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Revising Is Like . . .

Thursday, April 1, 2010

This analogy struck me yesterday afternoon and I had to share. I know it’s April Fools day, but this was too good not to share—no foolin’! (Of course, it would have been better had I come up with it back in October. But I didn’t, so you’re getting this autumn-like analogy at the cusp of spring.)

Revising a manuscript is like making a jack-o’-lantern.

Really?

Okay, here’s how I see it:

The process of developing and writing your first draft is the pumpkin, growing on the vine. It grows from a small seed to a great big, round, juicy orange thing that can become all kinds of wonderful things—as long as when it’s finished (ripe), it doesn’t just sit there on the vine and rot. At this point, though they’re different sizes, shapes, and colors, most pumpkins look pretty much the same, right?

When your pumpkin is ripe, you pick it.

Then you break out the huge butcher knife to cut it open.

Now comes the really yucky part.

You have to reach your hands down inside that great big, round, juicy orange thing and scoop out all of the slimy, stringy “guts” (along with the seeds—be sure to save those for later!). It’s nasty, and it smells funky; but no matter what you’re going to do with that pumpkin, this part of the process must be done.

This is your first revision—the one that takes the longest and gets the messiest and most disgusting and makes you wonder why you ever decided to write a book in the first place.

Once this is finished and you take some time to go clean up, wash your hands, etc., and then you come back with the smaller carving knives and you start making this pumpkin into a jack-o’-lantern. It’s your design, you decide what you want it to look like. Make it distinctive, unique, one-of-a-kind. Just remember, one careless cut or too many cuts can ruin it, so you want to take your time and be deliberate with it. And when it’s finished—STOP.

Of course, no jack-o’-lantern is complete without a light glowing from inside. So once more, reach down into it, make sure the candle (the theme, the heart, the soul of the story) is well placed and will burn long and bright.

And that’s what the revision process is like.

What analogy can you come up with?

6 Comments
  1. Thursday, April 1, 2010 9:30 am

    “This is your first revision—the one that takes the longest and gets the messiest and most disgusting and makes you wonder why you ever decided to write a book in the first place.”

    That’s where I am. Knee deep in the hoopla.

    I don’t think I’ve ever worked this hard to be creative.

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  2. Thursday, April 1, 2010 10:19 am

    You’re right. It was the FIRST revision that depressed me the most. It was like that first stab into the pumpkin. After THAT, though, I got over my fear of cutting, and found the joy of adding scenes, sprinkling liberally with conflict and depth of characters. I guess when you’ve revised four more times, which I have (she admits, blushing furiously), it’s like making a PIE out of those “innards!”

    Now I need to just get the pie in the oven.

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  3. Thursday, April 1, 2010 10:26 am

    Kaye, thank you for this inspiring post. “And when it’s finished-STOP.” That’s a hard thing to do; because you see something you’d like to change every time you read even a bit of the manuscript. I like the analogy!

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  4. Thursday, April 1, 2010 10:27 am

    Oh, I like that. GREAT analogy.

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  5. Thursday, April 1, 2010 2:14 pm

    You wrote this post just when I needed to hear it. I love the pumpkin analogy.

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  6. Carol permalink
    Thursday, April 1, 2010 6:23 pm

    My pumpkin’s still on the vine. Anyone got any Miracle Grow? It’s a tad puny.

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