Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Fifth Base

I'm learning that writing and revising (repeat as needed) is like sprinting around the bases. You think you're heading for home, the manuscript looks good, everything is going great, and then SURPRISE! That's not home plate, it's a fourth base. You're running in a widening spiral. On to fifth base!

I've been hesitant to update on the revision process because it seems so repetitive. All the hackneyed metaphors come crowding in: honing the knife until it's sharp; chipping away at the sculpture; running in circles.

But the fact is that with each revision the story gets a little. Bit. Better. And that's what it's all about: truly the first (I almost said "only") measure of success.

Early morning is the only time I can make for this maddening and revealing process, so that's when I work: up at five, make coffee, step over the cats, put on my glasses, and get to work.

These days I'm doing one last look at the bones of the story. Chapter-level and scene-level changes. Paragraph-level if absolutely necessary, but I'm trying not to go deeper than that, because it's too easy to get distracted by line-edits.

Instead I satisfy my inner critic by swiping an impatient underline to mark clumsy text, problematic text. Because I want the words to go sliding past fluidly in exactly the way a cat does not swallow a pill. Or exactly the opposite of the previous sentence.

In any case, with each pass it gets better. And I think I can see home plate, up ahead in the outfield, where kids stopped playing years ago, and tortoises wander in the tall grass. Or do I see more bases?

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