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.
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.