So, as I mentioned in my last post, I am in the middle of revising my first novel. Except the word revising feels too tame a way to describe exactly what I am doing to the manuscript pages. Another writer once referred to her process as “slash and burn” and that feels like an apt description. As a refresher – I am rewriting half of the novel from 1st person to 3rd person limited pov, adding in approximately 25K of new material by way of a new narrator, and shifting the structure of the book to three interconnected novellas that all work together to tell one overarching story.
So, this slash & burn (s&b) has my mind twisted into knots. I dream about it at night – this often involves me sitting in a chair, surrounded by mounds of papers (unnumbered of course) all marked with thick, red notes where I am trying to put everything in order. I think Metallica is playing in the background – loud, heavy and it leaves me feeling like I’ve downed way too much coffee and I am just a quick movement away from barfing it all back up.
The dream is not far off from my s&b. The very nature of this process involves revisiting elements of my work that I’ve thought about far too long already. This process is a long, drawn out game of second guessing myself. When I originally wrote my first novel I put it away for two months. After that cooling off period, I spent the better part of 18 months editing, rewriting and revising the thing. I filled a whole spiral bound notebook with notes – tracing the story arc, details about characters appearances, personalities, and speech patterns, noting words to check. I remember spending two weeks searching through the entire document to rid it of crutch words and other forms of repetition that struck me as inane. I polished and perfected the manuscript until I felt it shined so bright I was practically blind with the gleaming light coming off the damn thing. Revision is not a step in the process that I enjoy, it requires a certain amount of organization a certain level of thinking that doesn’t feel particularly creative to me. But, I gave it my best go. I tried to find information online about how to do it and I pulled all of this together into a large, lumbering system that seemed to TAKE FOREVER.
There was a point, at the end of revising, that I realized I could get stuck in a loop. Revising becomes an all consuming process, there is always more to do. Indeed, even after reading the entire manuscript aloud I still find small typos.
The s&b brings this all back to me. Once you pull the thread out, things begin to unravel – new problems crop up all because of this clever way you thought of to improve the manuscript. Then there is the danger of going too far and getting consumed by the s&b. I wonder – Am I being too ambitious? Should I just put the novel away and focus on my WIP?
I’ve considered moving on, but I can’t let it go just yet. Maybe this is a rookie mistake, but sometimes you have to know when to keep going. Sometimes you must listen to your gut – mine says, this s&b is reworking my novel into something great.