On Revision and Perfect Steves

On starting NaNoRevisMo, Tracy Jo put it all into perspective. (I almost wrote perspecteve, which I’m now going to translate as perfect steve.)

The perfect steve is this: Don’t go whole hog.

Even those who are taking part in NaNoWriMo aren’t expecting to have a finished novel by the end of the month.  They’re aiming for 50K words, a length which does not a novel make.  The perfect steve there is that you’re either writing for fun, producing 50K words of bad prose (as, apparently, was the originators’ intent), or your laying down the groundwork for the novel that will rise from November’s ashes.

The perfect steve equivalent for revision: Don’t try to overhaul the entire manuscript.

There are several reasons for this:

A) Burnout

You’ll find yourself overwhelmed  with all that you have to do in order to make the book again something that you love and not a collection of strung-together sentences you’re vaguely embarrassed by.  Of course, that’s not my problem.  Of course, that’s not my book.

But seriously, folks, if you try to combine characters while adding more description and giving the main romantic relationship more heft all at the same time, chances are you’ll lose the tight focus you need to achieve each one of those revisions, and the pressure of accomplishing all the revisions at the same time might drive you to throw your hands up in the air and your manuscript out the window.  Again.  As soon as you print it out.

What was suggested to me was looking at revision as a process of small changes.  Go through once and work on adding more images.  Go through again and focus on making the dialogue more realistic.  Go through again to iron out plot inconsistencies.  Go through again and again and again and oh go when will this ever be done.

B) Realism

I don’t mean realism in your work, which is all well and good, but my writing is pretty far from realistic.  What I mean is keeping realism in your life.

James Patterson (according to Pimp My Novel, who was referencing someone else) averages nine new books a year.  Apparently, he’s farming out his concepts and outlines to underpaid child-laborer writers in foreign countries, but still, the point is that he’s not getting it all done himself.

Of course, Patterson is an extreme example, but the fact remains that you need to keep in mind what you can do, and base your expectations on that.  For NaNoRevisMo I’m aiming towards revising half of GOD’S TEETH.

C) Burnout (again)

But this time it’s different!

This sort of burnout is simply that of rereading your own writing.  I don’t know about the rest of you (Chirp, crickets!  Chirp!) but I have a hard time sitting down and reading through what I’ve written.

As a rule, this isn’t a problem with poetry.  For one, it’s so short that it takes no time to read and, for two, my poetry is image-based, associative, and okay, okay, I know what the problem is: plot.

Well, not plot exactly, but the struggle to get from here to there in a story or novel.  Though I’ve been writing fiction for a long while (at least as long as I’ve been writing poetry), my focus has been on poetry, so when it comes to fiction I’m still feel like a n00b.

What that means, for me, is a dire lack of letting my writerly self go.  Instead, I herd my thoughts into expected channels, and when I go back to read what I’ve written, I end up seeing those channels rather than the ideas I tried to fill them with.

Okay, you’re just going to have to take my word for it.  Tomorrow I’ll try to explain the origins of this perfect steve through a rundown of what I’ve been doing re: GOD’S TEETH.  Also, why there are no dentists in heaven.

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