In The Silicon Lathe, my first novel, I threw everything into the story. It's got lots of high risk sports, sleazy and altruistic characters, technology, how to run a company, murder, and of course, personal relationships. I probably should have cut a lot of that out; maybe turned it into two or three books. But after revising it several times over the course of a couple of years, I actually like the way it turned out. It is what I wanted it to be.
So now, I'm looking at the prospect of revising The Shadow of God as well. Hopefully it won't take me years to get that done.
As I'm waiting for feedback from my initial reviewers, I need to fill my time with something else. I'm not quite ready to start another book given that this one really isn't finished. So, I picked up Ethics, my second novel, and read it again. I finished writing it over a year ago and knew at the time that it was the best thing I've ever written and may be the best thing I'll ever write. Back then, I also knew that if I published it, I'd likely put myself at major personal risk, so I decided to put it on the shelf and leave it. Perhaps it could be published after my death. After rereading it, I've decided that I'm going to try to revise it in a way that distances real-life people from my characters in hopes that I can make it publishable now.
When I finished The Silicon Lathe, I met with an attorney who specializes in defamation lawsuits. He convinced me to change the names of companies, the descriptions of characters, and to hide certain technologies and events. Surprisingly, that was easy to do. I think I completed all his proposed revisions in less than a day.
But as I look at changing Ethics, and then at revising The Shadow of God, I realize that this could be quite difficult. While The Silicon Lathe was linear, in Ethics and The Shadow of God, I embedded clues to future events right from the beginning. Something I wrote on page 20 might have a major impact on a person or event on page 220. I put in countless misdirections, purposely trying to mislead the reader.
Writing this way isn't always conscious. You get an idea of where you want the story to go and you make sure that the foundations are in place before you go for the big surprises. The intricacies of the story get weaved into the people, places, and events. There are hints of what's to come in the style, in the ways people talk, and even in the ways that places and situations are described.
So, now I need to do revisions. I need to change characters, how they look, what they do for a living, and how they express themselves. I need to change places and events, eliminating some altogether. I need to tamper with the foundations of my stories, somehow keeping the hints intact. Fine threads need to survive major surgeries.
I'm confident I can be successful with this process for The Shadow of God. The characters in the original story don't have a lot of real-life counterparts. My changes there will be to improve flow, readability, eliminate distractions, and tighten up the story. But I'm still worried about Ethics. I knew the characters the story is based on. This familiarity is built into how they act, react, and talk. I am afraid that altering their fundamental characteristics will jeopardize the foundation I've crafted and that what I think of as my very best work will be diminished. But I'm going to give it a try. I'm going to burn bridges back to the original people and make it a different book. If I do it well, these people won't recognize themselves, but I can preserve their essences. The story will remain the same.
I've backed up the original, so if the revisions don't work out, Ethics can always be published after I'm gone. In the meantime, stay tuned for progress on The Shadow of God. I received final cover art from Lanny Markasky today. Hopefully, publication is only weeks away (after revisions and some professional reviews - these usually take 3-5 weeks by themselves).
Wish me luck!