Imagination FAIL #amwriting #amrewriting

So I’m revising EEL’S REVERENCE, a kind of science fantasy (I guess), which has mermaids (mermayds) as natural beings rather than supernatural ones.

Why do I have to revise it?

Failure of imagination.

You would think that a book with mermayds and female priests had plenty of imagination, wouldn’t you? But that’s the funny thing about imaginative fiction: it isn’t enough to be fanciful; you also have to be realistic. And that’s the hard part.

This book has been released more often than a Walt Disney animated classic. And I finally got a couple of great reviews. By “great” in this case, I mean “lukewarm, with reasons given”. Honey, those are gold!

Where did my imagination fail?

I had men giving birth. The reviewer objected that this made no difference in the relative status of men and women. Actually, it did, at the time I wrote it; by the time he reviewed it, the relative status of men and women had changed to match the much more equitable relationship I had written, which was not the relationship at the time of the writing. Times caught up with me, and I hadn’t done anything plottish with the men-give-birth thing, so it turned into a matter of no importance.

Another reviewer pointed out that I used horses like cars: folks get on, drive them to where they’re going, get off, and walk away. Important tip: horses are alive. They need to be rested, fed, watered, cared for. I was all like, go from here to there, and then stuff happens. I didn’t imagine the horses.

GonEditinHow am I revising?

I have a bazillion stories and books in my head and in the pipeline; I really don’t want to do a complete overhaul. Making the men-having-babies an important plot point would necessitate that. So, sorry, guys – no soup for you! …Er, I mean, men no longer give birth in my imaginary world. Since it’s only part of a couple of scenes, they’re easily rewritten.

I invented desert ponies, which are easier for non-horse people to care for in difficult circumstances. Like, you know, in the freakin’ desert. I’m remembering to have the horses and/or ponies fed, watered, rested, and otherwise kept in mind. I’m pretending Mom and I are watching the book on television, because she’s a great one for asking, like, “What happened to his horse? Who’s looking after the horse?” Although it’s usually a dog. But it’s horses in this book. (Or ponies.)

I’m also taking out most of the character descriptions. If you read the book, you would probably be like, “I thought you said you took out most of the character descriptions.” And I would be like, “I did.” And you would be like, “Dear God.” Yeah, that much. I know there are still writers who tell you how many flecks of gold a character has in her eyes or the exact color of the veins that show on a character’s forehead and stuff, and that’s brilliant if it means something. Balzac was killer for making a physical description describe a character’s … er … character. But I’m not Balzac, in case you hadn’t noticed. When I reread the book, the lengthy descriptions made me want to chew off my own foot. So I pruned them. The descriptions, not my feet.

Here’s hoping the revisions improve the product and make the story shinier.

A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Write a full description of somebody you know. Now take out everything that isn’t important and/or make what you describe tell or imply something about the person inside.



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “Imagination FAIL #amwriting #amrewriting

  1. Dan

    October 5, 2015 at 8:16am

    Not enough imagination is a problem in my day job too. We are trying to build computer applications for people but they can’t imagine further than a little bit past their current understanding. We have to ramp them up in small steps. Imagination requires some basis in fact that we can anchor on.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      October 5, 2015 at 8:33am

      Exactly so, Dan. Neil Gaiman is a master at that. So is Poe. They start you out with the familiar, then lead you into weirder and weirder territory until you close the book and the ordinary looks bizarre next to the imaginary world you’ve come to accept.

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  2. Jane

    October 5, 2015 at 10:02am

    You’re a mighty strict editor there, girl!

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  3. A.C. Flory

    October 5, 2015 at 6:04pm

    lol – I call this the ‘And this is important because?’ test. Sometimes I’m lucky and I can use those odd, subconscious extras to good advantage. Sometimes not. 🙁 I’m taking a wild guess that you’re a pantster too? We edit a lot. 😀

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      October 5, 2015 at 6:29pm

      I was a pantser at the time I wrote this book. I’ve since learned to love a little outlining. But, yes, I edit a lot. ~sigh~ heh

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      • A.C. Flory

        October 5, 2015 at 7:39pm

        -nods- I’ve become something of a hybrid as well, but only in the ‘middle’ when I suddenly realise I have no idea where the story is going. 🙁

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