Revising for myself was easier, but revising for an agent or editor is far more gratifying. A feeling of accomplishment, but also a little twitch-inducing at times. Still, though. I do like it. My editor understands my characters and why I wrote the book in the first place—a huge plus! I have come to view the two of us as a team. (Sometimes I think I must have made a deal with the devil to have signed with both Erin and Nancy; I suppose I’ll find out eventually. Yeesh.)
First thing I do upon receiving a revision note (from my agent or editor), is read over the comments and deletions, looking for things that make me proclaim loudly, “What a fool I’ve been to have missed that before!” (The neighbors can attest to my doing this.) I also scan for words like, “brilliant” or “genius” which do turn up when I write them in myself. I also look for things that are…shall I say…hard pills to swallow. Usually the deletion of something I love. Then I need some time. A little time to let it sink in. Light some candles. Say a prayer. Cry just a wee bit.
Then comes the glory! Sharpie pens (purple or orange on real celebratory days) and small legal pads with which I make totally dorkified lists of issues that must be addressed. Yes, I even make little boxes in the margin so that I can check things off as I do them. (Not funny, that laughing of yours) These lists get organized by character, chapter, plot lines, detail-ribbons to be drawn through the text, etc. I will usually end up with multiple stapled revision packets, including a list of ideas that have spring boarded from the original notes. Yes, it is all. Very. Organized. These lists on my cluttered desk are an oxymoron incarnate. Did I mention the color coding?
All the while, I focus on holding onto the very first nuggets that drove the story to begin with. The voice. The tone. The undercurrents. It’s like focusing the camera without the “auto” feature. Several different settings need to interact with each other perfectly to reveal a crisp picture. Sure, it’s easy to cut words, but does the character stay true to her voice? Is the depth and emotion diluted? Does is sound right?
Lisa says in her fabulous post that real life (RL) interferes with her work. Yes. I, too, have been known to look up at 7:00 PM and find a hungry kid in my doorway, causing me to marvel at why the clock in my office moves at twice the speed of every other clock in the house. Because once I get hooked by the work, I’m hooked for good. I get up only for important things like coffee refills and house fires.
When my kids come home from school, however, I leave my office to get the rundowns of their days. Sitting dormant in front of the computer mid-revision is like a beagle sitting still in front of a steak; there’s only so much one can realistically expect! If I don’t leave the computer, my mind continues to work while I talk, and that’s no way to talk to anyone, I’ve decided.
However, I have to admit that sometimes long hours at the computer fry me. Yesterday, I finally dragged myself out of the office, looking for another living thing. Three hours of ping pong and a trivia game with the kids, and I was refreshed! Better than new. Sometimes, I need real life to creep in. Yet, at the same time, there are times RL interferes with the process—writing in the trenches time. I suppose I’m just hard to please.
One thing, though. Revision follows you. Everywhere. While perusing the pastas in the grocery store, I’ll wonder how Carley may handle a curveball I’m planning for her. While doing dishes, I may try to come up with some wise crack for Toni to make against my beloved Red Sox. I see and smell and hear things that remind me of something in my books all day long. Songs I hear that remind me of “Carley things” (like this song!). An inflection in the voice of one of my kids. The mannerisms of a stranger. An outfit someone’s wearing. It’s both a curse and a blessing. But, it all informs the revision. I carry a notebook in my pocket for such occasions. Always.
So, although real life can be distracting, for me, my real life spurs incubation. While my writing life requires solitude, I do better with real life buzzing around me. In my mind, the hard work of revision and real life are like two hands that hold each other.
Separate yet together. A lot like a writer and her editor.