Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Nine Circles of Revision

I have survived the Inferno, come through the nine circles of hell revisions relatively unscathed. What's that? Oh, yes, I always had that twitch. For the uninitiated, I have recorded my journey, so that others may face the same trials wielding the weapon of information.

1st Circle of Revisions: Limbo
Your editor has your book, you know the revisions are going to turn up in your inbox any day now. Your moods go up and down depending on your caffeine levels. You know she'll want some changes made, and some days you can believe these will be minor story arc and character tweaks that won't take too much effort. Other days, you won't be able to bring yourself to check your email in case its there, because the changes won't be changes at all, but major re-writes that will make your brain feel like you took it out and massaged it with a Cuisinart food processor.
Eventually though, you have to look and--ohmagoshohmagosh its here! Do I open it right now? But I have to pick up the kids from school. What if it makes me cry and then I have to do the school pick up with puffy eyes and I have to hide behind a pair of novelty-sized bug-eye sunglasses even though its raining and the other mothers give me that sympathetic look and speculate that my marriage must be terrible-- Whatever. I have to know. I have to read it. Why is it taking so long to download and-- OH GOD THE HORROR!

2nd Circle of Revisions: Lust, Desire and Fervor
Okay, you've read through the requested revisions and it was a bit more work than you were expecting. For a minute there you considered giving up this whole author-writing gig and becoming a crab fisherman in Alaska like on that TV show because surely that would be easier and make you more money than ripping your book apart at the seams and putting it back together. But no! You're made of stronger stuff than that. Your desire to see these characters in print, that fervor you get when you think about holding that shiny book in your hands, it drives you to extremes and it can certainly get you through these revisions. You're secretly in lust love with your hero, because he's all sexy and brooding and understanding, and you want the rest of the world to love him as well, so you'll do whatever it takes to put him out into reality, including addressing every single one of the lovely, constructive suggestions your slave-master editor has made.

3rd Circle of Revisions: Gluttony
Clearly the only answer to getting these revisions done is to do all of them right now. All twelve pages of the editorial letter. You put on your pajamas most comfortable yet stylish outfit, because let's face it, an author is always perfectly put together when they're working. No stained T-shirts, no ripped sweat pants, no slippers with holes in them, showered and hair brushed every single day. That's exactly what all authors ensure when they make the hard transit to work every day from one end of their house to the other.
You stalk to the computer like a boxer heading for the ring, ready to bring down his toughest opponent. You pump your fists, jump up and down on the spot a few times to psyche yourself up because yeah, man, we're ready to DO THIS. Make those revisions your bitch, you'll pummel those editorial notes like a boss, like Rocky dominating in the ring. ADRIAN!!!!

4th Circle of Revisions: Greed
Something happens when I start writing or editing. I get hungry. Like, hungry-hungry-hippo hungry. Like, a famished lion spotting a herd of gazelles hungry. I need braaaaaiiiins. I mean, my brain needs food. Not just any food. We're talking the heights of culinary decadence. Chocolate. It was in the bottom of the cupboard underneath a half-empty box of corn flakes that went out of date three months ago. Does that corner look like it might have been nibbled on by a mouse? Whatever, chocolate is chocolate and at a time like this, beggars can't be choosers. Tea. Yeah, I made it an hour ago and have reheated it three times already and its in that weird stage where its nowhere near hot, but also not cold and might be a little slimy. But I'm on a roll and I'm just going to keep drinking it. Now I need something crunchy. I haven't been to the supermarket in a week and any chips I buy immediately get hoovered by the little people who conspire to break my concentration with a cleverly divided timetable of perfectly choreographed interruptions specifically designed to snap the last threads of maternal patience I'm clinging onto.
Found seaweed crackers someone brought to the last party I had at my house. There's something really wrong about an ocean plant being on a cracker, but desperate times call for desperate measures and maybe if I scrape the mold off the top of the sun-dried tomato hummus also left over from the same party, I won't even notice the taste. That cloudy red wine I kept meaning to throw out will probably compliment the palate perfectly.


5th Circle of Revisions: Sullenness or Anger
So my plan to do all the revisions in one epic sitting of author-awesomeness the likes of which the world has never seen failed miserably. What the hell was I thinking? *head-desk* Almost half way through and my book now looks like a slightly literate monkey chewed on the Chicago Manual of Style and decided this made him an author and subsequently wrote the most profoundly terrible drivel the world has ever had the misfortune to read. Damn my own shortcomings that I can't even submit a book to my publisher that doesn't require revisions akin to hacking through the Amazon with a plastic spork! Damn I say!

6th Circle of Revisions: Heresy
I curse you gods of writing! That's right, you heard me. Why, WHY GOD did you afflict me with this torturous urge to write? But not only to write, but to drive myself to share my affliction with others that they might read the verbal refuse disgorging from my brain through my fingers? I will not be your puppet any longer. I can quit. I don't need this. Addicted? Never! I can give up and do something better with my life, something that will fill me with a sense of purpose. I'm going right now.
Google, you are my new god. I ask you, what can I do with my life that will complete me as a person? Join a crusade to save the whales? Get up at oh-dark-hundred tomorrow morning and go plant some trees? Book a ticket to Tibet to see the Dali Lama? ...What's that Google Alerts? Is that a new Goodreads review on one of my books? Five stars you say? DAMN YOU AND YOUR CUNNING TRICKERY!

7th Circle of Revisions: Violence
I could pick up this computer and toss it through the window. I could rip my keyboard right out of its pretentious little USB port and take it out to my driveway and reverse over it a dozen times, because clearly the tools of my trade have turned against me. But I won't stoop to your level, you evil little succubi of self-confidence. I'm taking a break. Sure, I've only got fifty pages to go, but I'm going to prove that I'm still the one in control here. So, what to do...? Outside. Outside is good. There aren't any screens outside with their little cursors blinking at me with that obviously condescending tempo heralding my impending failure. Okay, fresh air. Breathe. See? Feeling better already. Garden is looking a little straggly. Like keeping the house clean, anything beyond the four walls of my study have ceased to be of worldly import since those revisions arrived. Wait. Where are my favorite flowers? Those pretty purple ones that always make the rest of the boring garden look a little brighter. Slugs. Are those slugs? Oh, that is not even-- Where's the shovel. No, blow torch. Get me a blow torch, stat! Die you little bastards. DIE! Hubby wants to know what I'm doing. Gardening, clearly. What's that now? Deferred anger issues? Um...

8th Circle of Revisions: Fraud
Its not illegal if I employ someone else to do the last of these changes, is it? Just one problem, I can't afford to pay anyone unless they're happy to barter for half-eaten chocolate bars or stale corn flakes. Fine. So I'll just have to push through the last of these changes and for better or worse, send it to my editor. How long will it be before they realize that I'm not actually a real author, I was just pretending. That's right, I can't hold it in any longer. I have to tell the truth. I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm making this crap up as I go along. I figured if I told other people I was an author, eventually it would be true. But I made the one mistake con-artists never should, I bought into my own lie. Oh god, they're going to figure it out. I'm done for. It'll go viral. I'll have to change my name and move to Ittoqqortoormiit in Greenland... Yes, that is an actual place, hopefully with no internet connection where I won't have to witness the jelly-like-splatter exposure of my author-fabrication.

9th Circle of Revisions: Treachery
Almost done. Wait, really? But it wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be and everything has come together into a complete picture that almost makes sense. But how can this be? Did I seriously do all that work? Addressed every single editorial note in an articulate way that might have actually made the book better? Hang on, I don't remember doing that chapter. Was it somewhere between the box of Krispy Kremes and half a bottle of vodka? Because those few hours were definitely a little blurry. Could someone else have hacked my computer and done it for me? But why? What could they possibly hope to gain from a play like that? Wow, this book isn't half bad. *near-hysterical-laugh* Send it. Send it now! Clearly there's some treacherous conspiracy going on here, something involving the government, probably. Yeah, I noticed that white van driving past my house four or five times this week. So it had a sign for a courier company on the side, but don't think I didn't notice how it slowed down every time it got near my house, never mind that intersection right out the front.
Write an accompanying email to my editor so I sound like a perfectly adjusted person who made these changes without breaking a sweat or shedding a single tear. Attach it. Send it.
Now to hide in the closet with container of double chocolate fudge ice cream.

Emerging Back Into The Real World
And we shall never speak of it again. 




2 comments:

Kez said...

Ha! Loved it!

Jess Anastasi said...

Thanks, Kez. After getting a little stressed I needed to put a fun spin on the revisions I've been doing for the last few weeks :)