“It’s never too late — in fiction or in life — to revise.”
I love that Nancy Thayer quote, but I’m not sure how accurate it is when it comes to either fiction or life. I have about a week left to go in revising After the Storm, and then I’ll have to set this draft free.
Maybe I say this with every book I write, but I swear, this is the hardest set of revisions I’ve ever had to make. Imagine putting together a 5000 piece jigsaw puzzle of, say, a stampede of horses, and you have an idea of what I’m going through.
What’s made this particular story so difficult, both to write and to revise? It’s a sequel, for one thing, which I naively expected would make it easier to write. After all, I already knew the characters and the backstory. That knowledge, though, created enormous problems. I couldn’t make anything happen in After the Storm that would be inconsistent with what happened in Before the Storm. Dates, always my bugaboo, (my long-time blog readers may remember my “when they need to have sex” post), tripped me up repeatedly. A second challenge was both intriguing and frustrating: viewing scenes that occurred in Before the Storm from a different character’s perspective in After the Storm. Oh my. The world can be a very different place when viewed through a different lens.
What do I mean by revisions, exactly? Here’s the way it works. I write a novel. I turn it in. My editor says “this is perfect just the way it is.” I faint. LOL. That has happened a few times, actually, but not with After the Storm. I knew something wasn’t working with the story, but couldn’t quite put my finger on it. That’s where a good editor comes in. I think my editor is frankly brilliant, and she was able to zero in on the area that needed work. It’s a major minor problem. Yes, I said major minor. Minor, because the pieces of the story are all there and the characters are well-developed. But major, because it’s the pacing that’s off, and pacing can be a bear to fix. An absolute bear. In the first draft, for example, Character A met Character B on page 230. In the new draft Character A meets Character B on page 80. And that changes everything. That’s where the 5000 piece jigsaw puzzle comes in, because when you alter what happens in one scene, it impacts the scenes around it, and they impact the scenes around them, and quite soon, you’re surrounded by post-it notes and sheets of yellow lined paper and four different colored drafts and wondering if you will ever, ever be able to put Humpty Dumpty together again.
It reminds me of my previous career as a clinical social worker. I worked with families in my private practice, and one of the major principles in family work is that when you change one part of the family, it changes all the other parts of the family, so you must constantly be alert to the possible repercussions of every intervention you make. Ultimately, you want all the parts of the whole to function smoothly together. That’s the same goal I have for this book. I’m getting there. One more week of late nights should do it.
I can never gripe about writing without adding this caveat: I am so grateful for this career. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to create worlds that feel real, to tell stories that touch people, and to make a living from my passion. I’m truly living my dream.
Finally, the first commenter to tell me how many different metaphors I’ve mixed together in this disorganized post will win an autographed copy of one of my books! Her (or his) choice.
And now it’s back to work. . .