The Beast

When Spalding Gray wrote his novel, he referred to the manuscript as "the monster in the box." I know how he felt. I am currently dealing with "The Beast."

Having finally finished the first draft of my first novel, I have recently begun the next step: revisions. To say the revising process is overwhelming would be an understatement.

The picture shows "The Beast"--aka my  manuscript--in its current form. Each Post-It flag represents a page that requires at least one change. There are about 25-30 pages that I have not yet reviewed, so more Post-It flags will be added. The yellow Post-Its on the inside cover each represent one larger idea or change that I need to make, ideas or changes that will span many pages, scenes, or chapters. A few hold reminders of information I need to search out or double check. The pages between the yellow Post-Its and blue folder are from my most recent writer's group meeting, with notes and critiques to add to the manuscript (read: more Post-It flags!) The blue folder holds notes for the sequel, should I ever get as far as writing it.

If all that seems like organized chaos to you, you'd be almost correct. Chaos, yes. Organized, not so much. See, now that I'm ready to incorporate all of these changes and ideas, I have no idea where to start. Do I start with the small changes and then move to the larger ones? Do I start with the larger ones and then work down to the small ones? Do I start on page one and go page-by-page? Do I start revising right away and research information as I need it? Do I compile the list of information I need to find and do that first, before implementing text changes? Do I start from scratch, open a new file, and rewrite from Word One? Do I open the existing file and overwrite what's there?

Dizzy yet?

I am. Dizzy and paralyzed.

I've heard other writers say that revising is more difficult than writing. I didn't believe them. Coming up with ideas out of thin air has to be harder to than reworking something that already exists, right?

Wrong. Oh, so wrong. Because now it's not about getting on ideas on paper. It's about making sure those ideas are expressed clearly and creatively and "connectedly"(i.e, connected to each other and the larger story). It's about making sure the most accurate and precise words are used and that only those words--no extras--are used. It's about checking that everything that needs explanation is explained and that everything that doesn't, isn't. It's about making sure that every character and every location is described, if not in complete detail than with just the right detail. It requires exponentially more thought than just putting ideas on paper--and that part took me 8 years!

I know the revisions will get done. I know they will take me far less than 8 years. I just have to figure out where to start.