Posted by: jeannineatkins | January 22, 2009

Looking for Peace in Mid-Winter

I’ve got chapters I’m staring down and rearranging over the kitchen table. I was spilling tea, trying not to burn oatmeal, feeling stressed. Where are all these scenes going to end up? How will I ever get this mess in order, and eat breakfast, too?

I got my cereal under control, then read Jo’s jbknowles post about how she loves revision. I started to breathe. Then she mentioned she felt “a bit intimidated by all the work she had to do,” and I laughed. Yes, yes, that’s the calm voice I want. Ah the pleasure of understatement. And then she mentions a message from her character. I laughed, then read an interview with Aretha Franklin critiquing her inauguration performance, which I loved, and this made me just love Aretha more. We are so often our harshest critics. Sometimes we have to remember to lighten up.

So there it is — setting ourselves up, talking ourselves down, a mix of joy, fear, and creeping toward our limits. When we’re lucky we get friends to do some of this with, and by great good fortune, my day includes joining Jo doing some revision in Esselon Café. Now I’m back to scrambling to get these chapters in some sort of order so that I do not look like the crazy lady, spreading chapters over tables and stalking around them. There is a reason we have computers: to tuck away the messes, to make it look as if we are tapping everything into the sweetest perfect order, and not as if with one misplaced sentence might make everything topple and spill like a wild pack of cards. I will try to look calm. I will try to be calm. This novel is going to get done.



  1. Oh! I’m so glad we are in Revision Hell Wonderland together!
    Can’t wait to see you soon!

  2. Leave it to you to find the perfect words! Yes, see you soon. I’ll be moving from tea to coffee!

  3. Yes, you will finish that novel. Small steps and lots of breaths.

  4. I think this is what I’m trying to do with putting Maass’ workbook into a binder–establish some form of order, find some way of keeping everything in one place (in reality AND in my mind!)Have a wonderful time with Jo–you two can practice calm together! I’ve been rereading Anne Lamott–and Jo’s understatement has that same feel, where we try to contain the extremes by minimizing the words. 🙂
    If you get a chance to post the URL to Aretha’s self-critique, I’d love to see it.

  5. You can do it!

  6. Yes! I’m at this place, the read-through before the big revision.
    Like Jo, I like revision. Layering in all the little elements, deepening the storyline and making the setting shine.
    With the manuscript I’m working on now, my son asked me to read it to him. I was reluctant at first. But hearing it out loud is helping me! I can see where the storyline slows too much . .. where things are unclear . . . or where characters act unrealistically. I should have done this years ago.

  7. Thanks, Tracy. I appreciate your confidence. It helps me breathe!

  8. Hi, Becky, so Jo’s friend Holly was also with us, and she showed me her Scrivener program which she adores esp for plotting. She was encouraging me to put it in google and go for the free trial; and she says it’s so worth the thirty bucks. It did look amazing. I’m not good with the new, but maybe….
    And Aretha. It was the cold that got to her, of course, but I just loved somehow that critique that lives with us.

  9. Thanks, Kelly. I complain, then it starts to happen when I’m not looking….

  10. The reading aloud sounds great. I know when I’ve read things in critique groups, I hear things even before the critique happens.
    And at lunch, summarizing for each other — so what are you working on — somehow that helps too seeing holes.
    It’s slowly coming together, fingers crossed! I’m feeling happier about revision at the moment, but nice to know you’re here too!

  11. I love this: “Mother Nature was not very kind to me. I’m going to deal with her when I get home.”
    I’m going to look t the software. Thanks & thanks to Holly.

  12. Ack! It looks beautiful and, sob, is only available for Macs. 😦

  13. Your post inspired me. I haven’t had a thick stack of manuscript papers to handle for a while, and it made me want to dive back into novel writing so badly. I think it was the picture that grabbed me first, and then the reminder of the joy and the fear and the promise of writing with a friend at a cafe and the whole feeling of being so engaged with the story that your oatmeal almost got burned that filled me with that old yearning. Maybe it’s time for me to set aside the little stories and think big once again! Thanks, and good luck with the revisions!

  14. One sentence at a time.

  15. Love your last sentence.
    “This novel is going to get done.”
    You’ll do it!

  16. Lorraine, I’m happy you’re feeling inspired! Good luck thinking about something bigger.

  17. Yes. One sentence crossed out. Then a paragraph. Then one by one more sentences.

  18. I wrote that?
    Okay! I’ll do it.

  19. Having recently left the Wonderful World of Revision, I’m beginning to forget some of the pain. Which is good. Because I know, within weeks, it will suck me back in. Good luckk!

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