“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”
I’m a pantser. I love to navigate the deep wells of my subconscious and let the story surprise me.
Lately, I’ve been fighting the current and arbitrarily praying someone will toss me a life saver, or perhaps a posh Caribbean Cruise liner.
This is what the revision process became to me- dark waters toiling with monstrous squid and piranha. And they were all hungry. My fear ran like blood. Sure enough, the big kahuna shark came sniffing. Les Edgerton, author of finding your voice dubs this big fish “Critic Nag Dude.”
Critic Nag Dude had me right where he wanted me. I considered shelving my manuscript.
Then, I remembered something a wise little fish once said:
And this: “Finish your sh**.”
I couldn’t ignore an animated fish with short-term memory loss and the guy who tells aspiring writers,”Your jealousy and depression do not matter.” (If you love Dory, buy the movie. If you love Chuck, read more here.)
So, I’ve been back to work. To be honest, I know this is going to take awhile. I’ve read the blogs and author interviews in which the writer says revising a manuscript takes them anywhere from a mere two weeks to four months, on the outside. To a mewing pantser-me-that’s daunting.
I hereby grant myself permission to do the work that needs done in the amount of time it takes to make it amazing.
Whether you’re a pantser or plotter, I’m sure many of you’ve found that revision changes the relationship between writer and story. It’s more painful, we must kill a few darlings and come to terms with our little foibles.
But there is a balance between the red ink, hives, and lack of sleep.
This is the balance, the secret:
Revision is your opportunity to crawl inside your story and live there for a while.
I love words and I’m a poet by nature. But I’m taking this opportunity to re-examine my language and voice. I decided the most important element for me is voice-not just my own unique personality, but my main character’s voice. I went through my notes one day and found a note. It read, “Evie says she didn’t do it.” This was scribbled on a purple post-it, so I assume it was one those episodes in which I jumped out of the shower, suds in hair, to jot down a flash of an idea.
This was a moment worthy of a head smack for me. I pulled out my first draft and read it from beginning to end. And it was in there, a mere zygote, but it was there. It reminded me why I started the tale in the first place. Evie, my main character, appeared to me before her story did. In true ghost fashion, her image haunted me. I knew what she wanted and that only I could give that to her.
It is only now that I comprehend what pantsing means to me. I can’t fight my organic nature as a writer. I had to take a step back to realize that my first draft is more of a skeleton, with some muscular structure. Now, I can take out the unneeded bits and begin the layering process.
And guess what, I’ve learned to love revision. I believe in my story, and myself, again. I know I’ll be a better writer when I’m done, and that new ventures - query letters, rejections, more edits-await me. I’m learning to stop comparing my own long, strange trip to that of other writers. We can offer each other advice and support, but we can’t teach intuition. It’s different for everyone.
I read that magic happens outside our comfort zone. It’s true. I’m enjoying the show.
If you’re thinking about putting that story in a cubbyhole, don’t. It may go to The Land of Lost Socks and never be heard from again. Ask yourself what pulled you into that world in the first place. Perhaps it’s only the bare framework, but there’s something bright and inquisitive in there, trying to speak to you.
Keep on swimming and finish what you start.