“I’ve hit a roadblock,” my friend complained in an email to me. “I don’t know where my story goes next, and my editor has given me a deadline.”
I know what she means. I have this glorious new hip, for which I will always consider my surgeon my personal savior and hero. Thing is, that hip joint is about as tight as the beagle’s wallet when it’s her turn to buy a round of drinks. I have to continually stand up and stretch it out. Sucker doesn’t just let loose all easy-like, I have to take a few steps, stop, gorgle my hip around, take a couple more steps, more gorgling, until it loosens up enough to where I don’t walk like a pregnant water buffalo trying to carry a bowling ball between her knees. And the longer I wait, the harder it gets downstream.
Walking normally is going to take work by stretching out some very expensive spit and glue – if my hospital bill is any indication. I have to be willing to get off the couch, knowing it’s gonna yankle, in order to have a good outcome.
And it’s no different when revising your story. It’s one thing to have the story sitting in our heads. We think we have it all figured out…until we start putting it down on cyber paper. If you’re on a deadline, then you have no choice but to strong-arm through the fog. And this isn’t a bad idea because it’s forcing you to get something down.
Too many times I see authors set their hair on fire when it comes to revisions because they feel they got it right the first time, and the idea of making changes is as horrific as the beagle contemplating sobriety. This is the predicament my friend had. Her book was good enough to get a good agent, who sold it to a good publisher. But that doesn’t mean she’s bulletproof.
There are always revisions. Srsly.
Your editor will give you sound advice and be very clear about the parts that need smoothing over, or further development. I remember my editor slammed me with writing an entire new scene in Donovan’s Paradigm. In the original version, I’d merely alluded to the scene in conversation, but she came back at me with a, “Oh, not so fast, Pricey. That’s a huge scene that I’d like to see.”
I worried about word count, I worried about context, I worried about transitioning this new scene into the story. And on and on. I whined. I begged. I drank pitchers of margaritas long into the night. The beagle laughed, I cried. And then I slapped cheeks and told my bad self to grow up and write the damn scene. It wasn’t easy because I had to do a lot more research. And you know what? That remains one of my favorite scenes in the book because it developed my main character on a medical level, while getting into her head on a personal level in the height of a major emergency. Many docs who read the book thought I was a fellow doc because I had gotten into their heads.
And I have my editor to blame.
The one thing that might help you in your writing career is to tell yourself that, yes, your book is finished to the best of your abilities, BUT, that you also realize that it really isn’t done until the cover is wrapped around the pages and it’s sitting on bookstore shelves. Your editor is your unbiased set of eyes that sees past your unyielding love and perfection, and knows where your book can reach the pinnacle of yumminess. Yes, that’s a technical term.
Instead of fretting and biting your nails to the quick, increase your BIC (Butt In Chair) Index and get cracking. Whining and moaning gets you nowhere. Sit down and write that new scene, even if it feels wrong. Get something on paper because once it’s there, you can always go back and refine. And as you refine, your mind opens up to what feels right (write?). And who knows? That new scene your evil editor made you write will turn out to be your best.
Muscling through is how you get ungorgled – and yes, that’s another technical term.