Thursday, December 24, 2009

Revision Bliss

In November 2008, I bashed out a 50,000-word middle grade novel for NaNoWriMo. It took me 17 days to finish, and afterwards, I let it sit for two weeks to gain a little distance from it.

Then I revised it.


Next, I read and reread a few chunks to my extremely patient partner, and I let my mother and my sister read and critique the manuscript.

Then I revised it.

Soon after, I found a wonderful, generous, kind-but-appropriately-demanding, adverb-hating critique partner through an online message board and she read and responded to the manuscript.

Then I revised it.

I started submitting to agents and eventually one fantastic agent offered representation, along with excellent notes for revision of the novel.

So I revised it.

The agent started submitting to publishers and quickly sold the novel to a wonderful house. Shortly thereafter, the delightfully insightful editor sent me notes for revision of the novel.

So I revised it.

Then the brilliant and hawk-eyed copy editor read the manuscript and pointed out a few inconsistencies contained therein.

So I revised it.

Next, the extremely thorough proofreader and managing editor read it, and they, along with my editor, made more great notes for revision in the margins.

So I revised it.

After all this revising, I have just three questions left to answer.

Number one. As the creator of all these characters who are running around not knowing when they were born or which houses in their town are for sale or whether or not their feet hurt, shouldn't I be a little more well-informed about the answers to the questions said inconsistencies raise?

Letter B. Inconsistent w/ above. Change to "Number two." How is it possible that eight other people read the novel before the proofreader, but none of them pointed out my bizarre infatuation with the word “briskly”?

And, fourth, "Number three." Wwhat did I do to deserve being a part of this wonderful business? Whatever it was, I'm glad! This is so much fun!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

(More or less) home for the holidays

So I'm walking back from Sunoco in a just-after-dusk winter-is-coming see-your-breath sort of cold, with Christmas lights twinkling on the rooftops of probably a third of the houses directly in my field of vision. Big lights, small lights, blue lights, white lights, bulbs and wreaths and icicles in merry loops and patterns. But there's no question which one is best.

There's a sweet little house just in the bend of the road, a cottage of stone with a neatly-fenced lawn and about two hundred thousand twinkling bulbs in every color of the rainbow. They 're stapled to every inch of the house that could possibly hold a staple. The roof is not only outlined, but colored in. The bushes are shimmering. The walkway is glowing.

My leanings on winter holidays are scattered like the lights. Like a good semi-non-practicing Pagan-ish type, I dutifully light a Solstice fire on the longest night and burn the things I want to do away with for the coming year. But that holiday is a little more stern than I like, because, to take part, I have to admit which things I might still want that I definitely don't need anymore, and I'm a Taurus -- read, a pack rat -- mentally and emotionally as well as physically. I don't just collect trinkets and knick-knacks and about a million useless papers. I collect acquaintances and habits and emotional states that perhaps don't serve my best interests anymore, and I find it very hard to let go of them.

So Solstice, though I practice it, is not my most beloved of holidays.

And here are these Christmas lights.

I'm not a Christian, but I love me some Christmas. Sparkling lights on see-your-breath nights, people singing, bells ringing, that special sound scissors make when they cut through wrapping paper, the smell of Scotch tape and the way kids (and teachers, truth be told) squint at streetlights and headlights to try to discern if the misty rain working its way down out of the sky on a forty-degree night might possibly -- possibly -- possibly be snow, falling on a school night -- I love me some Christmas. Which is why I'm staring at this precious little cottage with its Christmas lights twinkling in the night.

Then my gaze roams from the house. Down its walk. Past its fence. Across the highway.

To the other house.

This one is white, not stone. It's still sweet, in its own way -- or at least you can tell it would be sweet if somebody would just clean it up. Right now, the brown lawn rolls listlessly up to the edge of a pile of trash that's been sitting there for over a month. Past that is the picture window, in which there is a slight green smudge along the bottom of the curtain -- then a slight blue smudge -- and then yellow -- which is the Christmas lights that have fallen from the window frame and are now lying in a heap on the sill, out of sight.

Two crotchety cats guard the door like stone lions, angry and disgruntled, and beyond the corner of the house, you can glimpse the half-a-shed, which is a building that used to be a whole shed before somebody took a sledgehammer to it -- then an axe -- then a car with a tow chain -- and finally gave up and let the crooked thing stand. Its parallelogram frame is marred by broken bits of siding and a scattering of a million bent nails, shining like drops of ice.

That one's mine.

I've got homework to grade tonight, and lessons to plan, and those crotchety cats look ready to move on and find another home if I don't pay them a little attention sometime soon. Just looking at the half-a-shed and the trash pile makes me tired.

But I love this season, with its scattering of holidays, its sparkles and its jingles and its hope. I think maybe I can find it in me to at least re-hang my single strand of holiday lights before I turn in for the night.