The Patients Are Upset About My Revision

The Patients Are Upset About My Revision
“Strange Paris #1” by Peter Rivera, CC BY 2.0

I think the revision work is getting to me.

When I’m stressed, I dream about packing. It’s ironic. I love packing in real life. I love the neatness of it, the precision of paring life down to only the necessary essentials. I have a stack of Eagle Creek packing cubes that I meticulously fill with rolled clothes. I have separate bags for makeup and shoes. I have a little folder for tickets and reserve rations. There’s a place for everything, and it makes me feel blissfully organized and in control.

In my dreams about packing, I can never finish the job. There’s always one more thing. I put the last item in the suitcase and realize there’s another drawer to empty. There’s something lying in the corner. There’s a closet full of clothes I forgot about. To add to the pressure, I’m usually late for my plane or someone is in the background pressing me to move faster. My dreams about packing aren’t quite nightmares, but they don’t make for a restful night’s sleep either.

Last night, I dreamt I was packing in the bathroom of a mental institution. A creepy, Batman-esque, horror movie mental institution, full of OCD carnival freaks augmented with prosthetic devices like tiny dolls hands and metal pincers. They didn’t like me touching things with my bare skin. The tiny plastic hands kept reaching out to close stall doors in front of me. They pulled items away before I could pack them. They stole my suitcase so I couldn’t continue to touch it. No matter what I tried to pack, the tiny hands were there first and they didn’t want me touching it.

Yeah, the revision work is definitely getting to me.

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To All The Books I’ve (Not) Revised Before

IMG_8709I have written ten novels.

I have concocted ten plots, divided each of them into chapters, pounded away at ten manuscript files until they had at least 50,000 words each, and wrote the words “the end” as I came to the conclusion of ten story lines.

I have not finished ten novels. I haven’t even finished one.

Maybe I shouldn’t admit that. I suppose it makes me sound like the type of person who starts projects and then abandons them willy-nilly. I’m not that type at all. I’m more the type of person who reads through to the bitter end of a novel she hates, just to say she did it. I’m the type who takes a dance class to get out of the house and, three years later, finds herself onstage in a $300 costume, with no clear idea how Step A led to Point Q. I’m the type who decides to put a few things up on Etsy and ends with a registered business and a sales tax license. This isn’t a result of relentless drive and an unsurpassed work ethic. I just forget to quit.

Unless something reminds me. The end of NaNoWriMo? That’s a convenient time to quit. Goal met. Achievement unlocked. Time to set the book aside and do something else. So that’s what I did. Nine times. I don’t regret it.

This novel, though? Number ten? I didn’t write it during NaNoWriMo. There was no bell at the end of the work day, nothing to tell me to stop, so I didn’t. I started revising. I don’t regret that, either

I was surprised to find I really like revision. I like how well I know my characters by the time I make my way back around to the beginning of their story. I like how clear the decisions are, how everything that was murky and difficult the first time through becomes clear and understandable on the second pass. I like how pretty the words look after I comb back through them, like a freshly raked zen garden.

And the ideas! While I was writing my first draft, I worried another book would never come to me, Now that I’ve turned off the drafting tap and switched to revising, the new ideas can barely be contained. As immersive as revising can be, it frees up the plotting part of my brain to explore other ideas. It’s exhilarating.

I’m sorry, nine books I didn’t bother revising. We weren’t ready to take the next step.

To number ten? Turns out, revising is awesome. Don’t tell the others.