The Murk of Revision

Madeleine

Madeleine

I’m in the thick of revising my novel now. I’m living in the world I’ve created. I sit for hours on my comfy, corner chair with the blanket on my lap and the cat on my legs, editing, changing, hitting the delete button and inserting new words and phrases here and there. I mull over logic. Worry about melodrama. Make sure everyone has a motive. Or a wound that propels their behavior. I read big chunks of text and realize, with a fallen heart, that they need to fit better into the overall plan of the story. Sometimes those big chunks get highlighted and moved to the Leftovers file. It’s harsh, and sometimes painful, but the result is much better for the story. I go on to other chapters that need my attention.

After doing these sedentary but mind-sucking tasks, I read the rest of the novel. Two-thirds of it is still a mess. I go to my 25 Questions sheet, a handout I received in graduate school, that forces you to answer vital questions to your plot, setting, characters, emotional arc, etc. I look it over and wince at some of the answers I gave in October when prepping to write the first draft. Then I put my face in both hands and rub it hard. I have to reset my clock. I have to forgive myself and write with those answers in mind — as best as I can. Will it ever be in presentable shape?

After I’ve rubbed my face and eyes and run my hands through my hair again and again, I take a deep breath. Sometimes two, or many during an entire half-hour. I meditate. I come to terms with the draft being a mess. I take more deep breaths until I’m surfacing into logical thought again. I have ideas. I want to get to work again. I open my eyes. I set the computer on my lap. I type, I think, I’ve released it all. I’m on my way.

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