Saturday, July 6, 2013

Revision Bliss

After many days spent organizing my entire life upon my return to Boulder, last week it was finally time to settle down to some actual work. I have many projects on my summer to-do list: finishing up the editing of the ethics and children's literature collection, revisions on a philosophy paper on aesthetic manipulation, comments on a paper that I will be giving at the Rocky Mountain Ethics Congress in August, a tenure review (children's literature), a promotion review (philosophy), and more. But none of those projects tempted me as much as the revisions on my cookie jar book.

As I prepared to depart from my two years in Indiana, I set myself the task of finishing up the manuscript for a book I'm working on that is set in Indiana, in a town called Westcastle that bears striking similarities to a town called Greencastle. It's a time travel story where the kids travel back to different exciting times in Indiana history by means of an enchanted cookie jar. To travel back in time, they bake a cookie from a recipe of that time period, and insert it into the jar; to return to their own time, they eat the cookie. I loved writing of this book more than I've ever loved writing of anything. This is the first time in ages that I've written a whole book without a contract in advance, but I figured that there was no better use of my time than spending rapturous hours living in the world of this story. I finished the full manuscript two days before I left to drive back to Colorado.

To give myself a sense of urgency - it's hard to do anything, however pleasurable, without some kind of deadline - I decided that I wanted to have the manuscript revised and printed out to distribute to my writing group at our meeting at my house this coming Monday. (Of course, the reason to give it to them is to get their suggestions for further revisions, but I wanted to get the most obvious glitches fixed myself before I asked for their comments).

First I read the whole manuscript from start to finish, something I hadn't yet done. While there were massive inconsistencies that emerged as the book changed direction in various ways from what I first envisioned, I have to say that I loved it. I usually love my own books. This isn't as conceited as it sounds, as I think most authors find that their books resonate with their own sensibilities as readers: we write the kind of books we ourselves like to read. As I read, I made all kinds of notes for where to add, what to add, how to add, and sometimes, where, what, and how to subtract.

Then I became a revising fiend.  I can only write new material for an hour a day; hence, the title of this blog. But I can revise until I'm so tired I can hardly make my fingers keep typing.  I can revise from morning to night. Just a few more pages, just a few more pages . . . It's obsessive, addictive, euphoric.

I finished up on Thursday and printed it yesterday And now that lovely stack of big fat manuscripts (it's my longest book to date, at over 50,000 words) is sitting in my little home office awaiting distribution to its first readers. I hope they like it. No, I hope they love it. And then I hope my agent loves it, and some editor loves it, and readers love it.

But for now, it's enough that I love it. I love you, cookie jar book, yes, I do!

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