The revision process

Well, it’s fourth of July weekend, and if it weren’t about a hundred degrees out, I’d be at a county fair looking at 4H exhibits. But I’m a delicate flower, so I’m inside working on revisions on the Miss Fortunes book. The basic way I go about revisions is this. I get through the first draft on one big wave of energy. Then I collapse. For at least three or four days I sleep a lot and do no more than read or sit in my garden. Then I wonder what it was I did put in my manuscript. So I go back and reread. That’s when I find all those little continuity inconsistencies(like picking up an animal and then forgetting it’s there for the rest of the scene, or making sure my heroes eyes stay the correct color–Caribbean blue, this time) and those pacing problems. And I do the final chiseling.

Chiseling, you say. Ah, it’s something I’ve been thinking about as I’ve worked with Jenny and Krissie. I’ve never really looked too closely at the process of how I put a book together. I’m an organic writer, pretty much working on instinct. I’ve long forgotten the rules of why I do something (as opposed to Jen who can list them off like the commandments in a revival meeting), but I know if the words work or not. It’s like they clot up in my chest and make it hard to breathe if I’m doing it incorrectly. Anyway, this time I actually saw how I put things together, or take them apart, or whatever, to make a complete manuscript, and I realize that I’m most like Michelangelo.

No. I’m not saying I’m a legendary renaissance artist. How I equate myself to him is in his own description of his work. He said that he took a chunk of marble and kept chipping away at it until he discovered the form that had been waiting inside to be seen. I think that’s what I do with words. In my very first draft, I throw every word I can onto the page, just to get it down, to see where the story is going, where my character is going, and what it means that she does. It is my chunk of marble. In successive drafts–which really aren’t as well delineated as they sound. I do edit as I go. I go back at least three times from the beginning even as I construct the first draft–I begin to chisel away the excess words and ideas until I get to the book I think is waiting inside.

I can always tell if I haven’t had enough time or focus for a book, because there are, simply, too many words. But the better I can follow my own process, the tighter and more precise the story I’m telling. So now, since the weather is awful, I’m going to sit in my office and pull out my smaller chisel. And I hope I can get my story to be just what I’d envisioned when I found my chunk of marble. And that it’s worthy of the two lovely creations I get to share space with.

eileenkathleen, the evil twins

2 thoughts on “The revision process”

  1. Beth Camp says:

    I just wanted to say thank you for your blog and for your window into your writing process. I just finished reading A Man To Die For and enjoyed the crisp description, smooth but vivid scene changes, sympathetic characters, and humor that lightened the tension throughout. I’m now reading later books (currently Head Games and notice a change in writing style (more direct, shorter sentences), but many of the same stylistic strengths of the earlier work. What a pleasure to read your work! Thank you for blogging. You are a model and inspiration to an aspiring writer.

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