The method to my madness

Wow, so it’s Christmas, huh? When did that happen? I swear, I feel like it was just August. Because of the breakneck speed with which this holiday season approached, I of course was incapable of getting ready at all. I completely forwent sending Christmas cards this year, because I didn’t have time to update my list or write out the cards, or the funds with which to purchase the amount of cards I wanted to send or the postage. (Note to self: buy Christmas cards on clearance this year! Then you’ll be prepared. And write them before Thanksgiving in 2009, jackass.) I bought the bare minimum amount of presents, so there are people who may be getting Christmas presents from me in January. Sorry! I suck at life.

However, I feel like I have a good excuse this year–I mean, besides the economy, which is everybody else’s excuse. I was knee-deep in revisions between Thanksgiving and now, and it really did take up much more time than I thought it would. Revisions are no joke. I know that if you’re a writer, published or aspiring or under contract, you already know that, but I feel like it must be said over and over again so that we all get it through our thick skulls that you can’t turn over a manuscript in two weeks, no matter how clean you might think it is. Thank God I had four weeks.

My mind and life are generally in a state of total chaos, so when I’m tackling a big project it’s necessary for me to come up with some sort of system with steps in order to accomplish whatever Big Ass Goal looms over my head. You’d think it would help that I’ve revised a novel, particularly this novel, several squillion times, but it doesn’t. Each round of revision is like a new adversary that must be crushed. It is with this spirit of resistance and combativeness that I approached my revisions for AUT during this, the supposedly most joyous of seasons, and I am happy to report that I emerged from the other side intact and, most importantly, satisfied with the results.

This is how I did it.

Step One: Waited impatiently (because I am an incredibly impatient person) for my editor’s brilliant revisions.
Step Two: Received said brilliant revisions; counted pages of the revision letter (4, not bad); saw Twilight (sparkles!); put the whole thing away in a drawer and avoided it like it carries the small pox virus for a week or so.
Step Three: Read the revision letter, absorbed all the comments; cried (just kidding, I don’t cry); still couldn’t face the marked-up manuscript, so continued to avoid that like I avoid tourists and people from Staten Island (just kidding! not really).
Step Four: Went to San Diego for Thanksgiving. While on the plane, made copious notes in preparation for fleshing out a character that was, perhaps, a bit too much of a cipher in the first billion drafts. Wrote a new character manifesto for said character. Compiled a playlist specifically for said character and listened to it a lot on the plane. Consulted my friend Scott about a new car for said character. Flew back to New York, thinking, “God, this writing thing is a breeze! I can’t wait to start doing it again.”

My previous thoughts were, of course, wildly untrue. I knew that I had to write new scenes for said character, and I knew that I could do it, but I didn’t know what to write. Because I’ve always been sort of a micro-to-macro type personality (is that a personality type? whatever, it is now)…

Step Five: Went through the marked-up manuscript and made all the small typographical changes my editor suggested. Flagged any and all questions written by my editor in the margins that would require bigger changes, that I disagreed with, or that I thought could necessitate further discussion.
Step Six: Began the first stage of deflagging. This came after a conversation with my editor, during which we discussed some things and I cleared some stuff up for her. After that conversation, I went through and got rid of the flags marking those passages we’d discussed, and started making some of the medium-sized changes to get some momentum.
Step Seven: Finally dove into writing the new scenes. This became so, so, so much easier once I figured out exactly what it was I wanted to write. I decided on three scenes, a happy first scene, an emotionally charged second scene, and a sad closing scene. I figured out where to put them, and then I wrote them. The prose was terrible–repeat-y and purple and weird–but the skeletons were there. Then I sent them to my agent, who had an idea about how to take a scene a little bit further, so I worked on that. Then I cleaned up the scenes and put them to bed, so to speak.
Step Eight: Second stage of deflagging, making more medium-sized changes using the momentum I’d built up from the first deflagging and writing the new scenes.
Step Nine: Created a final to-do list, and tackled it to the ground.
Step Ten: Final once-over, making sure everything was good in the hood.

I’m probably not technically done yet. There is one thing my editor requested I do that I did not do, which I’ll probably have to explain, and there was something she asked that I do that I’ve been trying to do for a year, literally, and none of my efforts seem to have wholly fixed the situation, so I’m waving the white flag of surrender on that one unless she has some ideas about how I can do it. I’ve hit a wall on that one, sad to say, because otherwise I feel pretty confident about this round of revisions. I’m willing to work on it more, but at this point the well is dry on that aspect. But that’s a job for next year. Right now I have one or two things that came to me in the middle of the night (this is very annoying, brain, BY THE WAY) that I want to fix, and then probably I’ll send my editor the manuscript via email tomorrow or something. Then, Christmas! I’m so relieved.

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