Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Revision Checlist

1. I spelled "revision checklist" wrong. First item on the revision checklist: Revise the spelling of revision checklist.

2. You know how sometimes if you're at the lake, you can watch a storm come across the water, and you can literally see the line on the water where the rain starts, and that line is moving closer to you? Well, I just described that in my book. I said it was like "a deadline moving closer." Whoops, the author is showing.

3. Question. Can my Pagan character feel rapturous?

4. Let's go with euphoric.

5. You know, my editor has a very fair point. If my main character had really written this paragraph on the wall of a bathroom stall, she'd have run out of space in the ladies' room and had to duck across the hall to the men's room. Maybe I should buy her some paper. I'm the author, I can give the kid paper. Be mean not to.

6. Yeah, she's not getting paper. She's just writing something shorter.

7. My editor's penciled note: "No one got hungry?" has me stumped. I've been over and over and over this chapter and I just can't find a way to feed these people. Can this be one of those places where teachers have their students write a missing scene later? "Now, class, you'll notice that the characters didn't eat in this chapter. The author probably did that on purpose to give you a chance to write a missing scene about how the characters find food ..."

8. I, on the other hand, am having no trouble finding food, and eating lots of it, from revision stress.

9. I don't understand. How can my editor write "great" at the end of a paragraph that's more pencil marks than original text?

10. I've been sitting at McDonald's, which was the only place I could find open to sit and work on revisions after dropping my husband off at work at 4 a.m. But now my computer's almost dead and the only outlet here is at an uncomfortable-looking table near the counter, which is like sitting next to the teacher's desk. It's later now. I'm going to go find something else that's open. Something with better coffee and less beeping.

11. If I revise my own setting, does that count as revision progress?

Monday, September 20, 2010

First Few Pages

I drove Jake to work at 4 a.m. Could have gone home after, but the air was sharp with autumn, and out in the world, there was internet and coffee.

I've got everything I need: a coffee, a laptop, revision notes.

Not doing much, except dreaming.

Revisions. That's what Jake and I have made to our lives. I mean, it sounds cheesy. Obvious, and a little painful, that a writer would draw parallels from revision notes to life. But it's almost six and the number of cups of coffee I've had has now outpaced the number of hours of sleep I got. So it makes sense to me at the moment.

Six years ago, when Jake and I started our life together, there was no wise editor to pencil notes in the margins. Of course we had parents and siblings and friends, but they each had separate chapters. Nobody could step back and look at the plot arc, make sense of the characters and warn us of the plot holes.

Six years ago, just as fall began, we stood on a balcony in our small city and looked down on leaves and people.

But this morning feels more like five years ago, the end of our first year together. Already we'd survived two moves, two kittens, one broken-down truck and the public bus system. But now it was autumn again and we lived in a trailer on a hill. The nearest bus stop was a mile away, but a mile and a half if you walked the long way, the graveyard way, which wasn't as scary as the other way. Better silent gravestones than shadows not quite silent enough, following us through the darkness of the bad neighborhood down by the interstate. Better we walk an extra half mile and make it to our destination.

Jake worked at a pretzel place then. And the fall was long, but the winter was longer. We walked the cemetery way in the pitch-black, frosty mornings, me accompanying him because he didn't like me staying in our trailer alone, and I didn't like him walking by himself.

We were punchy, giggly, a little nuts with cold and tired. He had bronchitis and I had a foul mouth and we stood by the road waiting for the bus to top the hill, hoping the driver could see us in the dark. Christmas lights and balloon Santas decorated the path to work. All morning, he made breakfast for people while his stomach growled, while I sat in the aisle eating the free pretzels he snuck me and scraping up change for coffee, writing on the backs of already-filled pages and hoping this writing thing would take us places someday.

Pages turned a little quicker once spring came. And chapter after chapter went by.

The changes came slowly. Something added here. Deleted there. A few changes of a character's name, a few shifts in setting, a few unexpected plot twists. The notes in the margins weren't the guide for the change, but the record of it. A scribbled year on the back of a photo, a crumpled notebook page scattered with pencil marks and pretzel salt. And the taste of autumn air that can always take me back to the opening paragraph.

I've got to admit, this is a convoluted tale. The plot arc doesn't make much sense and the character motivations haven't always been believable. But I love the suspense, and a lot of the prose. And sometimes, on fall mornings, I like to re-read Chapter One.