Monday, April 24, 2006

Quote o' the week - What a mess!

"A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people." -- Thomas Mann

Because we fuss about what we write. We want to be clear, to get our ideas across without confusion, to elicit the right reaction.

This is why I am no good at instant messaging. I need to revise, always trying to, as Ernest Hemmingway put it, get the words right. Believe you me, I revise everything. I revise emails (to my agent and editor, ad infinitum -- one of those can take, literally, hours). Heck, I even revise my grocery list if it's too messy. Which brings me to the current manuscript. You wanna know mess?

This page is from the most recent version of Chapter Two of the Manucript That (Formerly) Ate New York (aka MY LORD'S DESIRE). This is at least the fourth draft of this chapter. And yet...oh, the revising! Later, when the whole manuscript looks like this, I'll input the changes and print up a new hard copy. Then I'll revise it at least once more.

I've realized why I edit best on hard copy. It takes me one step away, a necessary distance, to be a little more objective. Not much, but a little.

I could probably revise a manuscript for years, but there comes a time when I'm just rearranging the furniture -- I'm not making the story better or the characters more interesing. And if I keep working on it, I'm actually doing more harm than good. The revisions are probably sucking the life right out of the story, leaving it dead on the page.

That's why, despite my own propensity for revising, I get a tad dismayed when I hear that somebody's been working on the same story for years. I'm thinking it's gotta be stale. Lifeless. It's time to move on.

And start something fresh to revise.

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