Sunday, November 16, 2008

Novel 101--A Radical Revisionista

So, once again I'm revising. Revising the MS I thought was done a year ago. The MS I've since rewritten 3 (or was it 4?) times.

This has been the hardest book I've ever written. Okay, I know it's only the third (or fourth?) book I've even started. But I also know it's the most complex. I think it's better than All the Numbers. And the writing of it has been a completely different experience.

I remember when I was pregnant with my second child, thinking, well, I'm an experienced mom so I know what I'm doing. Uh huh. I knew the basics. Nursing. Diapering. But each baby taught me how to be his own mom. What worked with one son didn't always (or ever) work with the other one.

We talk about books being labors of love . . . like child rearing. We talk about the fear of sending them (kids and books) out into the world to get knocked around. And I'm discovering that each book gets written in its own way just like each child gets raised in his or her own way. And I have to give myself over to that.

My sons taught me how to be a mom. My sons taught me I could handle things I'd never imagined. They taught me I was stronger than I ever thought. They taught me I had to take risks and be fearless so that they could dare to take chances and chase dreams.

My characters teach me the very same things. My characters are teaching me how to be a writer.

And one of my dearest, most trusted reader-editors used the perfect phrase for all of this. She told me being cautious wouldn't strengthen my story. She told me that "a more radical approach to revision is the right one."

Which means that I'm reconsidering major plot points. I'm looking at scenes and thinking, what the hell, what if I connected these characters here? Or here. I'm fearlessly "killing my darlings"--deleting those scenes that might be beautifully/wittily/choose-your-adverb written but DON'T MOVE THE STORY FORWARD. Or worse, SLOW IT DOWN.

I'm moving things around, withholding information, rediscovering characters' motivations. It's exhilarating and terrifying (kind of like parenting toddlers or teens). I know it's working when I wake up thinking about my book, when in those not-quite-awake moments an idea or solution comes to me and I just know it's perfect. Which tells me that all night my subconscious has been working on my book.

I'm letting go of what I thought the book was supposed to be and grabbing on to what it's becoming, what it was destined to be.

Again, kind of like watching my sons become the adults that was in them from the start.

It's an amazing journey, both parenting and authoring. And much of the time I need to remind myself to enjoy the ride and stay out of the way.


kristenspina said...

Judy, this couldn't be more timely or true for me right now. (As a mom and a writer!) Always a learning process.

Joanne said...

Each book gets written in its own way. So true. I think, too, we are in different places in life with each book, affecting the process? Hopefully some wisdom & knowledge from each helps us along the journey.

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Kristen--we are always learning aren't we? Glad this post was helpful for you!

Joanne--You're right--we're never the same writer (or mom) the next time around, so it's all the more important to enjoy the journey.

Carleen Brice said...

Judy, How you keep at it is an inspiration. I think sometimes it's easy for people to think once you've been published it's all smooth waters ahead. Ha! I'm with you that every book is its own little world that you have to enter anew. Can't wait to read it!

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Thanks Carleen--I can't wait to send you an ARC!

Daisy said...

You'll let us know when it hits the stores, right? Please?
Love the new blog design!