Posted by: jeannineatkins | May 16, 2008

Revising again. And again.

For the first time in a while, I can see clear clean dates on my calendar. At the end of the semester, there are still grades to enter, recommendations to write, and plenty of housecleaning and chores that have waited, but also a drafty novel to put to rights. My notebook is filled with directions about what this thing (note not terribly affectionate name) needs. When I read a paragraph, I can think of several more changes to be made. This thing is calling out for a thousand or so fixes. So where do I begin?

This is when even vacuuming can look sort of interesting, not a good sign. Or a snack. Or another snack. This needy novel just feels too much. But there’s only so much avoidance I can do and I come back to it, wondering where to wedge my way in. Anywhere, anything I fix, would be an improvement.

Fixing this, fixing that, seems so slow and I don’t get the pleasure of seeing one very good page. All the pleas for help – fix me! – seem overwhelming. At this point I have to let myself putter and rove, because I’m still trying to get a sense of the whole picture, and stand ready to let the whole thing change. If I focus in too much, I won’t be as ready to give up, if need be, scenes or chapters. If I invest too much in a paragraph, I might not notice that I should be putting my character in a completely different place.

On the other hand, I have a secret hope that as I pick up a page and fiddle, at some point I’ll be staring at the right word that will make sense of every other. I found it! I found the key to the garden!




  1. Okay, so how’d we get here at the same time?!
    I think you will find the key, and I think fiddling is the right way to go. I’m going to try some of that myself this morning. With the garden in mind.

  2. I don’t know, but I’m glad to have company among the weeds and thorny old vines! We will find out way out — when it’s time!

  3. “This need novel just feels too much.”
    Oh, I have one of those too, Jeannine. But your good attitude makes me feel hopeful. I am sure you will find that key!
    (And when you do, perhaps I will have courage to get back to looking, too!?)

  4. Sending hope and courage all around! Thanks, Loree.

  5. Yeah, revising makes me want to pull at my hair until I scream. At first it all feels like a huge morass, but once I start revising, I can see, finally, where a book can go. It’s a little bit like hacking through an overgrown jungle, and finally finding a path.

  6. Good luck, Jeannine! I feel your pain. But don’t you LOVE finding empty squares on the ole calendar? So many possibilities….

  7. Yes, jungle probably is more accurate than even an ovegrown garden. Now to get out machete — then tiny tiny scisscors. Good luck to us all!

  8. Thanks, Jill. It’s not really pain so much as intense wiggliness and sighing. And you’re right, of course I dream about the empty calendar squares when I don’t have them, so I mean to use them! It’s the transition that is tough. I took a cue from Becky Levine’s thoughts and have parked myself in a cafe this morning (um, should find one without wireless — but I think only you are awake!) which I think will help me avoid household distractions until the flow gets going.
    Okay, on to possibilities!

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