Posted by: jeannineatkins | January 20, 2008

Oatmeal and Revision

I’m at a hotel for the weekend with my friend Pat, to celebrate her birthday by throwing a few rocks into the cold ocean, talk a lot, and maybe see Atonement. Last night in the unfamiliar bed, tossing a bit, I start thinking about breakfast. These days, after my nurse practioner read me the riot act about cholesterol, I usually stick to oatmeal, which is fine, especially with cinnamon and dried cherries, but I thought of how we could eat at the hotel, with a view of the Piscataqua River, or we could walk over the brick and cobblestone streets into Portsmouth, where smart young people drank coffee and talked about books (I’d overheard some grad students in a shop earlier that evening, one on a six sentences a day fiction regime). I could find a different type of oatmeal, or really, who knew what else? Eggs over easy? Rye toast with jam? And what part of the New Hampshire or Maine coast should we walk on?

Okay, for most people such choices – which beach, which breakfast? – aren’t much. My daughter will be rolling her eyes. But as sleep still wasn’t coming, I nudged my mind to the novel I’m revising, and vowed to start each scene with the idea that anything can happen. Just because it was oatmeal one day, doesn’t mean it has to be oatmeal the next.
The trap in revising is that we know our characters well. I’m going to try to start my writing day with a willingness to be surprised. It’s good to have a light feeling getting back to a scene, remembering that our characters don’t know how we’ve envisioned the book’s ending, and to say okay, let’s go anywhere. Let them get lost. Let them mess up. And feel our hearts beat harder.

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Responses

  1. Good luck on your revision. Sometimes it’s a pain in the neck. Sometimes it’s awesome…because your characters surprise you.

  2. Lovely, Jeannine. And perfect timing for me, too! Good luck!

  3. Thanks! Yes, onto pains in the neck and surprises.

  4. Thanks! I know there’s always perfect timing somewhere around here!


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