Monday, 31 January 2011

The Challenges of Being Creative on a Deadline

As most of you know, I'm in the midst of revising String Bridge for my publisher. My deadline is the end of Feb. That is a total of three months I'm going to have to revise my novel. Plenty of time you say? Yes, it is plenty of time, and I'm certainly not complaining, but have you ever tried to be creative on a time limit? It's quite a challenge. And it's been very tiring. Not as in bored/tired, but I'm going to nod off in the middle of dinner and fall face first in my bowl of chicken soup tired.
First of all, you have to know that these revisions aren't just any old revisions. These revisions are like writing a novel in its entirety within three months, with the added expectation of it being publishable. The reason for this is that my publisher wasn't happy with the state my book was in - the only thing she believed in was the story, but not the way I told it. But, she believed in me to rewrite it the way it deserved to be written. Basically, I'm using my original story line (so, let's say I have a very elaborate plot summary), maintaining most of the original dialogue (or dialogue gist), and rewriting the novel in a more literary style. So EVERYTHING is being reworded. This entails LOTS of creative juice, my friends! It's HARD. (But yes, I love it. And enjoy every moment even when I'm bawling my eyes out.)
I've had to commit to rewriting four pages a day (every day) from the beginning of Jan, to get this book done on time. That's revising approximately 1500 words of the original per day - consistently. And I'm tired. No, I'm not writing the first draft, but I tell you, I might as well be. Has anyone ever written a perfect first draft? No? I didn't think so. So I have this added stress that my new work is going to sound like a first draft. Although, logically it's not, because I already know the content. But, yes, I'm still insecure about my work. I'm STILL INSECURE and someone wants to publish me. Does the insecurity ever go away? Thankfully, I have a few wonder betas helping me through that.

Want an example of how things are changing? Here's a short one:

(And oh my God, how embarrassing. How come my writing was so bad and I didn't see it???)

Old version:
As I unlock the front door and step foot into my home, Tessa and the dog both come charging for me—Tessa with a huge grin on her face and Doggy with a massive pink tongue bouncing at the side of her mouth. It makes me feel so calm and content to be a part of such simple and pure happiness that I wish the three of us could sit on the floor in the corridor all night just hugging one another. Alex is sitting at his desk as usual looking quite sad. I walk over to him in my moment of calm and content and give him a soft kiss on the forehead, as I dream about the tour with Charlie.

New version:
I stand at our front door, sea salt burning a small cut in my nose. I hold my shirt sleeve against it, with my wrist, trying to sooth the sting — my handbag falls down around my elbow. My hair partly dry, stuck together in clumps like dreadlocks, tickles the back of my neck. Like a birthmark, the scent of ocean owns me. Smells like … freedom? — salt grains exfoliating pollution from my skin.

Tessa and Doggy come charging for me like bulls. Tessa clutches Doggy’s left ear. Doggy pants, her thick pink bouncy tongue hanging from the side of her mouth. I kneel down and hug them both at once. Warm wet drool splashes on my hand. I intend to scratch Doggy behind her ears, and stroke Tessa’s hair, but my wires get crossed and I do the reverse. I wish the three of us could sit on the floor in the corridor all night — in a cocoon of unconditional love, freedom from the world, no responsibility, no ache, simple pleasure at its best.

Alex is sitting at his desk, blank-faced. I walk over to him, unsure of what to say, whether I want to say anything at all, or even if I want to be anywhere near him. I stand by his side. Don’t utter a word. He doesn’t look up. I bend down; semi-consciously give him a peck on the forehead. I soar above images of my future on an imaginary flying carpet.

See the detail that has gone into these revisions? I'm revamping the WHOLE THING like this. Whoah. I'm sleepy just talking about it. And you know what else is a challenge? Going through all the emotions again. It's like someone saying to you now, when you're in a really good mood: Ok, act depressed - realistically depressed - convince me. Could ya do it? Perhaps you could, but it would certainly take it out of ya, right?

How are you when it comes to revisions? Do you struggle at all? If you're a published author, are you still insecure about your work? How do you deal with that?


  1. That's like three months of NaNo.
    And I'm very insecure when it comes to my writing.

  2. Rewrites are looking good! What a great learning experience that will probably impact your writing on your first draft! Keep it up. And yes, I think all writers are to some point egotistical and insecure. :)

  3. Wow...what a difference! You're doing great. I'm exhausted for you -- coming up with in-the-moment details like this would be very draining.

  4. Wow...the revision is fantastic! At least it is all worth it!

  5. Love the revisions! I'm tired for you, but it will all be worth it in the end!

  6. You're doing a beautiful job. I'm very impressed!

  7. I'm looking forward to revisions on both my current WIPs. Just need to write them. *sigh* Plots are stumping me...

    You're doing a great job. Here to chat if you need to vent.

  8. Beautiful rewrite!

    And, yeah, revision can be tough. I love it in a way, but I can get tired of it, too. There's something about writing a first draft...

    And, obviously, some revisions are greater than others. I mean, my WIP is probably over 20 drafts now. Condensed characters, new storylines, one novel into two, new climaxes, new Point of View characters, new POV (gah). But sometimes this is just what you have to do to make the best book possible. And, even more than publishing, I think that's what I want the most. Simply to write something as well as I can...

  9. Wow, them are some serious revisions! I imgine that is very tiring. I wish you the best of luck!


  10. I'm in a similar position in my own re-write, but of course I have the luxury of no deadline, which means I get less done than you probably, but I don't have to stress over it. I can't decide whether that's good or bad.

  11. Yowza! I'm going through the same sort of thing-re-working an intricate plot and re-wording, but no deadline.

    You can do it!

  12. Revision is never easy. I can't imagine how I would feel, doing it with a time limit. And I am getting more insecure about my writing by the day.

  13. *hugs* I can definitely see why you would be tired.

    But, if all your revisions are like what you've shown here, all that hard work will pay off.

    And, I agree with Karen Walker. You have to take it a paragraph at a time, a day at a time.

  14. I'm just exhausted looking at yours and thinking about what I have to do for mine!! The unfinished first draft looks a lot like your first unrevised bit. It's very bare-boned and "just the facts, ma'am." With my revisions, I hope it becomes something close to being worthy of publication. Good luck and remember, breaks are your are: tea, alcohol and stroop wafels.

  15. I think if I had to write by a deadline I'd be frantic. I "Panic" if I can't think what to write a poem about.

    Most interesting post Jessica.

  16. I actually really like the push of a deadline. I'm a freak that way.

    I think the literary story matches your voice a lot better--your editor is right on that one. You will rock this. Just keep swimming, my friend.

  17. well It sounds like a lot of work but your revisions were very beautiful...


    This is my revision. Rewriting practically the whole bloody thing. The pain, oh the PAIN! It's only when I have the words down when I can see where the whole thing is going. This leads to massive rewrites, over and over... argh!

    God have mercy.

  19. It sounds like you’re a hell of a lot better at editing your work than I am. I alw3ays find it difficult to get back into that headspace I was in when I wrote something initially.

    Kurt Vonnegut said there were two different kinds of writers:

    “Tellers of stories with ink on paper, not that they matter anymore, have been either swoopers or bashers. Swoopers write a story quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. Then they go over it again painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn’t work. Bashers go one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before they go on to the next one. When they’re done they’re done.”

    I’d be a basher. Always a basher.

  20. Aren't you the little trooper working so hard on your rewrites. Well done you! When it is all finsihed just think of how wonderful it will feel.

  21. You know it ... re-writes and more re-writes, but I do always come out with something much better than what I started with in the beginning.

    Keep going. It's fantastic.


  22. Honey your writing is so flawless right now, I have no doubt you're feeling insecure - to get the depth, beauty, and style your work possesses, you have to be vulnerable and raw. I promise when this is done, you will reap the benefits in reader satisfaction. As one of your revision readers I am confident in saying: you are a rare talent. Love you lots. Xo

  23. YOU CAN DO IT!!! I have faith in you bestie!!! You rock and I know that they will love the finalized project!

  24. That sounds like an awful lot of work. You'll get it though, just keep at it. I generally like working under pressure but that's a ton of it right there.

    If it makes you better I read somewhere that Tolstoy rewrote Anna Karenina something like 11 times. Even the greats have to plod through this process.

  25. Great revisions! I love seeing how other writers do it. I take plenty of time doing my revisions. But they are always so much better. Good luck!

  26. I believe in you. I *know* you can do this. You're an amazing writer. Just take it bird by bird. ;)

  27. I absolutely love the rewrite. It’s a huge undertaking but it looks like the write move. You’ll do it. Just don’t eat any soup (we don’t want you to drown when you fall asleep in it.)


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