You guys, I am almost completely done with my revisions. What what! I know. I never thought I’d say that, either. I think I’ve revised this MS four times since J became my agent in February, not that I’m complaining, because each time it gets better and better. But after each cycle, I always enter what I liked to call “the Frankenstein stage”. Stephenie Meyer said in a recent interview (yes, I know I’m obsessed, whatever) that she sometimes writes scenes out of order and then sews them up when they’re all done and I was like GOOD GOD WOMAN HOW CAN YOU STAND TO DO THAT? I mean, to each his or her own, whatever, but I could never do that because that’d be like writing completely in the Frankenstein stage. I write straight through, from beginning to end, so my books are more like, I don’t know, a knitted afghan than a patchwork quilt, you know what I’m saying? I’m not going to continue this poor metaphor any further, but I will say that it’s hard for me to jump from scene to scene, out of order, in revisions. The MS starts to feel discontinuous to me, and I fear that I didn’t sew everything in properly.
So, of course, I have to go through and read the whole thing again and check for loose ends/contradictions caused by moving things around or changing them/redundancy/etc.
Anyway, apropos of nothing I found this list of five questions on Writer Unboxed and thought, hey, I’m lazy and this is easy–giddy up!
* What’s your most steadfast writing habit?
I guess the stuff I call “head writing”, where I think about and plan and write key scenes or whole sections or the whole book in my head. Sometimes I actually jot down some ideas, but this is mostly like feeling out the contours of the story in my imagination before I sit down to write the synopsis, character manifestos, etc. I don’t always do all of that stuff, but I do always do the head writing. I can’t help it–it’s where my mind goes when it’s bored which, when you live in New York and spend 35% of your time on the subway, is a lot. This process is usually set to music.
* What’s the hardest (and possibly the best) lesson you’ve learned while on your writer’s journey?
Revisions are hard but must be done. You don’t want to go flipping through your marked up manuscript, terrified of what comment from your agent might be lurking on the next page. Sending off a manuscript to someone who’s going to edit it is like lending your sister your favorite sweater and then getting it back with a bunch of threads loose, only to have her protest that it was like that when she got it. When you hit the SEND button you’re like, “This thing is tight and perfect and great and wonderful and now I’m going to go celebrate with a beer.” You get it back and it’s full of plot holes and run-on sentences and factual errors and character inconsistencies and too many dashes and semicolons and you’re like, “Um, this can’t be what I wrote.” But it IS! And now you have to fix the problems, only to send it off again and repeat the process. So. That’s tough. But your manuscript gets better every single time, and nothing feels better than knowing you’re done with revisions for a while. (But the Frankenstein stage SUCKS for me because I’m so close to being done but…I’m not.)
* How many story ideas do you come up with for every one you act on? (Guesstimates welcome.)
I think probably five to ten. Iphegenia Doubtfire’s (my laptop) hard drive is like the Well of Lost Plots.
* Which book do you wish you’d written?
Harry Potter. Twilight, etc. (who wouldn’t love to get to write for a guy as dreamy as Edward Cullen?), Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series. The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford. All of Jane Austen’s novels. This list could go on and on…
* If you could do it all over again, would you go for that MFA in college? Why or why not? (And if you already have one, are you glad?)
Didn’t get one, and am glad of it, although I’m also happy that I chose an MA program that allowed me to take literature classes and write a creative thesis. That was a really perfect situation for me.