“So how’s the revising going, Amy?” you might well ask.
Do not be alarmed if your question is greeted with me pulling contorted faces and making strange, growling noises. But never fear; my joy in being asked about what I spend most of my waking hours thinking about will outweigh my need to do an interpretative dance to express my varied ambivalence, sheer joy, and “what was I thinking?” reactions to my current revision process.
To catch you up: At the end of April, I went to Seattle. (Did I already tell you this? I can’t remember.) Bolstered by the excellent company of my comrades-in-arms for many adventures and meals in Seattle, I resisted the urge to play tourist 100% of my time and instead read through the rough draft of my novel The Academy of Forgetting. I took copious notes, rewrote sections, and tried to make sure it was more or less coherent. Then I sent it to my most trusted novel first reader for an opinion.
A week later, Daniel sent me his critique, which ran almost 4,500 words long. This was obviously not going to be a small revision pass.
So for the last month, I’ve been thinking. I haven’t wanted to dive headlong into revisions because these changes are complex enough that there is a fair amount to be figured out ahead of time. Plus a few weeks were mostly lost to injury (but oh boy, did I have a lot of time to think) and then I went on vacation, and you know. Life. But I am about ready to start writing new words and begin the simultaneously delicate and destructive task of fixing this book. The prospect fills me with both excitement and dread.
Let me give you an example of one of the changes I’ve been thinking about. There’s a plot twist at the end of the book. It is, in my opinion, a fun plot twist, and one that I looked forward to revealing the entire time I was writing the first draft. Daniel suggested that the twist doesn’t work as it currently stands. It’s not foreshadowed amply enough, for one, but he also suggested the book might be stronger if I completely cut the twist.
So now I have to decide: keep the twist or cut the twist? At first I thought I’d cut it. But then I realized that if I cut it, I’d also be cutting a key bit of information about the narrator and the narrative, which would, in my opinion, take away a large bit of the narrative depth. So then I thought, well, what if I keep it and make these foreshadowing changes, etc.? And I thought about that possibility for a while, but something felt slightly off. And then I had an exciting idea for how I can cut the twist but retain the key insight into the narrative, and I was bouncing up and down in my chair. But then I realized this idea brings up a whole new problem in terms of the plot and how I can make it work…. And on it goes.
I love the revision process because it’s challenging and interesting and convoluted and requires thinking about many things at the same time. But while I think it’s one of the most exciting things ever, it looks like me sitting in a chair and staring into space, with perhaps the occasional spurt of typing or scribbling sentences in my notebook. The writing life is often glamorous in a completely invisible way.
So that’s what I’m doing: getting ready to start a new draft, trying to resist biting my fingernails at the thought that I might demolish something that I actually needed intact, or that I might keep something that turns out to be just an old eyesore. Either of these would be fine in an isolated case, of course, but they can add up so quickly into a manuscript that simply does not work. And I’d like to make this manuscript work, if I can.