Revisions: A Sticky, Messy Process

On Writing: I’m working on revisions and I’ve come up with another description of how the messy middle of the process feels. I usually describe it like deep cleaning where you have to pull everything out of the cupboards and drawers and make an even bigger mess before sorting, organizing and restoring order. Yesterday I hit a crazy tangled place and it reminded me of moving. As a former military family, we’ve moved a fair amount. Many a time I’ve stood exhausted after days of cleaning and packing, trying to cram items into a box, holding it shut with one hand while I try to work that sticky packing tape with the other. You’ve all done that, right?

And somehow the tape gets caught up on your fingers and tangled. And there’s that claustrophobic feeling that hits you and you freak out and try to tug and pull it off. Only it sticks to your hand more and you can’t get…it…off, so you have to let go of the box you’re holding closed (and of course the box opens up so whatever you were trying to cram in it pops out like a jack-in-the-box) in order to pull that darn tape off so you can breathe again.

Only it’s sticking like another layer of skin (because of course you bought the “good” tape to make it through the move across country) so you alternate frantically peeling it off while trying to shake it off like crazy. And with a growl (or possibly some escaped cuss word) the tape finally releases its cloying grip from your hand and goes flying cross the room. You stand there breathing heavy staring down at your once again overflowing packing box while your children and husband take a large step away from you, concern (and a whole lot of “what the hell?”) shadowing their eyes. You’ve had that happen, right?

Anyhow, that’s what revisions felt like all day yesterday. Thank goodness by the end of the day it felt like the tape (book) was unstuck and the box (plot/storylines/character motivations) repacked in a much more logical way (without having to cram everything in and sit on it to get it closed.) Back at it again today. “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.”

Advice on Revising:

Stephen King: “Mostly when I think of pacing, I go back to Elmore Leonard, who explained it so perfectly by saying he just left out the boring parts. This suggests cutting to speed the pace, and that’s what most of us end up having to do (kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings)…I got a scribbled comment that changed the way I rewrote my fiction once and forever. Jotted below the machine-generated signature of the editor was this mot: ‘Not bad, but PUFFY. You need to revise for length. Formula: 2nd Draft = 1st Draft – 10%. Good luck.'”

Mark Twain: “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

Elmore Leonard: “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

Raymond Chandler: “Throw up into your typewriter every morning. Clean up every noon.”

If you’re looking for help with an organized path through the revision process, author Jami Gold recently blogged about it here.







One thought on “Revisions: A Sticky, Messy Process

  1. Thanks for sharing the link to Rachel’s guest post on my blog. I hope people find it helpful. 🙂

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