Thursday, October 21, 2010

Revise, revise, revise. Okay, I got the message. Again.

Two copies of Graffiti Grandma have made it to the recyling bin. I  tore each page in half, top to bottom, to make it unreadable. Who knows who might be going through the bin looking for a manuscript to get famous with? And rich.

And the bed is now available to sleep in.  The turmoil started when my two writing friends gave me their comments. After a short pout, I decided to actually try what they had suggested. The problem was that they each suggested a different course of action to cure what ails Grandma. It seemed that some of my chapters were too slow, others confusing in their switch of POV every time a new chapter began. One critic suggested that the POV situation could be solved by giving each of my characters his/her own section:  four POV's, four sections. I decided to tackle that one first and realized after an hour of cutting, copying, and pasting that I was losing it, my sanity and my novel.  Characters cowered in other people's sections. Sarah walked the streets during  Jeff's growing up years, but Sarah wasn't even alive when Jeff was growing up.  Matt found himself solving a murder before it was committed.

This is where the bed came in.  I sat criss-cross applesauce on the bedspread and divided a hard copy into four piles, each containing the POV of one character. Then my characters fought to see who would go first and I love Ellie the best, so  Ellie's story, eight chapters, became section one, and in order to wrack up the tension, Jeff, the psychopath, was awarded section two,  followed reluctantly by Matt the cop and Sarah the goth girl. At a crucial moment toward the end of all this reconstruction, Willie the dog decided to help and jumped onto the pile that was Matt. Parts of him got tangled up with Jeff and Sarah and the mess was almost as bad as the one I'd  created earlier on the computer.  However, the worst part of this effort came when I finally leaned back against the bed's pillow and began to read. It took less than fifteen minutes for me to understand that I had created an unreadable piece of kaka.  It landed on the floor next to my wastebasket. Part of the writing process, I told myself, as I hobbled to the kitchen, criss-cross-applesauce-paralyzed, and poured myself a glass of wine

Then I laid the second copy of the novel out on the bed in thirty-six piles, each containing one chapter.  I would attack the slowness comment by re-ordering  the chapters. Chapter three settled in at the eighth spot, chapter eight became chapter five, and chapter five got broken into two chapters. And so on. This shuffling of paper continued into the night like a endless poker game, me against a guy named Boring. The dog was banned from the bedroom, and my husband also. "I'm  almost winning!" I pleaded, protecting my piles with outstretched arms. They both took to the sofa.  Finally, I stopped, picked up the piles in their new positions, stuck a vagrant chapter hiding under a sheet into the middle of the stack and called it a night.

The next day I drank a pot of coffee, answered emails, plucked a few chin hairs, and finally got the courage to read the new Grandma. I kind of liked it. The POV confusion wasn't all that confusing.  Perhaps my critiquer was a little attention deficient or something.  And as far as slow, well, I decided to think of the quiet paragraphs as opportunities to breathe a little in between a psychotic killer's  murders. It took me the rest of the morning to make the changes on my computer. Then I tore up six hundred pages of typing paper and threw the scraps in the bin, after which I invited Willie to join me on the bed for a short nap.

Jo Barney Writes
Website: www.jobarneywrites.com
Blog: breakoutnovelarace.blogspot.com

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