I’ve been in eastern NC for the past twenty years, so I’ve weathered my share of hurricanes—some pretty bad ones too. So when Irene threatened to storm the east coast this weekend, the Miller family battened down the hatches, stocked up on supplies and games, and prepared for Mother Nature to wind whip a few trees and knock out some power.
And that’s basically what happened. And fortunately not much more. My yard boasts fourteen gihugic trees, some way too close to the house. One of those could’ve possibly maybe pummeled my roof. My neighbor’s trampoline (that was tied down, PS) flew Frisbee-style into their neighbor’s fence. A tree across the street splintered into four pieces. And power is still out for at least a quarter of the city. My sustained damage? A blown out window pane, a handful of uplifted shingles. And a LOT of branches, pine cones, and tree debris all over my yard. We lost power for maybe twelve hours. And I spent my Saturday playing board and made-up games, read two books, and well, just spent mucho QT with the fam.
Yeah. It could’ve been so much worse.
But the debris. The yard.
Might as well get this over with.
Eight cups of coffee and three motivational (hair-pulling) cheers later, we (yes, the whole family) took to the yard Sunday morning. Here’s how hurricane clean-up looked at our house.
First round—the big sweep. Move all big branches to the side of the road, cut down any loose ones looking to spear the ground. Easy! I’m motivated. I’m energized! I’m getting the yard cleaned up. This shouldn’t takle long at all. And when I’ve efficiently herded all ginormo tree stalks to the curb, my eyes sweep the yard and
#$%* It’s still a big mess! The big limb absence reveals a gazillion twigs and sticks and branch residue. Ugh. This will take forever.
I suck in a breath, fill my brain with let’s do this chants, and dive in rake first. Twenty minutes later, I’ve picked up lots of limbs here, several prickly (ouch) gumballs there. I scan the grounds and realize I might have conquered an eighth of the front yard.
I take lots of breaks. And the breaks get longer every time. I snack—a LOT. I clean debris in the front yard for what seems like forever, and when I realize I’ve barely made a dent, I switch to the backyard. Then, I take the yard sections at a time. And when I get to a pine straw area, I skip it, vowing to come back to it later.
Finally, I think I might possibly maybe be done. I look out over my yard. And see nothing but tons of gumballs and pine cones.
I enlist help. Friends help restore shingle loss. I pay my children a penny for every pine cone they pick up. Had they more fortitude, I would have probably owed them fifty dollars.
And then the yard is done. No, like immaculate. Like I can’t possibly do anything else to make it cleaner. And that’s when I see that small cluster of missed pine cones in the far recesses of my backyard. The ones no one will see. If I pick them up, will anyone really notice the difference? Will I?
Kind of how I am when I dive into revisions. Editing follows a big break, so I’m usually super motivated to get back to my novel and make the necessary revisions. I start with a big sweep—make big changes, cut scenes that don’t drive the plot, nip unnecessary dialogue, bury characters who end up having no significance whatsoever—aka, get rid of the obvious crap.
But it’s still in need of cleaning. So, I use round two for a second grammar check and word cutter. I replace adverbs with stronger verbs or meatier dialogue. I reduce my “that” count (again). I add those commas I ALWAYS forget with my independent clauses. I lose a few em-dashes and ellipses. And then I read through my story and realize I still have a long way to go.
So, I take a break. Sometimes many breaks. I edit scenes at a time, skip over ones I know will take a week to fix. I break my heart as I kill off darlins and scenes I thought I could never part with. I rewrite entire chapters. I rewrite the entire beginning.
And when I can’t do anymore, I call in my critique partners to help. They eliminate words and clean stuff I couldn’t see because I’d looked at the story one too many times.
In a few weeks, I’ll be revising my hot mess of a WIP. And here’s where revisions are not at all like hurricane clean-up. I’m totally STOKED about diving heart-first back into revisions. I had to clean up a couple of chapters for a conference I’m attending in October—so much fun! I love revisions! Yes, it’s a lot of hard work, painful at times, but I absopositively love digging deep into the roots of my story and layering it with richness, adding flavor to characters and to the plot that don’t always come in the rough draft. And even though I HATE killing off scenes I slaved over and characters I fell in love with—the end result is priceless. I love reading back over an almost nearly finished product and seeing all the blood, sweat, and tears come to (somewhat) immaculate fruition.
I don’t feel the same way about my yard. Personally, I probably would’ve just left its fate to the wind, but I don’t want my kids tripping over annoying gumballs.
I hate hurricane clean-up, but I really do love revisions. For me, revisions is where I can breathe life into my characters and into my manuscript. And poof. It transforms into a book. Like a magical fairy tale with a happily ever after.
What’s YOUR favorite part about writing? About revisions? Or (gasp) cleaning?