Sunday, October 23, 2011

collecting dust

This week I learned that revising a WIP is alot like cleaning out the attic.

Purging the attic finally clawed its way to the top of my priorities list last I hauled myself up there with a pack of thirty gallon "I-mean-business" trash bags and went to work.

I was greeted by a senseless number of bins and crates containing debut works of creative genius and erudite prose--exquisite finger paintings dating back to kindergarten, box after box of elementary school Marble notebooks, and National Geographics from the Ice Age, to mention a few. All of them dusty and out-dated. None of them serving any purpose whatsoever. None of them of any interest to anyone anymore.

So...can someone please explain to me why it was so difficult to trash the stuff? My children are in their twenties and thirties and they want nothing to do with it.

"Mom, we don't want it. Get rid of it!"

"But some day you may wish I'd held onto it," I insist.

"That's crazy."

So I took one last lingering look at the priceless treasures I collected over the years...and then I let them go.

The funny thing is that my friends all made the same mistake. They, too, saved EVERYTHING their children EVER made. Now they're jealous because my attic is neatly organized and a weight has been lifted off my "not-getting-any-younger" shoulders. I feel good about explain to me why am I having such a hard time doing the same thing with my novel, "The Bandaged Place?" It needs to be purged, too.

There are scenes I know I should delete. Some of them are simply collecting dust. Some of them are lovely and rich but useless. It seems that the longer I keep them, the harder it is to admit they need to go. Hitting the delete key is easy compared to sorting, bagging, and hefting the throw-aways from my attic.

So...why is this so hard?

This week I didn't make as much progress on my so-far-unnamed second novel as I had hoped I would. But as I worked in the attic I learned alot about revision. It can be a hard thing to do...but the results are worth the effort.

How do you approach revision? What can you delete?
"Eliminate something superflous
from your life.
Break a habit.
Do something that makes you feel insecure."
--Piero Ferrucci--
Next week I'll be visiting my brother in Dallas. I haven't seen him in over a I'm hoping to be spoiled.


  1. One thing that has helped me is creating a file for each novel, called "My Precious." If there are scenes, dialogue, etc., that I know need to leave the MS, but I have a hard time simply deleting, I put them in there, with the idea that they will be available for future use. So I'm not simply sending them into the void, but I am cleaning up the MS.

    (And it takes up less space than National Geographics, too.)

  2. Extremely well stated, Jan. I can't tell you why revision is so hard for me (personally), but it is. I've read other writers talk about it being their favorite aspect of the task, but I'm just not there yet I suppose.

    On the other hand, I've got a project 'gathering' dust and I think your piece has stirred something in me. I might just get it back out soon!


  3. Beverly--I do the same thing with my lovelies. I just know they'll find a new home someday.

    EJ--Get those dust-bunnies out of there before they turn into gorillas. ;)

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