I like Fruit Ninja. When I forget a book or want to wind down a little before bed, I’ll play a few rounds and ponder how it’s possible for someone to achieve over 1000 points on arcade mode.
This afternoon after I got up, I was laying on our living room bed sofa playing Fruit Ninja, and as I sliced various tropical fruit with my sparkle blade, I wondered what exactly I was doing. It’s my day off; a little relaxation is fine, but there are a lot of other things I would like to do, like make some enchiladas, write my blog, work on NaNo stuff, take a shower. Hygiene is important. We don’t want a stinky Emmie on our hands, do we?
I’m 15,000 words into NaNo, which is great. I’m ahead of schedule in spite of my busy weekend, and I’m definitely hoping to get a bit of good writing done today. Today’s tidbit of The 25 is about revision, which may not be the focus of my writing this month, but it’s still something to think about.
There are two good reasons for revising what you’ve written: Either you want to change something, or your editor, agent or client does. If the revision is your idea, that’s good. It means you know what you want, or what you suspect won’t fly. If the revision is by request, remember: The customer may not always be right, but she has the money and the medium—as well as the experience of buying for it. (You can fight for what you believe, of course, but choose your battles carefully. Races are won or lost in the final minutes.)
I knew a writer who would write a first draft and submit it without even reading it over. Others, myself included, substitute and trim and pinch and juggle until the work pours like melted butter.
With that in mind, here’s your 30-minute assignment:
Reduce by a third the word count of one of your recent efforts without losing its essence. (I did this myself, in fact, with my contributions to this article.) Note: Don’t constantly reread what you’ve written; if you memorize it, self-editing will be tougher. Put it away for a few days. Then read it fresh.
Since I’ve already posted a lot about revision, I’m going to skip the self-revision stuff and think about what it’ll be like when an editor tells me to change stuff in my work. It’s actually something I haven’t given a whole lot of thought to, because I haven’t even gotten to the stage or wallpapering my bedroom with rejection slips yet. I haven’t had the mental capacity to imagine what would happen after someone decided to take on my work.
For a lot of us unpublished folk, our writing is like this meticulous sand castle we’ve been sitting on the shore to construct for years. The first time someone comes along and wants us to change something we’ve spent a painstaking amount of time creating grain by grain, it probably feels like a massive wave spilling over the tide line and washing away something we are proud of. The first impulse might be to fall face down in the sand and flail around.
What I think (and this is theoretical, because I have yet to have a professional dissect my work) is that the key to surviving is to see what the wave leaves behind. We might think it washed away the Taj Mahal, but it might have instead washed away a bunch of staircases that go nowhere and two outhouses. Revision for others is sometimes the best thing that authors can do, because we write for an audience. While we may think we see everything most clearly, sometimes others can clarify what we think is already sharp.
And if you give up, there’s always the massive 8-Fruit Combo to give your life meaning, or the sparkling dragonfruit.