Thursday, April 8, 2010

Carving out some revisions

Revisions are fun.

No, really. I'm not being sarcastic here. (Shocking, I know.)

As much as I love to write (and I do--it's the most shamelessly self-indulgent thing in my life, not counting chocolate), I like to revise even more. Revising means fiddling. And fiddling is fantastically fun! Tweaking and changing and deleting and replacing and altering and refining and changing back...and then doing it all over again. It appeals to my inner puzzle-solver.

Now, when I write a first draft I basically throw in anything that strikes my fancy, without a lot of restraint, or much thought of how it's going to fit into the "big picture." (This is how I wound up with an orangutan hanging off my mc in my current WIP, by the way.) If I want it, if I feel it, I include it. My id reigns in the first draft.

Go, ID!

But my inner editor only allows that for one draft. My subsequent drafts are carved into shape by my much stricter superego. Yes, Superego Editor really likes to crack the whip on my WIP.

Oooh. Gives me a little shiver just thinking about it. (Hmm. I may have an inner dominatrix, too.)

Anyway, this whole revision thing got me thinking about one of my favorite people of all time: Old Pap.

Old Pap was the theater god's grandfather (self-named after the birth of his his first grandchild, because his grandfather, whom he loved dearly, had been his Old Pap), and by the time I met him he was indeed old.

He was also smart and strong and sweet and ornery. He only had half a tongue (half had been removed due to cancer--don't smoke pipes!), so it could be a little difficult to make out his words sometimes. But you could always understand his sentiment.

One way he expressed himself was through his wood carving. He whittled stray chunks of wood in his spare time, and we are lucky enough to have wound up with some of his creations. Old Pap died a long time ago, but he's with us still, living in the wood shaped by his hands. My children are connected to him every time they pick up one of his carvings and hear the story about it.

My favorite is the hummingbird--delicately shaped, and balanced on a pliable wire, it bobs up and down at the slightest breeze or touch, evoking the real thing. The cat holding the mouse by the tail is also pretty cool.

Here are a few of his pieces:

TG's parents have a collection of larger birds Old Pap carved, more intricately worked and perhaps more beautiful. But the whimsy of these smaller pieces appeals to me.

When you tried to compliment him on his artistry, Old Pap always claimed it was easy. All you had to do was carve away the parts that didn't look like what you were trying to make.

Here are some of the knives he used to do the carving:

Notice how small some of the blades are? That's because he constantly sharpened them, keeping them in the best possible shape to pursue his craft.

I think there's a lesson there for writers, too. Keep your tools sharp, and when you revise, just try to carve away the parts that don't look like your book. :)


Karen Jones Gowen said...

Great advice! I think I'll visualize these knives while revising!

Candyland said...

Beautiful message underneath the whip cracking!

Linda G. said...

Thanks, KarenG & Candyland! Glad you liked it. :)

Unknown said...

I'm with you. As much as I love the writing process, I LOVE the refining process. Polish-polish-polish!


Love the metaphor.

I also love the knives. Can I borrow one if we decide to have a Wolfson Literary Agency knife fight someday?


Linda G. said...

Mary -- exactly! Gotta make it shiny. :)

Tawna -- of course! Uh, presupposing we're on the same side. Like, Wolfson Literary Agency against...oh, zombie author-killers or something. But if you mean a Wolfson Literary Agency knife fight where all her clients go after each other, then no way! Get your own dang knife. Or maybe use that wine bottle topper.

(He-e-e-y. I just had a great idea--maybe I could carve my own wine bottle topper! I'll just cut away anything that doesn't look like a...*cough*)

Cynthia Reese said...

This reminds me so much of my mom, who was a fabulous artist. She always said she just "brushed the dust" off her drawings, that they were already there.

Now me? I can't draw a straight line. I always envied her ability to draw, and she always minimized her gift. Wish I still had her with me.

Linda G. said...

Cynthia -- Your mom sounds just as self-deprecating as Old Pap. :)

I so admire people who have talent in the visual arts. Wish I had the ability myself, but I am a drawing/carving/painting/sculpting klutz. I have to content myself playing with words.

LR said...

Yes very wise. I've been thinking about this subject too lately. The hardest thing is to stay objective about your own work. Sometimes an outsider can say much more easily, "Get rid of that." And you're like, oh yeah...of course!
Great post!

Linda G. said...

Hi LR! And thanks. :)

It IS difficult to stay objective about your own work. Beta readers with good eyes are invaluable, aren't they? I don't know what I'd do without mine.

Jessica Bell said...

You seem to have disabled comments on your what poem are you post and I want to comment! Arhhhh!

Linda G. said...

Hi, AA! I think I fixed it. *crosses fingers*