Friday, April 15, 2011

Why I Love Revision. Or: I Have a Headache

I am revising now. Life is bliss. That's why the past week has been what other, better bloggers call a Blogcation. In my case it's just that time passes and suddenly it's been a week or more.

I love revision. Seriously. It may be because I started life as more of an editor than a writer, at least professionally. Or it may be because I'm anal-obsessive and love the little, niggling brushwork more than the big, broad strokes of first draft. 

Also, revision tends to happen in little intense chunks. You finish one chunk and move on to the next, and it  feels like you're doing some exciting new thing.

Plus, you begin to see the final shape of the book. Or what will seem like the final shape until your editor gets hold of it. (I love my editor. Really.)

Much as I end up enjoying it, revision generally doesn't start well, at least for me. Here's the drill:

1. Finish first draft, and fling self into at least two weeks away from this friggin' book, which by now has turned into the stupidest thing anyone ever thought of.

2. After two weeks of puttering around with other things, print out first draft, and read it in printed form for the first time. At this point you discover that the first draft is even stupider than you thought it was, but you also get a clearer idea of what needs to be done.

3. Flip through the manuscript, writing down what needs to be done. At length. Put your revision notes into a computer document called Revision Notes. Notice how many pages it is in 12-point type.  Close Revision Notes and pour yourself a small gallon or so of wine.

4. Wonder who ever told you you could write, and why you believed them. Be abusive to your mate.

5. Take a walk. Remember how much you truly love revision.

6. Open up Revision Notes, and read a note at random. It will be something like "school scene is lame." Stare out the window, wondering if "lame" could possibly be a good thing.

7. Find a note that suggests a concrete change--in the most recent case, that was "bragging more grandiose." Scud through the first few chapters, grandiosing the bragging.

8. Discover that you're having a nice time.

9. Stop whining and get to work.

So that's what I'm doing now, whistling and making the world gruesome with glad cries.

Meanwhile, poor Rob, who dislikes showing his work and detests crowds, has a painting in the Portland Museum of Art biennial--for the third time, which is impressive. This time it's a landscape instead of one of the big narrative paintings he considers to be his "real" work, which has him wrong-footed, but he'll survive.

Here's what he almost didn't survive--last week's opening:

And here are some people with the audacity to look at his painting (the green landscape on the left):

Sorry the photo's blurry. I guess I don't like crowds either.


Anonymous said...

I`m scanning for his head in the very crowded crowd shot, but I guess that would be a fate worse than death. Ummmm, congrats Rob?


Ellen Booraem said...

He was standing behind me, talking with friends who showed up unexpectedly. Taking his picture would have been the final indignity.

Sarah Laurence said...

Congratulations to Rob! I'll visit the exhibit next time I'm in Portland.

I'm also in the midst of revision and related to your love-hate comments. This week off was very much needed.