Reflection: Of Leaves and Water, part 2

To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to revisit the “tea universe” again. In 2018, the goal had simply been to publish a completed piece online every week. But as is my habit, I’d tried to make it into something much more elaborate.

‘It will be my masterpiece,’ I’d thought, having seen some folks become popular posting serial work online. I had an outline with dozens of characters and plot points and story arcs… and ended up writing barely a tenth of what I’d planned.

So while I’d accomplished the goal, I hadn’t been very happy with it. ‘None of this can be published,’ I had thought, dismally looking through the mess.

*

It took several months before I could visit the site. When I did, I was pleasantly surprised to find some that weren’t too bad. But it wouldn’t be until two years later that I would actually go through the process of selecting pieces, reworking them, and learning how to publish them online.

To be honest, I thought reworking the pieces would be easier than it ended up being – likely because it was my first time doing such a thing. Although each piece had gone through their own revisioning process during the week they had been written, they weren’t as emotionally impactful as I wanted. At the same time, however, I didn’t want to spend more than a several weeks working on the collection. Mind, this was the beginning of 2020, with the pandemic not yet classified as such, but already causing a frantic panic through everyone. And yes, the thought of death and regret was on my mind, and drove much of the project.

*

When you have death and regret nipping at your heels, you learn a thing or two about being efficient. The process I developed was based on the 80/20 rule, where my focus was on emotional impact. Applied to my revisioning, this meant that I turned my eye first to and spent the bulk of my time on “the turn” of the story. In manga, it’s that moment that often is a 2-page spread of breathless realization; in movies, it’s when the protagonist’s eyes change and they take up the story on their own terms.

Everything else in the story – the opening, the development, even the ending – was thus in service of that moment. It became a puzzle, did I weave the theme into the beginning? Was there support throughout? Taking this approach gave me enough distance from the work to look at it critically but gave me freedom to dive in when it came to specific sections.

Some of the pieces ended up being reworked quite a bit. For example, New Leaf was a chapter that I’d been fond of and was surprised that I ended up changing so much of the second half. Looking back at the original post, I still like what I’d initially written. But it was also nice to see that there was still more I could do to make it better.

*

In a way, my thoughts in 2018 had been correct – the work I’d done that year hadn’t been ready for publishing. Although it took two years to get it there, it makes me curious as to how much more I’ll learn in the next years to come.

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