Lest my blog posts suffer from pressure to actually be good, I’ve summoned Nick from The Tempest’s Serenade onto my screen …
“Hey,” his smoky voice declares. “You’re saying your time with me constitutes bad writing?” He stumbles in with his dark hair askew, several days’ beard evident on his face.
I missed that voice, and thrill to hear its silky nonchalance. “It’s hard for me to tell sometimes, Nick. I put stuff up in places and I just don’t know what’s good and what stinks anymore. One of my stories got rejected you know.”
“What do you mean ‘the whole place’?'”
“The place inside your head where me and the rest of us live. It’s like the San Andreas Fault in here lately, with all the shit you’ve been doing. Can’t we just write again, instead of sending stuff out?”
“What do you mean, ‘just write’, Nick?”
“I mean, what’s all this posting for critique, submitting short stories, exchanging manuscripts? Since when do you do all that shit other writers do? I thought this was for you.”
“Since I want to be a better writer, Nick. I do this so you can be read, so that someone besides me can meet you, okay?”
He seems placated by that and finds his usual place on the guest bed behind me, stretching his grey sweat pant clad legs over my favorite comforter. I stare down the blank screen and take another sip of hot chocolate. “How’s the story going, anyway?” he asks.
“Funny you should ask Nick—and you do know you’re taking a chance that this will end up on the blog by asking that, don’t you?”
He eases back and leans against the wall. “Sure, what the hell. Let ‘em see how hard this is for you. But, the story …” He tilts his head and pulls a pack of chewing gum out of his pocket. “Want some?” he asks before popping two pieces into his mouth.
“No, thanks. I’ve got hot chocolate.”
He chews and the gentle aroma of peppermint tinges the air.
“All right, Nick, I’ll tell you about the story,” I type. “I have a general idea of how the storyline will go, but I haven’t yet sat down to do the nitty-gritty of how each scene will change. Some scenes won’t change at all, some scenes will be cut …” I turn to glance at his expression after I type that last bit.
“Like what parts are you thinking of cutting?” he asks as he chomps on his gum.
“Actually, hardly any parts with you in it. I think there’s a consensus that as the story drifts away from you it loses momentum. In fact, I should have known this myself when I missed you during the middle section.”
He grins a little at this. “What else?”
“Sounds like a bottom up change.” He tightens his lips. “Are you sure you’re going to be able to manage that without getting completely off track?”
My hands hesitate over the keyboard because I know he’s right. I’ve been warned about this. Too many revisions and the original fire is gone. “I know, Nick. I’ve heard stories. It’s just that I think I know what I need to do. And some of the things that happened in the last revision made your story so much bigger and better than I ever thought it would be. I have other stories, lots of them. They need revision too. But I can’t stop now. I feel like I’m so close …”
“Tell me about it. I feel your pain.”
“Sure, Writer. What do you think it feels like to be stuck in your story? Hell, I feel like Alice in Wonderland sometimes. I think I’m going to make sense in one scene, I try to show you how things should go, but no, here comes this wacky antagonist, and now you want me to drive off a freakin’ bridge. Dammit …” He pulls the stale gum out of his mouth and whips it into my trash can.
“I’m sorry … I’m doing the best I can.”
He softens. “I’m sorry too. But you gotta understand. I want this too. For you, ‘cuz I see how hard you worked on this. I’m on your side, okay? Just write it.”
So it seems that I’m called back into this story, armed with a whole basket of new ideas, some hard-nosed critical advice—and characters who won’t quit.
What kinds of tremors shake up your writing landscape? What keeps you slogging through the wasteland of what seem like endless revisions?
Fault line image courtesy of Shirokov Alexander Leonidovich @ Big Stock. Compass image courtesy of Ahmed Al-Shukaili @ stock.xchng.
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines the meaning of the word perseverance like this:
per·se·ver·ance noun \ˌpər-sə-ˈvir-ən(t)s\
: continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition : the action or condition or an instance of persevering : steadfastness
But, you might ask, what does perseverance look like?
Behold, Mt. Revision:
That’s four binders (big ones!), three of them containing the lesson worksheets, the fourth with yet another hard copy draft, three notebooks, two more drafts atop the original draft, one stack of scene index cards, another stack of revision index cards, countless glue sticks, pens, and Post-its. And that’s not even counting all the coffee and other non-alcoholic beverages consumed in the course of this revision.
Finally, after pulling apart my story, rearranging it into scenes, inserting conflict, perfecting the twists, consolidating characters, paring subplots, analyzing arcs, and making the whole thing march inside a time line, not to mention slashing out my purple prose, I’ve completed the How to Revise Your Novel course! Let’s haul out the confetti, (not my precious manuscript pages please!) and celebrate!
Once the champagne has worn off and the streamers are swept off the floor though, I have to decide what’s next for The Tempest’s Serenade.
My wonderful beta readers have, in the kindest way possible, confirmed what I suspected: that my story still has holes in it. But they’ve also encouraged me to continue. I think all the pieces are in play, they’re just not making the right moves.
In other words, I think I’m close.
So, I’m going to collect my thoughts and have yet another go at it. See above: Perseverance. I’m so excited to see what the story will turn into!
Meanwhile, I’ve got another story (working title: The Way of Wolves) on the first draft front burner, and I’m going full steam ahead on that. What a thrill it is to be writing a new story!
It is good to be a writer.
Have you reached any writing milestones? What does your perseverance look like?
And for those who are wondering as you marvel at the mountain of paper I’ve generated in the course of my revision, I’m a huge fan of sustainable paper. This logo on the paper ensures you’re buying paper that comes from sustainable sources:
(Confetti image courtesy of ‘sjur’ @ stock.xchng)
If you’ve been following A Scenic Route for any length of time, you’ll know that I scope out all kinds of cool places to write. I’d like to share one of them today. The daffodil glade at the Morton Arboretum only blooms for about a week, so I have to be quick or I’ll miss it. This year I brought my camera along.
It’s become somewhat of a ritual for me to mark progress in my writing journey with a visit this magical place. Here’s what it looks like as, with my notebook and pens tucked into my backpack, I venture onto the path hoping for inspiration and words.