I had another big job to do to a very short deadline through the latter part of May and the beginning of June. I developed an outline, got it approved, and wrote 40,000 words, in four weeks.
At the end of last week, I had an email discussion with the editor which went, paraphrased, like this.
Him: I’ve decided I don’t like the outline I approved any more. I want you to massively rewrite this, in two weeks.
Him: Er, OK. I see your point. What can you do in two weeks?
And then we got into a much more sensible discussion, which has now resolved into a plan for getting the revisions done within the timescale.
Actually, I agree with the revisions he wants. As I was writing, I was thinking “This outline isn’t working as well as I thought it would. How can I make it better within the outline and deadline I have?”. My changes were clearly on the right lines, because we’re now going to make them much more central to the chapter, essentially restructuring the chapter around it. Had the deadline been more sensible, I might have been able to do it without completing a draft first. That would be ideal, of course, because obviously I don’t get paid for the revisions; I only get paid the original amount.
This is all normal in creative work, as far as I know. Outlines not working out is certainly normal. I think it happens less as I get more experienced, and the quality of the my outlines is, I think, getting better in general, but I suspect it will never go away altogether. I’d bet that even Shakespeare had occasions of thinking “No, this scene sucks. Start again”. (I’d also suggest that Titus Andronicus is what happened when his deadline didn’t give him time to do that.) I suppose if you’re a salaried employee of a company, and writing, they don’t stop your salary while you’re doing revisions, but I think that’s standard practice for freelancers. Arguably not ideal, but being on the publisher side as well I know perfectly well that the economics of RPG publishing simply won’t allow for handing out more money.
Oh well. The book will be better for the revisions, I’m sure.