Editorial interference

March 12, 2007

“Revision is a very physical process, best done by hand, much like decoupage.”                                                                         –me, 3:00p.m.

The fact is, I insist on editorial interference. I would be lost without it. The line- and copy-edited manuscript for Dockside landed at noon, and by 3p.m., this was the scene.

DOCKSIDE final edit

This is the point where I pull everything together–the handwritten notes, critiqued pages from my writers’ group, e-mails back and forth with my agent and editor, the copy-editor’s pink slips with her queries, my own brainstorms and despairing missives on Post-It notes…You know the drill.

Office supplies are key. I have to have really good mechanical pencils, highlighter markers in every color, bankers’ clips, paperclips (the coated variety) and those little sticky tabs that have no name, but which are used to mark pages. Oh, and a wastepaper bag. For obvious reasons, I am forbidden to ask myself, “Why did you spend days writing that scene if you’re only going to toss it out?” No computer, you’ll note. For me, revision is a very physical process, best done by hand, much like decoupage.

Setting is key, too. I’m always amazed by other writers’ offices. They all look so intimidatingly neat and organized. Except my friend Jenny‘s. One reason she’s my friend is that when she showed a picture of her office, it all looked comfortingly familiar. Anyway, I do have an office, and sometimes it’s even neat, but that’s not really where I end up doing the real work of writing. I end up all spread out on the big chenille sectional, not the world’s prettiest piece of furniture but the most comfy. I also need the heather green cashmere blanket–a peek at the weather out the window explains it–and a mug of Lady Grey tea. The logo on the mug says “PERKY.” Next to that is my screaming monkey slingshot because you know what they say about all work and no play.

I imagine that in a few hours, the scene will change. There will be more trash. An empty bag of cheese doodles and some chocolate wrappers. My Ichiro bobblehead doll and some golf balls because the rug is great for putting practice. A big blue exercise ball for doing stretches. I will have gotten up to look through the telescope to see what the people on the mainland are watching on TV. The cordless phone is there, because when I get stuck, I’ll call a girlfriend or my parents or sister or my daughter, and we’ll talk until I’m unstuck. I will mutter and pace, unravel and re-weave blocks of narrative, cut and paste, flip back and forth, flip out. I will consume gallons of hot tea and more carbs than is humanly possible. I will yearn for “original recipe” Girl Scout Cookies with the trans fats intact. I will stay up late and get up early. I will write “The End” and then rewrite it.

And somehow, out of all this chaos, comes a novel.

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| 18 Comments
  • Hello Susan,

    I am writing to tell you, how i couldnt put the book,
    Summer at Willow lake,,,down. It is so nice
    to get away from it all, and sit down and read
    such a love story.
    Thank you.
    I will be reading more of your books.
    Kelly : )

  • Oh, Susan — when I lived up in Stanwood and didn’t know how you lived, just that you were “nearby” and with the same publisher as I, I really liked you! Now that I’ve seen that view from your living room, though, AND that pool, I’m not so danged sure. How come you got to live my dream? (Don’t answer that; I know how to make my dreams come true. I just drag my feet a lot.) So here I am now in Texas, languishing in temps 88 but “feels like 97” according to the weatherman, who I’m learning to despise, and you put that pic up on your blog? Now, if that ain’t bein’ mean, I don’t know what is!
    Oh, well, I can always wait for winter to feel superior to you Washingtonians, and meanwhile I’ll just keep on lovin’ your blog–while my feelings are just a little mixed about you and that view!

  • […] I first met Holly at the Maui Writers Conference, in the intensive pre-conference retreat. Picture ten writers in a room at a tropical resort, madly reading, critiquing and revising each other’s novels. Okay, don’t picture it. Not a pretty sight, especially because they put me in charge of a group, and I am notoriously messy. […]

  • I could never do work with that view behind me. I’d lose hours staring out there.

    When I do write, it’s for fun, but I do like to edit by hand. Every time I edit, I prefer a new print out, but sometimes, I reedit the same copy and every time I do that, I use a different color. I like felt tip, but I hate the ink on my hands so sometimes it varies. I think that’s my problem. I’m way too particular and methodical to let the entire creative process work for me, but sometimes, it comes through enough to relax me. So, just a hobby. 🙂

    Thanks for letting us into your world for a moment!

  • Love the description of your revisions MO, and accompanying photos. And the link to other authors’ offices–did you check out the pic of Jenny Crusie’s office?!?! Now there’s a “wow” for ya. 😉 Even on my worst deadlines, I’m not that frantically topsy-turvy. Kudos to her–and to all of you writers extraordinaires–for offices that are as individual as your writing styles.

    And thanks for the funny with the great proofreader’s marks. I’ll take them to heart as I review clients’ work–at least those with a sense of humor! BTW, what is the little picture next to the words about paraphrasing?

    P.S. And what are Pantone markers? Don’t tell me there is such a thing as felt tip markers that come in all the Pantone colors?! It that’s true, look out, border patrol. I’ll be on a mission from God.

  • I am supposed to be revising right now… and as you can see, I am P-R-O-C-R-A-S-T-I-N-A-T-I-N-G, reading your blog.

    Too many loose papers all over make me slightly crazy, so I tame like things with binder clips. It’s the only thing that gives me that illusion of control. {shh!}

    Love this blog. Love the view. Where’s the dog? Mine insists on being in the thick of things, which of course means on top of all of the piles of loose papers. Hence another good reason for the binder clips. 🙂

  • OK susan. I admit it. I want to be messy but I live on a boat. I CAN’T! I do SO envy you the comfy sofa. Mine is so not comfy and totally immovable.
    I LOVE your view.
    I have every fan going double time.
    6:30 pm and 83 degrees.
    Tossing that aloha spirit your way!

  • If you were to have a cat lying smack in the middle of your papers, it would look very similar to my work area. That’s not messy, though. It’s very organized clutter. That’s what I tell my mother, anyway.

  • Your room looks like mine-except I have a Central Market bag instead of Safeway! I’m going to have to have to go to a big white bag later today, although I am right in the middle of your new book whwich I’d rather read than clean up. I’ve got to find out how Rourke and Jenny finally get together! Love your view, too- I live on the Hood Canal side of the county.

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