So it’s a bit of a thread running through my stories–all of my stories, dating back to playing with imaginary friends as a kid–that people process their shit, sometimes to abstraction. (The Green Day song “Redundant” does a good job illustrating this, though I rarely listen to it, because: redundant.)
It’s four o’clock and I turn into a pumpkin at five. I had a day job task that took two hours of my five devoted work hours today, and will take three or four of my work hours tomorrow. And this week? I have a Scientific Method story, Breaking Down, coming out, and I need to complete the revision for the Goodreads prompt story, which is called Going Home. (Listen: I’m lousy at titles. Always have been. But both of these? Totally fit the damn stories. It’s not my fault I’m a simpleton!)
There I go again with the terminating parentheticals.
I’m revising Going Home and it’s irking me. I love revising. As a general rule. I love revising because revising’s when you mold all the shit you threw into the story into what the story should actually be, and trim everything else. Well, in the case of this story, I’m not gonna trim everything else. Sorry, fans of only one couple per book: there are two romances in this puppy, and while one is clearly ascendant, the other gets page-time, too.
Man, genre readers. I will never make genre readers happy. I don’t think of myself as a wide reader, but whatever I’ve been reading all these years didn’t leave me with genre rules.
I have seven days to revise this novel before I turn it in, and two things are an issue here. First: I haven’t let it percolate long enough. I like to have a month, at least. In a perfect world, I’d probably come back to this story in about six months. Second: I like to do fine-tune revisions on a solid second draft. And this book is never going to see that solid second draft.
My toes curl with discomfort thinking about it.
Every book you publish might be someone’s first dose of your work, your writing. Like every album, every photograph, every painting. If you’re creating art in the world, you can’t control how people arrive at your body of work. (I love reading a particularly awesome writer, then going back to discover that their first novel isn’t as good as their latest novel. In fact, if I discover that you haven’t grown as a writer over time, I’m much less likely to continue reading.)
And this? Will by necessity not be the perfect work of goddamn craft I want it to be. Seven days. This time next week, it’ll be gone off to editors, and maybe I’ll have further opportunities to play with it, but not to re-write whole sections, re-structure entire parts. And that’s what I like doing. Well, all right, “like” for a relative definition: it feels like banging your head against a wall, but in the end, you have a better book. I’m a little worried there’s not enough time for the second part of that sentence. This will be seven days of banging my head against a book, and all for naught.
Is it that bad? In a few months, you can let me know.
It’s probably not that bad. But that’s why you leave a story and fuck lots of other stories, so that when you go back to it, tenderly, heart in hands, you can see it with fresh eyes. (No, that’s not a typo. Yes, I meant it. No, not literally. Because ow, paper cuts.)
In any case, Breaking Down comes out this week! Hooray! Speaking of stories I banged my head against for a damn long while before even beginning the second draft, then banged my head against for a damn long while after I had. And I’m still not stoked about the blurb copy.
My mother once told me that she liked the stories I “put [my] heart into” more than the stories I didn’t, from which I concluded that in fact you have absolutely no clue what someone puts their heart into, since I’d certainly never shown her any of the twisted gnarly queer stuff that I wrote with blood dripping from my fingertips. (Again: no, not literally. Because: blood stains.) My heart’s all over Breaking Down. That motherfucker has haunted me since the first draft of it poured out onto the screen. The trick of revising, if you can do it right, is finding the place where you’ve exposed yourself, the places where the story goes all the way down to the core of the earth, and play with it until you can follow that thread all the way through.
Process, yo. It’s all about process.