Ah, the holiday season is upon us and we are gearing up for our Christmas season with our usual traditions. Every year, the day after Thanksgiving, we begin getting ready for the holidays. First on the list, we tear down Thanksgiving decor. All the splendor of autumn colors is removed from mantles and doors to make room for our Christmas decor.
We clean (I do actually–while DD and DH go shopping for my Christmas presents on Black Friday). We perform the annual dance of the moving furniture to make space for our artificial tree (we are allergic to pine). This usually involves heated discussions about where one’s beloved chair (DH) must go. One year we managed to convince him to move it into the attic. But this year he got a new chair and he refused to let it go. Sigh. But we managed to make the new living area work and were well on our way to the fun part of getting ready for Christmas.
Decorating the tree and house.
On Saturday, we haul down the boxes and the tree. We unfurl the branches, open up the ornaments, hang them up, decorate the dining room, bring out old decor and buy a bit of new. We play Christmas music and by late afternoon, the inside of the house is ready for another Christmas season. On Sunday, we head outside and we put up our outdoor decor. And voila! Christmas has sprung.
But it never springs quite the same way. Every year, tough decisions are made about old bits of decor. Toss or keep? How do we reuse it? Do we keep it and use it later or not at all? The tree? Every year, a new set of ornaments (3, 1 for each of us) arrives. Thus, the other ornaments must make room for the new ones. They are never hung in the same way. The mantle. Over the years I’ve had tons of space to put decorative items and candles. Last year we moved, a huge flat screen TV prevents the candles from being lit, and I had to rethink the entire mantle decorations. And the DR? Last year we moved. What worked in our old house no longer fit the new color scheme. Back to the store I went to get different decorative items for the new DR.
Are you seeing what I’m seeing? Christmas Revision!
In a way, the process we go through as a family getting ready for the holidays is much like the process of revising a manuscript. First I go through all the old writing. What do I toss, keep, move, shift, change, rediscover? What must I reinvent? How will I hang it all together? There’s usually a heated discussion with my CPs about the direction of the book and the characters’ GMC. Huge bits of work are set aside for future evaluation. Other bits are saved, but really, they’ll probably never be in the final draft (is there such a thing?). New ideas are generated and written. Now the MS takes on a different veneer. It’s the same story, the same people, but the way they hang on my manuscript tree is different.
This is writing. First draft is fun–no rules–get the core of the story down. First revision is PAINFUL. Much like moving the furniture in our home to accommodate the huge tree, the pain of the shifting is difficult to bear because it all looked so pretty beforehand. But now the house looks great. Different, but it holds all the new items and looks similarly pretty.
Second revision can be even more painful–especially for new writers. We struggle with the deeper aspects of our writing: we’ve got POV, but what about DEEP POV? And we know how to write well, but does the scene move our story forward? Is it necessary? Just like the old cranberry beads that really looked beautiful on the tree 5 years ago, our scenes looked pretty darned good to us, too. But now, we must examine them for flaws. Are they just there to be there? Or do they serve a purpose? Are they well-crafted with a hook? Or do they just fill space? Tough decisions to be made at the computer. Sometimes we keep our scenes, hoping to use them later or to improve upon them. I know I keep those stupid cranberries JUST IN CASE I might find a way to use them. I do the same thing with old scenes. They just go into a different document so I can make room for the new scenes I plan to write (and they must be better!).
Now, as I was decorating my house for Christmas, I read through two revised MS’s. One is almost there. Looks like what I read before, but it’s tighter, better, the story moves quicker. The other MS I am reading I’ve read 3 times. I know for a fact my CP has torn into this story, part of a series, and ripped it apart to mine it for what it needs to give the reader. As I read this story, I think to myself, I remember this, but it’s so much better and it flows so much easier, it’s different. And it’s different in a great way. BUT, I’m still finding little typos, and some small polishing items such as indents are wrong or extra spaces and doubled words. Despite all her hard work, these tiny details can be missed. It seems no matter how many times we write the stories and revise them, they are never perfect. This is the final polishing work.
I know, at the end of the day, when my CPs do send off their work, they’ll move onto different stories and ideas, but they will, either based on editor or agent suggestions, be revisiting them to tweak the final product again and again.
Our stories are never finished until they are sitting on the shelves, real and virtual.
And that’s why this writer will continue revising her own WIP during the holiday season.