- I’ve only been in one bad car accident in my life.
A chick in a fancy sports car ran a red light and T-boned my dad’s not-so-sweet Chevy S-10, spinning it around and slamming it into a light pole. I always rode shotgun (sans seat belt because I was stupid like that), but managed to walk away with minor injuries. Dad made it out okay, but the truck…Ole’ Blue Belle didn’t survive.
With a twisted frame and severe body damage, she just wasn’t worth fixing.
And sometimes that’s how I feel about my WIPs.
Revision can repair lots of problems, but sometimes there is just so much rewriting to be done that it’s better to start off fresh. (FYI: Sara Zarr author of a PW 2011 Best Book always starts her first revision in a new doc and retypes every word).
Maybe you have a premise problem or maybe the story would be better told in first instead of third (a crisis I face all the time). Whatever the issue, when you get to the point that you know it’s not salvageable, DO NOT FEAR! There are a few things you can do with your WIP that may save you from a mental/emotional breakdown:
- Look for scrap metal: In Blue Belle’s case, one door, her bumper, and a couple of tires were all still in working order. Maybe your WIP has large salvageable parts. It could be a character who, with a few small tweaks, could slip into a new ms. Or maybe it’s a handful of scenes that are so good they can fit into a different plot. Look hard! There is something there worth saving.
- Don’t ignore the spare parts: Pop the hood, look inside. What really made your ms go? In Blue Belle’s case, her radiator was shot but her actual engine still worked. There were plenty of things that could set another truck into motion. For me, the spare parts are phrases, a description, an allusion or simile. I hate seeing good writing go to waste, so pull out your best stuff and save it in a file for later. The next time you need to describe say…a forest, or goosebumps you’ll have something to fall back on.
- Grab the garter and go: Once you’ve dug around for all the actual chunks of writing you can recycle, don’t forget the memories. My brother has a garter hanging from his review mirror and I guarantee that when his ’91 Toyota is pushed through the gritty gates of the salvage yard, that garter is moving on to his next vehicle. You had to learn something while you worked on the now-totaled WIP. Figure out what it was and tuck it into your pocket for next time. I promise you’ll be glad you did.
And with that I’m metaphored out for the rest of the day.
- Before I write, I always have two points. The beginning and the end. The middle I make up along the way. When I finish a draft, I’m always thrilled that I was able to connect my points. And then I do my happy dance (It’s like awesome in action! Someday I’ll vlog it).
Then I send my ms to my readers and they respond with ‘meh’ (and usually some good notes on how it can be less meh). The happy dance stops, I lay on my bed for a couple of days, and contemplate different ways my story can get from A to B. Usually there is a lot of whining and some “How in the world can I change it! There is only one way to get from the beginning to the end!”
But that’s so totally wrong.
I have a friend (I won’t say her name ’cause it might embarrass her), who is the Grand Master of Revision. She can visualise like a half-dozen ways to change her story and they are all awesome. She gives me hope that no matter how crappy my first draft is, there is always, always potential to improve it.
I want to be like her. I want to be a REVISIONIST as well as a writer.
Any one have any favorite revision tips to share?
- I only have 75 pages left of my revisions (WOOT!!! Happy dance! *belly jiggles till I almost fall over*). But late last night I got stuck — the-staring-at-the-flashing-cursor-for-45-minutes kind of stuck. Rather than waste any more time, I folded three loads of laundry while watching with DWTS. Some sort of productivity always makes me feel better.
At 3 a.m. I woke up from a dead sleep and was finally unstuck. Did I get up and write? Heavens no! I laid there till 5:30 a.m. and stewed. Then my day started.
It’s 12:30 p.m.. I haven’t written at all, am totally exhausted, and probably need a nap. Should I have just gotten up at 3 a.m. to write even though I would have drawn my husband’s ire?
Does your muse ever strike in the middle of the night? Do you get up and work? Can you get back to sleep or are you plagued by story ideas until your alarm goes off?