Are we there yet?

Ever tried to stop drinking caffeine? Not slowly, just BAM! No more. That’s what taking a break from my book feels like. I still think it’s good advice; distance makes so many new things possible. But it hurts! I’ve messed around with a few other book ideas, revisited some of my other projects and tried to find new outlets, but I’m winding down now. And it’s only been four weeks!

Revision can go one of two ways. There may be more than two, actually, but if there are, I haven’t experienced them. The first, which is more likely if you plunge into it immediately after finishing the first draft, is torture. Those things you said a month ago that made you want to pat yourself on the back sound trite and stupid. Typos slide right by, because you’re so familiar with the manuscript you simply read what you think you wrote. Your story feels dry and empty. Blah.

The second, the one I’m doing now, is bliss. You finish the book and push it aside. You ignore it completely for six whole weeks—or whatever your personal goal is—never opening the file. It’s like getting married and moving into separate houses for a while. It’s torture in its own way, but it’s the end result that matters. The coming home. The moment when you open the file and let the relationship begin fresh.

Some of the things you wrote impress you. They’re the lines you would wish you had thought of if you read them in someone else’s book. But they’re yours! Ahh…pleasantness. But of course, it can’t be that simple. It wouldn’t be revision if everything was clever and pretty. You’ll find a few adverbs in there. Ew! And maybe some passive verbs. Even more ew! And where did that comma come from?!! There will be some loose ends, characters left hanging and plotlines that just need to be tossed. Work, work, work.

But it will be like the first Dr. Pepper after your fast from caffeine. That headache you had forgotten you had will lift, and your mind will clear. Your story will sparkle in a way you had also forgotten. You will be sucked in. And that is the best way to write. How can you write what you love if you’ve forgotten how to love what you write? So, take a break. Find something, anything, to take your mind off that story you’ve beaten to death, and give yourself time to miss it.

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~ by Rachel McMahon on May 6, 2011.

One Response to “Are we there yet?”

  1. hang in there, babe!

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