I was whining about hating to do my revisions recently to my friend Laura recently, and she gave me the best analogy: “I look at my manuscripts as a dirty house I need to clean up and organize.”
Best. Advice. Ever.
I know it’s disturbing and odd, but I love cleaning and organizing. It’s so satisfying to work on a mess and have it all be neat and tidy and sparkling when I’m done; I enjoy this so much that I even let things go for a while, rather than cleaning as I go, so that when I have time I can just go to town. Paul has decided to go visit his mom the week of the 4th of July, for example, and having already requested that Monday the 3rd off so I could have a four day weekend–when Paul told me this my immediate first thought was, oh my God, the cleaning I am going to be able to get done…
I do recognize that this is not normal.
Anyway, but approaching the revisions with this mindset had completely changed how I view doing them; my manuscript is my apartment, it’s filthy and disorganized, and I need to get it in order, cleaned up, and organized so that it reads more smoothly and makes more sense. It’s amazing to me, too, how changing the way I look at doing this has turned it into something I am actually enjoying doing–something I never thought I would say. I’m not sure when exactly I decided that I hated doing revisions–it’s probably a leftover from the old “should have gotten it right the first time” mentality that I used to have–but it’s always been something I don’t like doing, and it also plays into my laziness. Do I HAVE to? was what I always used to whine when my mother would make me do something when I was a kid–what an utterly horrible little shit I was; the more I remember my childhood the more sympathy I have for my parents–and do I HAVE to is the mentality I always seem to take into my revisions.
But looking at it as a cleaning/organizing project? Has opened a whole new world to me.
Another writer friend of mine also offered me this critique of the way I write–“you always step on the action.” She then went on to explain that I have a habit of starting a chapter after something has happened, and then have the character flashback to what happened; this kills the suspense and takes urgency out of the story. I had never really noticed this habit, but when she told me this over lunch one day last fall, I began thinking about it and thought, yes, I do that sometimes.
As I revise this manuscript, I realized I DO IT ALL THE TIME. At least, I do in this manuscript, and she’s right; it does slow the pacing, kills off some of the suspense, and cuts back on the urgency. So I am fixing that–reordering my chapters, moving scenes around and having to redirect the structure and flow; and who knew? It’s fun. I am also trying to clean up the language, focus on maintaining a mood, and so forth as I go along, but I think once I get this restructured, I am going to go through and edit for language only in the next draft. I am still hoping to get this all done by 4th of July weekend (another benefit to Paul being gone that weekend) so I can spend that weekend cleaning up the language.
And on that note, this chapter isn’t going to revise itself for me.
For Throwback Thursday, here’s another hunk from my youth, who helped me realize oh, yes, I like boys/men; the wonderful Christopher Reeve: