in spite of working on this novel for almost seven years, i’m in a new place. last week was a week of discovery for me. i realized that i have never actually revised anything in my entire life. yes, i now have three degrees (one in creative writing). yes, i won an award for my work (still) in progress, but i’ve never done the kind of deep agonizing revision that some of my peers like craig actually enjoy. whenever he would tell me about spending days (days!) pouring over a single page, i just didn’t get it. he’s a born editor (literally has it in his genes) and i am not. i’m a shitty editor, but i make up for it with a wild imagination.
i was lucky enough to come across anne lamott’s bird by bird fairly early in my attempts to write and took her shitty first drafts to heart. i just didn’t have the chops, inclination or fortitude back then (or now) to labor over every word. i’m just too shy for all that and i would never have gotten past page one without the freedom to make a big ole mess. i wish i had a record of all the pages i’ve written to get here. i know the number is well over a thousand pages–maybe closer to 1500 pages of novel. i can gleefully chuck them out because the writing for me is easy. the revision is hard.
this week i turned a corner. in the pit of my stomach i realized that this is the draft. the draft that will make these pages a book.
i’ve never been here before. for me, revision requires an intense amount of concentration. this is not merely clean-up i’m doing now, but looking at every sentence, every word and making sure it isn’t just pretty, isn’t just interesting, but doing the work i need it to do in the novel. when i’m cranking out raw draft pages, i can easily churn out a couple thousand words. these days several hours may turn out a page that is more of a mess than when i started it.
but this is the thing. there is nowhere else to go. this is it. and the only way out is through it.
red pen in hand…