink

    I almost think we should ask Pat, not to make his work load any heavier as he’s nearing completion, to work ‘bugfuckeringly’ into WMF.

    • acutus
      Posted August 16, 2010 at 1:07 PM | Permalink

      It would seem to reason that perhaps he already has? As per revision comment #1..

  21. Angoisette
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 8:34 AM | Permalink

    Here’s my oddball question: Why on earth do you do your revising all night…. I used to do all my best work in the evenings – could stay up till the wee hours of the morning. But I can’t do that anymore, sadly, especially not after my son was born. He changed my schedule as he made his own. :) I wondered if Oot changed your schedule, or if you always do your work in the darkest hours of night?

    Just curious!

  22. He without a clever name
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 8:55 AM | Permalink

    You should clearly write a book about writing and revision.

    I know, just what you want to hear while neck deep in the word weeds, that you should write another book, but this entry was just fantastic. I will be forwarding this post around, because it is beautiful.

  23. Holmelund
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 9:08 AM | Permalink

    This was a great answer. It was nice to get a little insight into how you do it. Thanks :)

  24. Constance
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 9:24 AM | Permalink

    As a singer and songwriter, I can attest the musical process is much the same. You get a tune in your head. You write lyrics. You try to fit the lyrics to the tune. You re-write the lyrics to better fit the tune. You re-write the tune to better fit that really gorgeous phrase you had written. You share the music with fellow musicians. They give input. You try out some of their suggestions. You re-write to incorporate some of their suggestions. You decide some of their suggestions are crap. Then you go back and re-write the part of the song you felt was weak and looks even weaker in comparison to the latest revisions. It’ll be months before you even start the rehearsals, and even then it won’t be finished with revisions until its’ being performed — and once you’re hearing it having been fleshed out with instruments and voices — you re-write it again. I think that’s why I love the Kingkiller series so much. Pat does a damn good job of capturing the soul of a musician. And as someone who would be trying for their Pipes, dammit, I really can relate to both the character AND the writer at this point. Revisions suck but they’re worth the pain and effort when you see/hear a finished product!

  25. Constance
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 9:25 AM | Permalink

    Sigh. Meant BR instead of B. Stupid thing… Sorry for bolding.

    • kungfusinger
      Posted August 16, 2010 at 11:46 AM | Permalink

      My songwriting process is slightly shorter.

      I get the lyrics stuck in my head, then the tune writes itself around them, then I write more lyrics to the tune, and tweak and tweak and tweak and tweak and tweak. I think I am still tweaking the first song I ever wrote….

      Maybe that isn’t shorter after all….

  26. Grimes
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 9:28 AM | Permalink

    Something funny happened when I was reading the above post. Whenever the abbreviation WMF was used, instead of mentally expanding it to ‘Wise Man’s Fear,’ I extended it to ‘Weapon of Mass Fandom.’

    Also, as someone who has read an ARC of ‘The Way of Kings,’ I don’t think you have much to worry about in ways of one-upping it. I’m not saying it was bad. On the contrary, it was amazing. But I have a feeling that your book will be even better.

  27. Kyndig
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 10:05 AM | Permalink

    I quite enjoyed this, thanks for sharing.

  28. Rin Sinn
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 10:40 AM | Permalink

    I have to say that I love #24.

  29. scm224
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 10:54 AM | Permalink

    Pat, thanks for keeping us in the loop! #24 made me laugh out loud, and, of course, bugfuckeringly is the word of the week. Keep up the great work!

  30. Michael
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 11:49 AM | Permalink

    21. Invented several new religious terms.

    And thus, Scientology was born.

    • Naznarreb
      Posted August 18, 2010 at 4:14 PM | Permalink

      Scientology 2.0: Now even more Scientological!

    • beorn
      Posted September 5, 2010 at 2:00 AM | Permalink

      A funny thing happened to me while reading this.. I saw “Now even more Scatological!”

      I like the philosophy, but what’s up with the “space opera”, dude? Now THERE’S some religious terms!

      I trust Beard-man Rothfuss will invent a similarly entertaining religion for us, wrapping it in much better plot!

  31. kungfusinger
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 11:50 AM | Permalink

    I love this blog. I love the commenters too. Wow! I think I laugh as hard at some of the comments as I do at the blog. Even better, I am not distracted by interneteze. Thank you Pat (and everyone else).

    • He without a clever name
      Posted August 16, 2010 at 12:03 PM | Permalink

      I could never place my finger on it, but you’ve discovered it. There is a shocking lack of Interneteze in these comments, and I must agree that it is refreshing. Good job all fellow commenters! Keep it up!

      • Posted August 16, 2010 at 3:13 PM | Permalink

        Yeah. I come down on that shit hard. We speak the king’s English around these parts.

        • Widow Of Sirius
          Posted August 16, 2010 at 5:32 PM | Permalink

          We all appreciate it.

        • Dominic
          Posted August 16, 2010 at 11:49 PM | Permalink

          Hate to be a berk, but it’s actually the Queen’s English. Ever since good King George VI passed back in ’52.

          • Posted August 17, 2010 at 1:21 AM | Permalink

            Nah. We don’t go in for that new fangled English. We’re still using the old stuff around here….

          • Mickey
            Posted August 17, 2010 at 3:21 PM | Permalink

            I’m with you mate, Her Majesty would not be pleased at this willy-nilly claiming of something that belongs to her !

        • SundanceJL
          Posted March 9, 2011 at 5:00 PM | Permalink

          So “bugfuckeringly” in the next OED update?

  32. Trickster
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 3:59 PM | Permalink

    Okay, I enjoyed reading this a lot, not only did I learn a lot, but it opened my eyes to the fact that you’ve really got a shitload to deal with. When you said you were revising, I figured you were just cutting down on words and maybe tweaking scenes here and there when it caught your fancy. But it seems it’s a good deal more than that and a lot more time consuming, what with the pacing and foreshadowing.

    I wonder, do you also flip through NOTW frequently to check for consistency with certain new ideas you’re introducing to WMF? And do you have a certain time frame for your beta readers to turn in their notes and suggestions to you or is it just a turn it in whenever you can sort of thing?

  33. Aicone
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 4:32 PM | Permalink

    That certainly clarifies the sheer number of tasks that pop up during a revision process considering your description was for only one evening. Reading through it, however, has me asking couldn’t that theoretically go on forever? Having gone through that once with the first book, at what point do you allow yourself to step back to comfortably say it’s done?

    • maine character
      Posted August 21, 2010 at 11:17 PM | Permalink

      Great question. ‘Cause nothing is ever perfect, and you’re always growing as a writer. So even if you actually love what you send in, the day after it’s gone to the printers, you think of the perfect line for your hero to say.

      I scarcely ever reread my published writings, but if by chance I come across a page, it always strikes me that it must all be rewritten; this is how I should have written it.
      - Tolstoy

  34. mbartowi
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 4:49 PM | Permalink

    As always, a great post.

    I’m excited for WMF, but I’m glad you’re taking your time. I don’t want to read something that’s simple, and I also don’t want to read something that is bugfuckeringly complex and inconsistent.

    I want to read huge, bugfuckeringly complex metafictional narrative that is also tight, meaningful, poetic, heart-wrenching, mind-blowing and Universe-saving. Only you can save the Universe, Pat.

    • Skoivan
      Posted August 16, 2010 at 11:44 PM | Permalink

      Here here! Couldn’t be said any better.
      We THANK YOU, Pat Rothfuss, for taking your time with this book instead of hurrying to turn out something you deem unworthy.

  35. Widow Of Sirius
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 5:37 PM | Permalink

    16-20: That chapter needs to be less of a bitch, already.
    21 & 23: You would :)
    24: Do it. Do it now.

    Hope you’re surviving the revision process well.

  36. rads2009
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 6:50 PM | Permalink

    thanks for the awesome post. Very informative and interesting reading. I must say, I’ve decided to be more brief in my e-mail replies, and as such have included, “F U” in my lexicon now. thanks!

  37. rads2009
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 6:52 PM | Permalink

    in seriousness, I enjoyed your post. In terms of the only part of the book that for me I skimmed a little, it was the whole Kvothe Denna lizard/dragon sequence toward the end of the book. I’m not sure why, it just didn’t grab me like the other parts. I can’t wait for Wise Man’s Fear!

    • jdcb
      Posted August 17, 2010 at 7:23 AM | Permalink

      yeah, the whole Draccus thing seemed a little out of sync with the rest of the book. But if I remember right, was needed because he did something the the shop with one of the scales? (have to reread). I’m hoping it comes into play more later, not just a reason to put “I burned down the town to Trebon” in the introduction quote.

      It was the only part of the book that seemed ‘off’ to me, never mentioned it before now though. I think the Draccus thing will come up later in the series too…

      • Sedulo
        Posted August 19, 2010 at 3:57 AM | Permalink

        What was Kvothe doing before he accidentally found the Draccus?
        Who did he run into while doing that?
        Why was that person where they were and who were they with?
        How did Kvothe handle the Draccus problem and
        in the end what more did he discover?

        I think it was extremely important and fits in very much with the story.

        • Widow Of Sirius
          Posted August 19, 2010 at 7:35 PM | Permalink

          Ditto. I struggled with how to say it, but you did a VERY good job being articulate where I am not.

          I, personally, LOVED the draccus stuff. One more of the great stories about Kvothe that get spread around and make him who he is “today.”

        • jdcb
          Posted August 20, 2010 at 8:32 AM | Permalink

          Maybe I forget some of the other important stuff it brought, I’ll admit that. I’m going to buy another copy and re-read it again before book two comes out.

          I don’t think I meant to imply it wasn’t an important section, more than it just didn’t read the same. Almost like another style or something that just seemed different about it that set it apart from the way the rest of the book was.

  38. Chris
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 7:48 PM | Permalink

    Hi Pat,

    Great post.
    How are Beta readers chosen? Are they part of the publishing machine or your personal friends / mentors?

    Love your work!
    Chris

  39. cjkoger
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 8:45 PM | Permalink

    Pat,

    Would you agree with the idea most famously espoused by Brandeis, “There is no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting.” Being a song writer and not a long form writer, I think it holds some truth, though you can’t deny the power of the inspiration that sometimes springs forth while initially forming an idea. Maybe something along the lines of, “Good writing becomes great after rewriting.”

  40. Minzetee
    Posted August 17, 2010 at 6:11 AM | Permalink

    “Everything in the book is there for a purpose. Every scene has to pay for itself. Every piece of description really needs to be worth reading.”

    So that’s the reason why there is too little about Simmon and Wilem?
    Okay, that sounds weird o.O
    I mean, Simmon and Wilem are two of the most favored characters in the book, but we don’t know a lot about them. That really is a pity. But now I can understand… what a bummer…

    But thanks for your explanation what takes so long. You are a real perfectionist =D

  41. guessingo
    Posted August 17, 2010 at 6:56 AM | Permalink

    You can see the difference in quality with the level of effort that Pat puts into his work and other authors who punch out a book/year or more.

    • Sedulo
      Posted August 19, 2010 at 2:45 AM | Permalink

      Hey! You mean you’ve read it already?!

      • Widow Of Sirius
        Posted August 19, 2010 at 7:39 PM | Permalink

        I think (s)he was referring to the effort that goes in, which gives us better quality in the end. It’s nothing like Breaking Dawn, where a story was wrapped up trying to please people and without reverence to the English language or the human ability to comprehend complex and intricate characters.

        • Sedulo
          Posted August 20, 2010 at 6:27 PM | Permalink

          I am absolutely certain the book will be high quality. I was just trying not to bristle because some authors that I really like do put out excellent books every year. My comment was meant to be funny; I understand the compliment that was intended by gessingo.

  42. lou-ren
    Posted August 17, 2010 at 11:23 AM | Permalink

    Just curious, but do you ever do any of your writing/editing process in long hand? Or just on the computer?

  43. masty
    Posted August 17, 2010 at 12:40 PM | Permalink

    I must say, it was very informative. You must have read and reread the story hundreds of times. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like. When I doing something similar to what you say you were doing, I feel aloof and detached. Some times , it even feels like the real and imaginary worlds are warped. I feel you man, kudos to you.

    On a slightly different note, are you sure you are not obsessive compulsive? Peace out.

  44. sunshinespartan
    Posted August 17, 2010 at 2:23 PM | Permalink

    Hey Pat,

    I was just wondering how authors pick the names of their characters. For example I recently saw the name Cthil, I wouldn’t begin to dream of pronouncing it and it made me wonder if they use the name generators from World of Warcraft. So how do you pick the names for your characters?

  45. Tofu
    Posted August 17, 2010 at 5:17 PM | Permalink

    Love #24. Looking forward to Sanderson’s new book as well, which, happily is the end of this month. It’s cool he is finishing Jordan’s work but I prefer his own. It will tide me over until WMF anyway.

  46. Lemmons998
    Posted August 17, 2010 at 11:38 PM | Permalink

    #2, 9, & 10 are very good ones.. And why I’m glad you take so long to revise.. You won’t end up like certain authors who put out at least a book a year and end up referring to all women as looking “delicious.”

  47. Lanre
    Posted August 18, 2010 at 3:54 AM | Permalink

    Dear Mr. Rothfuss,

    I enjoyed your post on editing, and especially the idea of illustrating the concept by editing the query e-mail itself. That was very nicely done.

    I had one follow up question: What exactly do you mean when you say, “tightening up language and paragraph structure”? Could you explain that in a little more detail? Perhaps, using the same sort of illustration process?

    p.s. My English 101 essay is attached. It’s due on the 28th, so I really hope you have time to post before then.

    Cheers,
    Lanre

  48. Christer
    Posted August 18, 2010 at 2:20 PM | Permalink

    Well, society keeps hammering away at all us boys telling us that “size doesn’t matter”… when in fact we’re all thinking that it does… so jump on #24 and kick Brandon. By the way I bought and read NOTW based on your “blurb” for WoK… I think you said that Brandon Sandersons books were getting so good it was starting to piss you off. Time to piss him off!

    On another note all I can think of when reading these bugfucker comments is that movie Super Troopers and the Bear Fucker.

    Unedited… and improper king’s english, be kind.

  49. Baldsilver
    Posted August 18, 2010 at 4:52 PM | Permalink

    that was a pretty good job of tweaking, i had to go back to the original to see what changes you made, liked the check list too. Keep it up

  50. palomnik82
    Posted August 18, 2010 at 8:57 PM | Permalink

    I just wanted to say that I have noticed the lack of interneteze in both Pat’s blog and the comments. Needless to say I find this greatly refreshing. And I too also enjoy the comments on the blog as much as the blog itself.

    • maine character
      Posted August 21, 2010 at 11:23 PM | Permalink

      Can someone explain what interneteze is? I Googled, but no luck.

      And yeah, the comments here are always worth reading.

  51. lys
    Posted August 19, 2010 at 10:17 AM | Permalink

    Pat,
    You used “vague” only three times in this blog entry.
    You used “also” nine times.
    No need to thank me.
    I do like chocolate, though.
    ~lys~
    p.s…Your strategic and creative use of expletives only serves to heighten my anticipation for the March 2011 release of WMF.

  52. Posted August 19, 2010 at 10:19 AM | Permalink

    Having read that people thought there would be a relationship between Kvothe, I found this part most amusing:

    I realize a lot of this is kinda vague. I apologize for that, but I don’t want to spoil any of book two by saying things like, “Added two sentences so it would be more of a surprise when Bast and Chronicler kiss.”

    Also, bugfuckery is a great word.

  53. peterhorton
    Posted August 19, 2010 at 4:12 PM | Permalink

    Pat, possibly stupid question. Boring at least, maybe. What software do you use to write? And why?

    • Robo
      Posted August 19, 2010 at 8:15 PM | Permalink

      Pat’s so hardcore he writes in DOS, prints with a dot-matrix, and has a braille keyboard.

  54. Snall
    Posted August 20, 2010 at 2:21 AM | Permalink

    This is probably a little late but I couldn’t help. Please kill that foreshadowing…how I hate foreshadowing. If foreshadowing had a house I would burn it down and dance around the flames while singing tribal chants to send its spirit swiftly to total destruction.

    • kungfusinger
      Posted August 21, 2010 at 12:56 PM | Permalink

      … and if there was a tree growing at each corner of the lot, then burning the house down would create four-shadowing.

      Hee hee!

  55. Rob47
    Posted August 20, 2010 at 5:54 AM | Permalink

    I must say it sounds like your doing an incredibly fine job of revising it better than others i’ve read some of which had spelling errors in them coughcoughEldestcoughcough.

    Also i’ve got a funny story about NotW, I must admit when I first got it as a birthday present I didn’t like the cover of the book and was very close to taking it back the only thing that stopped me was my not wanting to seem rude. I must say i’m so pleased I didn’t your work is quite simply my favourite book ever knocking Trudi Canavan’s Dark Magician trilogy off the top spot.

    I look forward to WMF.

    • Posted August 21, 2010 at 11:14 AM | Permalink

      Eldest drove me insane. I hate it when I find that they forgot an ending quotation mark, or left a period off the dialogue tag.

  56. Posted August 21, 2010 at 11:12 AM | Permalink

    Hey Pat,
    I got myself an account with discovereads.com. Its a nice site where you rate books you’ve read, then they reccommend some for you.

    Well while I was rating your book, I scrolled down and found 8/9 people gave it 5 stars. Of course the other one was one of those obnoxious types who seems to disagree for fun.

    Well here’s the like if you care to take a gander:
    http://www.discovereads.com/book_groups/3601?action_referrer_id=10

  57. Thrice seven once eleven
    Posted August 21, 2010 at 3:57 PM | Permalink

    In his poem Arte poetica, Vincente Huidobro said, “Invent new worlds and take care with your words; / the adjective, when it does not give life, kills.”

    He may have been speaking to poets, but I think it applies to all writers, and that’s what this post reminded me of. (It pops into my head every time I go to edit or revise something. )

    Best of luck with your revisions, good sir!

  58. maine character
    Posted August 21, 2010 at 11:35 PM | Permalink

    Excellent post. I’ve read books on revising, and yet few give the insight and voice of experience like this. Thanks for the tour and tips.

    For any writers interested in learning more, Maggie Stiefvater did a full week of posts on revision, including a Q&A, starting here.

  59. Pogopuschel
    Posted August 22, 2010 at 5:10 PM | Permalink

    So, you are doing all this hard work, just that we have less to read :)

  60. hecksheri
    Posted August 23, 2010 at 5:44 PM | Permalink

    I am a community college professor. I have a message for James.

    James,

    You have touched a nerve. You may think your writing method (write, spellcheck, print, and then hand them in) works, but unless you are as smart as Kvothe himself, I assure you it does not. The reason you don’t yet know this is because thousands of people like you have tortured every teacher you ever had to the point that they can’t actually look at what they are grading anymore. It is too painful. Imagine listening to your favorite music 100 times, each time by a different person who never bothered to really learn to play an instrument. Imagine reading 100 different versions of chapter 2 of The Name of the Wind, 99 of which were written by people who were aiming for a C and fumbling pitifully. Each of them are proud because they made an effort…they went through the motions. That’s worth something, right? Wrong. It is worth less than nothing. Following your method has driven more teachers to early retirement than all the spitballs in the world combined. The worst part of being a professor is grading hundreds of mediocre works on a subject you loved enough to get multiple degrees in it, then realizing it is a rare student who cares enough to have put enough effort into their work that your hard work on honest feedback will even mean anything to them. If you are actually using the method you have outlined and making A’s, at least one of three things is true:
    1. You are a genius and should be one shotting novels for a living since it doesn’t take much work.
    2. Your assignments are way too easy. You should sign up for hard classes that challenge you because you will stagnate where you are.
    3. Your professors are jaded. They just mark your papers high because no one is making any use of their feedback anyway except to whine a lot when the outcome isn’t roses and unicorns. Whining multiplied by years worth of students starts doing irreparable harm (kind of like how the undead can drain levels in first edition AD&D). As a result of this effect, rarely are teachers truly honest about your writing. You should lament this fact because without honest feedback, you will never improve.

    Pat’s books are amazing at least partly because he is using the antithesis of your method.

    You are putting your name on these papers. Names are important, James. Be careful where you put yours lest you damage it or get it dirty.

    Yours truly

    A Bitter Professor
    (note my unwillingness to sully my name with this bit of whining)

    • hecksheri
      Posted August 23, 2010 at 8:41 PM | Permalink

      In rereading this, I see it comes across somewhat meaner than I intended. I am bad about that. I also see many things I would have revised if I’d gone over this prior to posting it. I even see a misplaced modifier….I hate those. I’ll just pretend I did it on purpose to make my point. Everyone must proofread, edit, and revise if they intend to write well. Everyone. Great novelists such as our Patrick must do it, college professors must do it, and so must you. Think of your first draft as clay which must still be shaped.

      I am a community college professor. I have a message for James.

      James,

      You have touched a nerve. You may think your writing method (write, spellcheck, print, and then hand them in) works, but unless you are as smart as Kvothe himself, I assure you it does not. The reason you don’t yet know this is because thousands of people like you have tortured every teacher you ever had to the point that they can’t actually look at what they are grading anymore. It is too painful. Imagine listening to your favorite music 100 times, each time by a different person who never bothered to really learn to play an instrument. Imagine reading 100 different versions of chapter 2 of The Name of the Wind, 99 of which were written by people who were aiming for a C and fumbling pitifully. Each of them are proud because they made an effort…they went through the motions. That’s worth something, right? Wrong. It is worth less than nothing. Following your method has driven more teachers to early retirement than all the spitballs in the world combined. The worst part of being a professor is grading hundreds of mediocre works on a subject you loved enough to get multiple degrees in it, then realizing it is a rare student who cares enough to have put enough effort into their work that your hard work on honest feedback will even mean anything to them. If you are actually using the method you have outlined and making A’s, at least one of three things is true:
      1. You are a genius and should be one shotting novels for a living since it doesn’t take much work.
      2. Your assignments are way too easy. You should sign up for hard classes that challenge you because you will stagnate where you are.
      3. Your professors are jaded. They just mark your papers high because no one is making any use of their feedback anyway except to whine a lot when the outcome isn’t roses and unicorns. Whining multiplied by years worth of students starts doing irreparable harm (kind of like how the undead can drain levels in first edition AD&D). As a result of this effect, rarely are teachers truly honest about your writing. You should lament this fact because without honest feedback, you will never improve.

      Pat’s books are amazing at least partly because he is using the antithesis of your method.

      You are putting your name on these papers. Names are important, James. Be careful where you put yours lest you damage it or get it dirty.

      Yours truly

      A Bitter Professor
      (note my unwillingness to sully my name with this bit of whining)

  61. Kiroi Liu
    Posted August 31, 2010 at 7:33 AM | Permalink

    I have to say that I smiled almost all the time i was reading this entry, it wasn’t of course because i found it funny but because i know what you’re talking about. I would like to say that Im a writer but Im too useless as a writer so I’ll say that I wish to be a writer, so everytime I write something I revise it at least 15 to 20 or even 30 times, because I’m a perfectionist and I make so many mistakes… It makes me feel good to know that I’m not the only one.

    sincerely yours

    JRLL

  62. Posted September 1, 2010 at 3:36 PM | Permalink

    Do you draw those cartoons?
    How long does it take on average? I bet it’s a nice break from writing and thinking and reading…

  63. 2Questionable
    Posted September 11, 2010 at 9:19 AM | Permalink

    Pat,

    Thank you taking the time to divulge your revision process in such a concise and rather useful manner. I often find myself revising as I write, which is probably a horrible. For now, it’s easy to reread what I’ve written so far of my current novel (it’s a lucky number of 13 pages in length), but I know when I reach further into the story, and the pages have amassed well past my current age in their numbers, I will be forced to deal with revisions on a chapter by chapter basis–and well after I’ve written the chapter.

    I know I must stop the revising-as-I-go method soon as I think it’s allowing me to delay getting the rest of the tale into black and white text, all pretty-like on the computer screen. I find it far too easy to get sidetracked with the research of the history surrounding my story, but I dread taking the time to go back to fill in mountains of missing details afterward. However, it’s nice to know that the individual who wrote one of my favorite books has spent probably more time revising and rethinking his work than it probably took him to write the initial draft.

    I think I can breath a little easier now knowing that if takes me years to finish this story then that’s okay. It’s nice to have a reminder that at this stage in my “writing career,” I have the luxury of no deadlines to meet. The story will be told, and then revised, and all without the clock ticking, counting the moments until it no longer belongs to me.

    -Jenny

  64. Pandora
    Posted September 18, 2010 at 9:18 AM | Permalink

    Most of the books I had in mind have already being named, so I will just add a few.

    - Pierre Bottero’s Ewilan trilogy. A french fantasy book about a 13 year old girl who finds out she can travel to other worlds. I am not sure if this one has being translated into english, I couldn’t find it in amazon.

    - “How to become King” by Jan Terlouw, which was one of my favorite books in childhood. Stach has to pass 7 tests to become Katoren’s king.

  65. Jsherry
    Posted September 4, 2013 at 8:24 AM | Permalink

    Hi, Pat,

    Just wanted to point out that three years later I still link to this blog post when I talk about essay revision with my students.

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