Léna is also a Regional Manager for Writopia Lab whose mission is to foster joy, literacy, and critical thinking in kids and teens from all backgrounds through creative writing.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I Heart Revision

The school lunches are made, coffee is set up for the morning, and my husband is lying on the bed next to me crunching on an apple and playing Civilization on his laptop. I can't concentrate (on Jonathan Ames' extremely fun and captivating novel, The Extra Man - yup, taking a break from kid-lit) with all of this crunching going on, so I open my own laptop, and rival his crunching with the heavy tap of my fingers on the keyboard.

Confession: I never learned how to type. I am a lame-o two fingered typer/writer. I know, I know. I could learn - but that's the confession; I haven't gotten to it yet.

I finally logged in about a thousand words today on the Work in Progress (WIP) after days of staring at a blank page and being lured by other things (yes blog, I mean you!) and obligations to family, friends, and actual PAID work.

Being in the middle is hard. I am slowly inching my way up to 2/3rds of the WIP, so I've been in the middle for quite a while. I had coffee with my friend Daphne Grab the other week and I took the risk and told her what WIP was about, and she was so supportive and encouraging, she breathed new life into me. "It's okay," she said simply. "You can write about that." I am reminded that it is voice and craft that matter the most.

What do I do? I went back to the beginning and started filling in the details, working on the characters, constantly reminding myself that the story is there, no matter how fantastical or outrageously dramatic it sounds in my head, I need to make it ring true.

My closest friends have shared with me stories from their lives that you wouldn't believe if you read it. (And I've shared with them - EDGES now is completely fictional, but my first draft had some autobiographical aspects. "But that really happened to me!" I told my husband, the fierce editor he is. "That doesn't make it believable," he said.) Yet the facts speak for themselves. But in fiction, the facts don't just speak for themselves - you need complexity of character and motivation for actions even when - especially when - those actions are unconscious.

I think I know where I'm going now, the story is beginning to take shape. And I can't say what it's about yet; I don't want to jinx it. Teaser: this goofball here has chosen another difficult topic. Ha!

So . . . I really wasn't having fun with it for a while, but the story is begging for me to tell it. I'm trying to listen, really I am.

And sometimes I have to stop listening. I just have to stare into space for a while, go for a walk, take a yoga class, talk to friends, play/read/have fun with my kids and husband, so my heart and my ears can open again and my lame-o typing fingers can help the characters say what they need to say and do what they need to do. If I do that, then the two thirds will become a completed first draft sooner than later, I'll be having fun again, in the flow of the world being created.

Please. Because then comes my favorite part of the process.

Revision: It's like working on a puzzle - you have all of these pieces, but where do they fit together? Which are the wrong pieces? Where do you find the right pieces? I love revising, it's the best, I think I'm going to be a bigamist and marry it.

Now I'm really goofing off, but it's late, and I know you'll forgive me! Head hurts, eyes burning, must sleep! (And the time is totally wrong on this post - all of my clocks say that it's ten to midnight!)


  1. Hi Lena. Coming to you from the GWN newsletter. I don't live in NY, but I receive the newsletter. Go figure. I'm a YA author, too, although not in the "traditional' sense. Ihave two self-pubbed books and am working on a WIP that's a series. I have to agree with you about the while revision thing. I think that process is easier than the writing.

  2. so glad our talk helped! it helped me too :-)

    and i share your secret- i never learned to type and i compensate by staring at the key board- it's an ergonomic nightmare!

  3. Celise - how cool that you found me through the GWN newsletter! Thanks for posting a comment! I checked out your website and it's AMAZING. I believe this one needs a bit more work!

    Daphne, you know I love you!

  4. Good to hear a bit from you - I am a huge fan of your grandmothers and you hinted at a book a few years back now and I've been waiting for it ever since. It's encouraging to hear your stories for sure as I am a writer struggling to make it along the way too!
    Looking forward to your book. I hope you don't feel the pressure of filling your grandmother's shoes. You're not her, you're you, with your own unique stories to tell and ways to tell them.
    All the best!

  5. Kayleigh - thank you so much for your kind words - especially about the pressure to fill my grandmother's shoes! I think that's part of what kept me from the writing path for so long!

  6. Well, I'm glad you're finally out there writing away! I applaud your courage.

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