Monday, August 30, 2010

Revisions: Blessing and Bane

Monday, Monday...
So, as anyone who has tried to hold a conversation with me lately knows, I'm scalp deep in the revisions for my latest novel "The Second." I've actually never gotten into the deep editing part of the novel writing process before, so this is an all-new adventure with unexpected twists and dangers around every turn (Why yes, I have been working on the pitch. How can you tell?). Today will be the fifth consecutive day that a shocking percentage of my writing time will be spent spreading color coded index cards across the living room floor (each represents a scene), staring at them, and occasionally rearranging them or jotting down a note. As thrilling as it sounds, this is actually the part I like. My brain loves this new puzzle of trying to arrange thirty-some renegade cards into a neat line of chronological orderliness. I originally wrote the draft in what I thought was chronological order, but it wasn't until I shuffled up all my cards and threw them on the floor that I started to realize how much more effective XYZ scene would be if I moved it back a bit, or if I had it immediately following EFG scene, etc. Of course, that usually creates a new problem in the storyline so I get to go back and figure out how to fill up the gap. Then, when I find that I'm puzzled and having a hard time moving any more cards, I jot down my questions, throw them to the boys in the basement (aka, my subconscious), and gather up my cards for the day. The boys almost always have a whole list of suggestions when the cards come out the next day and the manuscript improves at an amazing rate.

I have to say, though, that not all of the revision has been so fun. I've heard quite a bit of discussion about which is harder, writing or re-writing, and I'm more inclined to say it's the re-writing bit. While the first draft definitely has its own challenges of having to lock my Inner Editor in his office and then chase after Creative Guy as he dashes, carefree, through the whole length of the novel (with plenty of "Oh crap, where'd he go?" moments), there's a great amount of freedom with the first draft. If I don't know exactly where my plot is going, no problem! If I haven't done the research to know if I'm writing this accurately, I leave myself a note and go on! It's my novel's wild and reckless youth.

The revision stage, though, is when it's time for my novel to grow up and start to get things in order. It's when I herd Inner Editor and Creative Guy into the same room, lock the door, and try to keep them from killing each other long enough to get the novel into a readable state. Inner Editor, always the perfectionist, can't believe what a mess Creative Guy and I made while he was searching for the spare key to his office, and isn't sure the whole thing doesn't need to be scrapped. Creative Guy, on the other hand, is a hippy-esque figure who just wants to pitch me the idea for the next novel and does NOT do deadlines ("Can't hurry genius, man!").

When all is going well, everybody works together with Inner Editor pointing out plot flaws and Creative Guy coming up with (hopefully) original fixes, but at least once a week I have a mutiny on my hands. Try drafting a new scene when Inner Editor won't stop making sarcastic comments about sentence structure and Creative Guy starts yelling about "suit dude" making it impossible to hear his muse. Telling Creative Guy that we're drafting that pivotal scene TOMORROW so he needs to hurry up and decide what's going to go down is just as bad.

Chime in time! Whether you write novels, short stories, essays, blog posts, or work reports, what's your stand on revision? Are you one of those insanely organized minds who outlines and then just writes a single draft, or are you a bit more right brain and need more revision time. Any helpful hints that you've discovered? Do you have a routine?

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