I’m back in the middle of revision of a book, and I’m finally swimming in the water I love.
What I adore about revision is this: I know the world. I invented it, after all! When I open the document, I’m right in the middle of something I understand. It’s much easier, for me, to drop in for hours and rest on the page. It’s also easier to come out of, to shake off.
First drafts remain torture for me. So many of you love the first drafts, and I can admit that sometimes, the writing of new words is glorious. You surprise yourself with a turn of phrase that you’re pretty sure is genius and has probably never been said before. The plot bends and a tree you wrote about comes to life and points a branched finger in a direction you never saw coming. Inspiration flows, hot and heavy.
But maybe I’m just more of a down-to-earth gal. I love falling in love, but I love remaining in love more. Give me a passionate kiss before you take the trash out—that’s happiness to me. I like the comfort of What I Know. I like to tuck my feet under the thighs of my manuscript as we cuddle on the couch. I love knowing my manuscript likes the lights on till sleep-time, even though I prefer to read in the dark.
Revision is both comfortable and exciting, like a sturdy marriage. Oh, I love the word sturdy. It’s prosaic, but it’s so me. My legs are sturdy. My emotions are, too. I love my books to be sturdy enough to lean on.
And lean on them, I do. I fall into them, really. Revisions are getting in the bed you made of out words and pulling up the covers. Then you roll around, making those words better, cleaner, more focused.
Revision is when the REALLY big ideas show up. Then you have to move parts around, like those flat puzzle toys you slid pieces around on to make a picture, to make those new ideas fit. You might have to pry out some pieces and manufacture new ones. But then you click one piece left, and another one right, and suddenly, you’re looking at it. The whole picture. Your book.
Ahhh. I’m reveling.
Note from Marlene: Yes! I also love revising. Moving parts around, like a puzzle = Exactly! And the euphoria when the pieces fit = Joy!
Rachael Herron is the bestselling author of the novels The Ones Who Matter Most (named a 2016 Editor’s Pick by Library Journal), Splinters of Light and Pack Up the Moon (all from Penguin), the Darling Bay and the Cypress Hollow series, and the memoir, A Life in Stitches (Chronicle). She received her MFA in writing from Mills College, Oakland and she teaches writing in the extension programs at both UC Berkeley and Stanford. She’s proud to be a New Zealander as well as a US citizen, though her Kiwi accent only comes out when she’s very tired. She’s honored to be a member of the NaNoWriMo Writers Board. She is currently a Writer in Residence at Mills College.