Revision Diary: That’s a Shame

Over the years, I have tried just about every writing productivity technique you can think of because…well, I’m lazy. Yes, procrastination is largely about avoidance and that is often about fear and that is often about exposure and perfectionism, but it’s also sometimes about how writing is a lot of work. And revision is particularly hard. For me, anyway.

So I’ve tried everything to get my ass in my chair. Threats, rewards, blocking software, alarm clocks, visualization, inspirational quotes above my computer, etc. etc. Some things work sometimes. Some don’t work at all. Things that work for other people have no effect on me. I set deadlines and I watch them fly right past me.

But I think I’ve finally found what works for me and I’m not ashamed to admit it: shame. Or rather the threat of public shame in front of writer friends.

Enter: my friend Rob, his sly wit, and a cache of Hollywood leading lady stills.

What Rob does and how this works: Rob has generously offered to be the keeper of my deadlines. I tell him what I want to achieve and the date I want to achieve it by. Currently, we’re working in chapter-sized chunks with a weekly deadline.

The threat: I send Rob the chapter I’ve finished working on by 9:00 PM on Wednesday or Rob posts a judgy picture of Bette Davis or something on facebook:

And then all my friends know I have blown a week without doing any work. It’s a powerful motivator. Does it make me work every day? Um…..nnnnnno. Sometimes I am up all night on Tuesday, frantically revising to meet the chapter quota and avoid Bette Davis’s ire. But the trick is that every little bit adds up and a frantic late Tuesday is better than nothing at all.

So anyway, here it is Sunday and I am determined to make headway on that chapter quota. Here’s what I’m working on today (and maybe why this is taking so freaking long and makes me so tired just thinking about it!)

My MC and her family are stepping out into their new environment for the first time, which means describing that environment through my MC’s eyes but also in keeping with the theme. There’s A LOT in this environment that needs to come forward to better establish the central mystery of the novel. Because it’s first person, my MC knows nothing of it. So it has to be things she would notice but not understand and yet would not make her stop and go “WTH?”

This has been one of the major problems with this novel all along: the contrast between the MC’s very persona and the mystery/supernatural aspects of the novel. Maybe she’s the right heroine in the wrong story but I still feel like there’s a way to pull this off. It’s just HARD WORK!

One of the other complex issues in this “stepping into the world” chapter is the introduction of new characters, particularly a couple of girls who in earlier drafts were mean girl types. But with the new philosophy of the novel, that caricature no longer works. They can still be mean and the MC can still not like them, but the reader needs to understand that they’re human and have a story of their own.

Now add in that there’s still a lot in this chapter that is good and needs to stay and that once you start monkeying with one thread, you unravel others, and this is delicate, painstaking work, searching for ways to weave and reweave an existing fabric.

I have a lot on my plate today. Time to get to it!


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