So the INTERN said…
(Okay, two things right away:
1. I capitalize the INTERN because that’s the way she always did it. Props to tradition!
2. This’ll probably be the last time I mention the INTERN, but only because, as I’ve said before, she’s permanently hiatused.
Okay, two things finished.)
Oh, so I can speak now?
(Yes, go ahead. Don’t growl at me. I’m you.)
So… the INTERN said last November that instead of doing NaNoWriMo she was going to do NaNoRevisMo instead.
What is NaNoRevisMo?
I’m glad you asked. If you asked, instead, what is NaNoWriMo, please turn in your exam booklet, gather your things, and leave the classroom. Or go here.
NaNoRevisMo is, in the INTERN’s words, National Novel Revising Month. This month I’ll be working on revising my first novel (out of two) GOD’S TEETH. More on that tomorrow.
Here’s the reason for the non-novel writing: I know I can write a good chunk of a novel in a month. Writing, for me, for at least the past decade, has not been the problem. The problem has always been revision, though it was only when the writing problem was out of the way that the revision problem moved in.
And it’s not even paying rent.
But, okay, I’ll forgive that oversight. Rent, shment, the goal here is to live together peacefully and, ideally, mutually beneficially which is way too many -llys.
I’ve never been good at revision. Mostly because I haven’t had to be. Which sounds really pretentious, and I’ll go ahead and own that it is, but also throw into the mix that this has not necessarily been a blessing, at least not to my writing career.
What I mean is that, yes, my first drafts are pretty good. They (or so people have told me) are readable, have a coherent story, and include many of my strengths that’ll make the finished project (ideally) great.
But what they aren’t, is finished.
In high school I managed to get straight As for one semester. After that, I knew I could do it so I didn’t really try. By just attending class, paying attention in class, reading the assigned reading, and doing my homework, I knew that I’d get either a B or an A, and at that point why did I really care? Why spend so much time attempting to do what I knew I could do – I’d proven it to myself – rather than, I don’t know, read, or play games, or hang out with friends.
Throughout high school and college I didn’t worry about papers. I would write them the night of or, if I was feeling especially lazy or stressed (yes, part of the reason I didn’t put all my effort into my work is the fear that I’d fail to live up to my own expectations), then I wouldn’t turn the paper in on time at all, and would take the fall in grade that resulted. Often, though, teachers and professors would give me leeway since I was a good student in class, and no harm would come my way.
Except in that what I wrote and turned in what still sub-par. Not sub-par for the class as a whole – I’ve no way of knowing that – but sub-par for what I could’ve been writing. And, truthfully, when I started teaching I found myself doing the same thing: those of my students who could write were graded less harshly because I was so glad to find a gem (rough though it may be) of ingenuity and cleverness and competence.
But what this means for my writing is that for a long, long time I had (past tense because I think I’m working my way beyond this state now) been coasting on what my imagination could produce on the spur of the moment. Apparently, my moment-spurred imagination doesn’t create dreck, but it also doesn’t create greatness.
That greatness only comes through revising. It comes through fully understanding what I’ve written and experimenting with how to make it better. It comes through comments given by my first readers who have higher expectations of what I can do, and who I trust because not only are they good writers themselves, they’re also going through the revising process.
And I no longer want my writing to be good enough.
So, join me! NaNoRevisMoers unite!