I excel at procrastination and, in a masochistic sort of way, enjoy deadlines. Particularly those that hit right on the sweet spot of the blade, that give me the semblance of time for procrastination. They're a great way to get my whole house cleaned, the laundry done, and all the errands run as I engage time in a game of chicken. Sometimes I even get to organize my closet.
I should be working on my next critical essay for Vermont, which I'd hoped to post tonight. I've been re-reading Eleanor & Park, my assignment an examination of how Rainbow Rowell diffuses tension. Love-love-love this book and would just like to say that Rowell is a genius. This is going to be a great essay, but not tonight. Why? I've run into something with which, like many authors, I have a love-hate relationship, that dreaded r-word: revision.
For me revision is like labor, as in the childbirth kind. Something awesome is coming – after painful, hard work. I've written a pile of notes on Eleanor & Park but the essay is definitely at the “shitty first draft” stage. I'm through that first easy stage of labor and things are starting to get uncomfortable. I see tired on the horizon. I'm unsure of exactly what needs to happen when and how it will all sort out. And I can see the full-on hair-grabbing frustration stage coming, the “I swear I am never going to write again, I can't do this” stage. Tonight I'm too tired to push through. I want an epidural.
My girls came too fast for me to ever experience this medical miracle and for those who'd like to stick me right now, almost giving birth in an elevator is a whole different kind of scary you can be glad you never experienced. But for writing, I like to think of feedback as the best way to ease revision pains. Feedback provides a sense of direction, a set of steps to tick off. It's a countdown through the contraction, at least until the next wave of revising.
I don't get an epidural or feedback tonight, so I'm settling for some laughter about revising. I discovered Shannon Renee's tumblr today: http://writingelements.tumblr.com/. (Okay, yeah, sometimes I avoid cleaning house and use the Internet to procrastinate. Especially convenient when I've gotten to the stage where I really do need to sit down at the computer.) I love the picture of Kermit, captioned “My face when I read my old writing.”
For kicks and giggles, I thought I'd post an excerpt from my original draft of Pairing Up, which went through over twenty revisions before its appearance on Swoon Reads. (For YA/NA authors looking for feedback, check out the site. With its five heart rating and comment system, it's like getting your Amazon reviews before you hit Amazon – when you can still revise and do something about them! If your work is already really polished, the editors may pick you for their next list. Unlike the slush pile, though, you can get feedback from other writers and readers on the site, then revise and submit again.) Here's how Pairing Up began in my original draft:
Madelyn Spier smiled at the photograph hanging on the Smiths’ refrigerator. She never tired of looking at it, even though she had an identical copy on the bulletin board in her bedroom, even though she could close her eyes and picture every detail. The two preschoolers in the picture laughed back at her as they marched hand in hand down the ice, outfitted in a rainbow of winter apparel. It might have been a study of contrasts: the little girl petite and brunette, the boy tall and blond, the freshly resurfaced ice against the boards all dirty and scuffed by hockey pucks. The children’s expressions, though, were exactly the same. This, they seemed to say, is true happiness. She agreed.
Twelve years later and she loved the ice every bit as much as she had on that first outing. There was nothing else quite like the sensation of speeding down a pristine sheet of ice, of letting everything go and soaring into the air. Of finding the perfect center in a spin and feeling as though you could circle forever. She loved the feeling of a wind she’d created in her hair, the certainty of her blades beneath her, even the smell of the ice. With up to seventeen hours of practice a week, fifty-two weeks in a year, and twelve years of skating, Maddy had spent over ten thousand hours honing her craft. And she still couldn’t wait for the chance to do it again. “Shake a leg, Gabe,” she called. “We’re going to be late!”
Wow. I just read that over again and I know my face looks way worse than Kermit's face on Shannon Renee's site. Can anyone say back story dump? And I did not write “shake a leg,” did I? I'll also confess that in the beginning the characters weren't named Maddy and Gabe, either. Their original names are so embarrassing I'm not even ready to share them at this point. (Maybe one day I'll do a quiz to see if anyone can guess them. Here's a clue: a reader asked me if I'd gotten them from The Music Man. Ooh, definitely feel a quiz coming on. Check back, because I've been dying to share the Something Real love and I've got a copy of Heather Demetrios's new novel to give away...)
If you haven't read Pairing Up yet, check out what it's become here. Revision: it's worth it. Now back to revising that essay. Tomorrow. :-)