revising

Edits and Revisions

There is no question most writers enjoy writing but not editing or revising. It’s a simple fact that the creation of a story is more enjoyable than the repairs of that story. I see it as having and raising a child.

Pregnancy, labor and delivery are not exactly easy but through your sweat and determination you have this beautiful creation. Perfect in its newness, its innocence. It is love at first sight.

Then comes the hard part. The guiding, the lectures, the tantrums and frustrations. The times you want to throw up your hands and give up, go running from the house. But you don’t. Because this is your baby and you want it to be all it can be. It’s love. It’s dedication. It’s a total reflection on YOU.

As is the story you write… and must revise.

Revising, to me, is like dealing with¬† a child’s troubling teenage years. It’s a test of patience and of love. A time when all the beauty and innocence you saw and felt at that first stage, comes back at you as if your input was a vile, unappreciated thing and must all be undone. It’s a battle of wills and understanding. Emotional standoffs grounded by love you know is there but cannot hold quite as closely as before.

And then, suddenly, there’s peace. A sort of understanding and middle-ground-met. A balance of your vision for your child and your child’s vision for her or himself. It’s that respect which allows your child go into the world armed with the ability to stand alone and make you proud.

The difference between all that and revisions is time. You have nearly two decades to work with your child and while revisions may seem as long, they, in all honestly, should not be. ūüėČ

Mine however, have gone on longer than the writing itself. To be fair to the writer in me, I will acknowledge that the editing process has gone well throughout the story. It’s simply the opening which stumps me. And after several revisions of that opening, I’m still not happy.

I have now set a deadline. By this Friday my opening will be good or it won’t be. Either way, I will be sending queries. It’s up to me – and my muse, of course – to decide whether those queries will be for work I’m proud to call my own or work I’m embarrassed to put my name to.

So, for much of this week, I intend to read. Oh, how hard that work will be. You can imagine a dramatic sigh here. I will read openings from some of my favorite authors – like Nora Roberts, Lisa Jackson, Jude Deveraux, Linda Ford, Kate Pearce and more. And I will see how and why their opening pages work. And then, filled with the wisdom and motivation of those I admire, I will revise my opening pages and send them off into the world to, hopefully, stand on their own and make me proud.

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The problem with my story

Way back when I was first toying with this story, I was sitting on a blanket under a huge tree near the bank of the Hudson River. We’d spent the day touring the magnificent homes in Hyde Park, New York¬†– the Vanderbilt and Mills Mansions – and took a few moments to soak¬†up¬†the beautiful and serene landscape. I whipped out my writer’s notebook¬†and scribbled some thoughts as they came to me.

I had my heroine’s name and face clear. I knew her angst and her mission. And I felt her need to have her story told. My hero made an appearance that day, too. He told me his name but not much more since he was in a hurry. He was rushing to rescue a loved one from danger and on the way had¬†bumped into my heroine.

I went to sleep that night with story ideas swirling in my head. I saw scenes play out, I heard my characters’ voices. I saw them struggle and I saw them sneak glances when each thought the other wasn’t looking. They were so real and excited – and in such a hurry – that I got right down to writing their story.

But first… I developed W’s for them from my W-Plot class. I soared from there, putting these two into terrible danger, pushing them ever closer to the edge, forcing them to push back.

And then I dropped them.

Why? What happened? All the forward motion and then BAM! A massive brick wall knocked us all down to the ground. Why?

Because I didn’t plan my W’s the way I should have. I cheated. Along the lines of the capital letter W are the various plot points each character must reach. Low points, high points, black moments and happily ever after. They have to travel, struggle from one to the other. They cannot simply step over one and onto the next. My mistake? The plot points were too connected, too close. There has to be time and space between them or the story ends before it gets going.

And so I’m forced to step back and review all I’ve done. I’ve already gone back one chapter and¬†come up with a new plan, a new level of tension for my hero to work through. Now I need to go back to my W’s and see if I can shift a few plot points, sneak in a couple more and up the angst, torture these charactes just a tad more, make them earn their happily ever after without feeling guilty for putting them through such horror.¬†

Ah but that feeling of power can be all consuming at times.  

I might even storyboard the scenes from this point on, shifting them until they flow just the way I want them to.

When you hit the proverbial brick wall in your writing, what do you do to get things moving again?