Sep 24, 2010

Finishing



I started my big revision just over a month ago.  I started with a few days of serious planning (shrunken manuscript, note cards, track changes in Word).

Then I spent two weeks changing the big stuff.  In this phase I deleted 160 pages and added 70 pages of new material.  I was seriously thrilled when I reached the end.  Grafting new scenes onto old, changing plot, and revising structure--this is painful, deep-down revision work.

That weekend I went to a local SCBWI conference and came home realizing my first pages needed changing. What the heck, right?  They were all brand new pages anyway. What was one more change?

By the time I finished the new intro, I didn't recognize my book anymore.  Seriously, I could just retitle it and submit it as new.

And all that new stuff, it started worrying me.  So I spent a few more days fact-checking the lies I was telling.  Because, you know, good fiction is based on good lies.  And good lies need some fact-checking.

But there's a point too, when I'm writing about dill seed, and I get spices out of the cupboard and I start researching Schilling and then McCormick and I'm reading about the history of the company and Uncle Sam's Nerve and Bone Liniment--there's some point in there when I have to think maybe, just maybe, I'm procrastinating. Maybe I'm a tad afraid to resubmit this book to the agent who requested revisions.  Yeah.  Ya think?

And the read-aloud I had planned to start the week before?  I'm afraid the book has changed so much my devoted cheering section will no longer like it.  What if I just ruined it for everyone?

Unfortunately realizing I was terrified did nothing to help me.  It's that moment when someone sees you're afraid of heights and they say, "just don't look down" and you hadn't considered looking down until they said it and then you can't help it.

And so yeah, I was almost done really, but I was trapped there, looking down at my manuscript, afraid to move.

I hate that.

So I did what I did when I was a kid and I got stuck in a tree I was trying to climb:  I inched forward for a bit--and then I fell.

I let go of trying to write perfect, compact sentences and I let myself write like hell through the section where I was stuck and 3500 words later, I wasn't stuck anymore and I flew through the rest.

During read-aloud week I deleted most of those words, but they were a good fall for me and much needed.  And if that scene does make the final cut, the reader may or may not recognize the section.  When Amelia tells Claire about letting go, it's apparently the lecture the author needed to hear.  I couldn't fully embrace the new version until I let go of the old.

I spent the last week finishing my read-aloud edit.  And I'm assured by my listeners that I didn't ruin the story.  (They said nicer things, but really I just wanted to know: ruined or not? And they said not.  And I've had bad reviews from them before, so this was not a given.)

Today I finished adding the necessary edits--and off it went to outstanding requests.

So here's to finishing.  No matter where you are in the process or how many revisions you've undertaken, here's to pushing through your fears and finishing. *clink*

2 comments:

  1. Good for you. I am procrastinating. I'm sick of revisions. Seventh draft (or is it 8?) and I still have to go through it again and make more changes. I love writing. I hate editing.

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  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Johanna Harness and CJ Carter, Patricia Gallant. Patricia Gallant said: RT @johannaharness: Thoughts about finishing this revision: http://bit.ly/a92pVm [...]

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