Friday, January 27, 2012

How Much is Not Enough?

Are you in the middle of revising a manuscript too? You are! Well come on in. There's fresh coffee over there, and cream if you like. Pumpkin or Peppermint. We're pretty fancy here. 
Right through here is the office - yep the couch is brand new. And we just redid the floor. Took out the old carpet and put in pretty shiny wood. Right outside is the deck we put in two years ago, and then the patio we did last summer. Right past that, we're going to put in another deck as soon as the weather warms up. Though, heck, it's been a ridiculously warm "winter". We'll probably do a fence, too. Just along the back, where we can grow some vines. It'll be really cute... when it's done. (hint - it will never be done. By the time I finish one project I have a whole list of new projects to get started. Some of them I probably already have started. There are a lot of paint cans and bits of spare wood lying around my house.)

And this is how I feel about revising. There's always something. I'm actually very good at revising - the rewriting part, anyway. I can make huge cuts and changes all day long. I might even look like I know what I'm doing. The trick I have yet to learn is what to keep vs. what to toss or change. i.e. How not to make more work for myself.

It's quite similar to when we bought our house, and before we had even picked up the key, I had a list of things I wanted to change, or fix or demolish entirely. The yard has been straight forward. There was nothing there but  four old trees when we moved in. A nice blank page to start writing my garden. Other things I felt like changing included the kitchen cabinets, the weird black toilet in the spare bathroom, the front porch/ minideck. I had grand visions of new toilets and new decks and cabinets with glass doors... and it was all a monster amount of work.
But gradually, I found ways to work with what was there without getting drastic. Paint on the cabinets, new posts and a coat of stain on the front deck, some white tile and old fashioned wallpaper in the little bathroom, and it all started to fit. It started to look like part of the same house. A more cohesive whole. And it was with tweaking, not ripping everything down to the ground and starting from scratch. It wasn't easier, necessarily. Putting new posts on the front deck wasn't much less work than just replacing the whole thing. But it was cheaper and less wasteful.

I'm learning to apply this thinking to my manuscript revision. It is challenging. I have to see the things that can be salvaged, perhaps with line edits, perhaps with a bit of rearranging, and recognize them from the bits that just need to be axed. Some things are good. Some things are working. Some of the bits need to be left alone. It would be helpful if there was some kind of app that would give me a little slap on the hand when I was about to change something that was working. A little "No, not there. Move along now." But since that doesn't exist, I'll have to do this on my own, like a sucker. I mean writer.

Every part of the buffalo, friends. Use every last part.


Heidi said...

Your list of things you've DONE puts me to shame.

Lily Cate said...

I still don't have a grandfather clock painted on the wall. Or birds. I am such a procrastinator.