On the precipice of revision

CHICKEN SHACK should be done by the end of the week. 

After allowing myself fifteen minutes to bask in the joy of finishing another book, I will begin revising. 

I’m not a fan of this process. 

I’m the kind of writer who edits and revises along the way, so that when I finish a page, I’m finished with the page.  Though I know that I may ultimately return to the page for revision, I have no desire or expectation of doing so while I write.  I work at it until I think it’s just right, then I move on.

Kurt Vonnegut, amongst others, wrote in a similar manner.  He often wrote just a single page a day, but when that page was done, it was done.

Three things get in the way of making this a reality for me:

1.  I’m not as talented as Kurt Vonnegut.

2.  When I begin to write a book, I have no idea about where the story is going to take me, and as a result, I am often fumbling around in the dark for the first half of the book.  The plot tends to meander, the characters are more opaque than I would like, and some characters appear for no discernible purpose.  As a result, the first half of the book often needs a lot of work.  Plot must be tightened, action must be expedited, characters must be more clearly delineated, and some (break my heart) must be jettisoned if they do not serve the story.  While the second half of my books tend to be tight, well crafted, and well characterized, the first half are often a mess.  Therefore, work is inevitably required.

3.  Even when I think that a chapter is solid and ready to go, not everyone agrees.  My agent litters the manuscript with phrases like “Cheesy!” and “I don’t buy it!”  She complains that I over-describe or under-describe certain sections of the text.  She informs me that my characters are flat and underdeveloped.  And she always, always, always tells me that the pacing needs to be quickened.  Each one of these remarks is like a tiny dagger piercing my heart, but nine times out of ten, I know she’s right (which just sharpens the blade).  As much as I adore Taryn, there is inevitably a time during the revision of my book that I begin to despise her, when her words of criticism echo in my mind, causing me to doubt myself.

The only good news about the revising process is that it doesn’t usually take that long.  By the end of the book, I know where I have missed the mark and often have plenty ideas percolating in my mind.  I’m also smart enough to listen to the ideas and opinions of others and spend more time trying to negotiate their suggestions into the book rather than arguing about why they are wrong.

I don’t always agree, and sometimes I stick to my guns, but more often than not, Taryn and some of my more trusted friends are correct.

Of course, if my manuscript resembled the draft of the President’s recent speech on healthcare (what a great photo), the revision process might take considerably more time.