Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Writing the Revision

By Laura Spinella







The topic this cycle is the writing process. Currently, my writing process is in a state of revision or my revision is in a state of process. I’m not sure which. I’ve read with interest previous posts about the writing processes of my fellow girlfriends. Many sound hauntingly like mine. I believe there’s been talk of musical inspiration and serious concentration; I think it was Judy Merrill Larsen who mentioned self-imposed hand slapping. I definitely get that one, red-knuckled and bruised as I type. So I thought might be fun to chat about the revision process and how that differs from writing something new, or, in my case, editing.
It seems that after the first book, they expect you to write a second. Who knew? Although, it’s not like this is my first attempt at writing a second book. Truth be told, BEAUTIFUL DISASTER was my first second book, but the first one deemed worthy of a cover and spine. In fact, the book that’s currently undergoing the revision process was never meant to be the second book. That book was brushed aside last summer, powers that be hinting that they’d like something with a tone more akin to my first effort (which was really my second effort), a character like Flynn but not Flynn, and, BTW, if I could make the love story char the edges of each page, that would be just swell. Sure. Anybody got a bottle with cork? Cuz I’m on the hunt for lightning—that or I plan on drinking a lot in the months to come.
Oh, that sounds like sour grapes, and, actually, it’s not, but the revision process doesn’t put me in the best mood. It’s not, for example, like the editing process. Now you can label them however you like, though I see them as two distinct and different functions. Editing is what happens after I’ve finished the draft. It’s where I get to fuss over my work, making fluid sentences flow, changing the names of insignificant characters, and deleting or adding commas as the case may be. I think it’s when I’m most in love with my book. If I’m really lucky, that smoldering passionate mindset lasts about as long as my 10th grade boyfriend. (Do not ask me to recall his name) The editing process, ego-plumping as it is, is not without pitfalls. Suddenly, in the midst of a beautiful and moving passage, I realize a brilliant plot point doesn’t sparkle like I’d intended, and maybe the storyline is a bit transparent with the reader seeing the ending coming from the title, which probably isn’t so special either. This, in turn, leads to the great mountain-valley-desert of revision. Or, as I like to think of it, self-inflicted revision, a close cousin to the self-inflicted gunshot. Revision, of course, can also come by way of an editor or agent, which is my current status. Given a choice, I prefer this type of reconstruction, harsh as it first may seem. At least it comes with guidelines and the suggestion that if I do it right, I’ll be rewarded. This revision process, surgical and messy, is kind of like taking an Oldsmobile apart on your living room floor and rebuilding it into an Aston Martin. Well, probably not exactly, but that’s how it feels.
The book in question, now officially referred to as the follow up, was written mostly in first person, but also included a third person point of view. At some juncture, that was discussed and blessed off as the way to go. As I neared the end of the draft, I started to get uncomfortable with the arrangement, thinking what sounded entertaining and witty now read more like a Chick-Lit novel in need of a Zoloft prescription. The good news here is we were all in agreement, and could I simply swap out that first person for third person all the way through? So far, it’s kind of like undoing a straight-jacket by way of a paperclip in your teeth. But it is what it is and I will manage to muddle through. At some point, not long so ago, I remember dissecting BEAUTIFUL DISASTER with the same overwhelming sense of tediousness and angst. In the end, I’m fairly certain I didn’t build an Aston Martin, but it drives surprisingly well and neighbors think it’s pretty keen.





9 comments:

  1. Good luck, Laura! I feel your pain . . . when I'm wallowing through revisions I try to remember that what I'll end up with will be better and stronger than I ever knew . . . but it's still a lot of wallowing.

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  2. I can't read my published books because I know I'd still be revising in my head. It never seems to stop.

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  3. Judy, Yes this is true, it will end up better, but it also makes you wish you'd gone to pharmacy school!! Karin, Funny you should say that! Can't look at it either, just end up saying, "Oh, I should have done this.." or "Why didn't I change that!" Writing has terrific hindsight!

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  4. Karin and Laura, I'm the same way! Also, I'm always afraid mistakes I saw early on won't be fixed. Just can't do it.

    Laura, keep at it! All the angst will be worth it in the end. This book's going to be every bit as engaging as BEAUTIFUL DISASTER...no, no, even more engaging! I can feel it. :-)

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  5. Aw, thanks, Susan!! From your lips...

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  6. "This revision process, surgical and messy, is kind of like taking an Oldsmobile apart on your living room floor and rebuilding it into an Aston Martin."

    LOL, Laura! This comparison made me laugh (maybe because I once owned an ancient Oldsmobile but always wanted an Aston Martin ;). As far as revision...sigh. Yeah, there's really no part of the writing process that's easy, is there? Hang in there. You can do it!

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  7. I love this place! And I love your topic today. It is where I am headed. I proofed and proofed first draft to hand it over to an editor who is catching the zillion mistakes I missed. I'm chomping at the bit to get it back and play with it, but I can truly empathize with your process and know that I will be there soon.

    More please!

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  8. Marilyn, if I made you laugh, my hair-pulling revision is well worth it!!

    Happy to be of service, bb...Can't take credit for the topic, that's all up to the GBC boss, who I think is on vacation this week!! Much luck with your revisions!!

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