“The difference between the possible and the impossible lies in a person’s determination.”
See that picture? The one showing a bunch of words splashing their way across my computer screen? It’s proof that, as of a few hours ago, I am officially finished major edits on this manuscript. I was going to snap a shot of me crying (seriously), or cheering, or running through the house and celebrating with a chocolate truffle, but, well, that probably would’ve made me look like a Crazy Writer Gal. Actually, truth be told, I did turn on the webcam to do a thumbs-up photo, but that resulted in my laptop deciding to freeze and me nearly having a panic attack because, while the final draft had already been saved and emailed to myself, it hadn’t yet been transferred to an external hard drive. Talk about a not-fun way to celebrate the end of edits. Thankfully, all is well in computerville, so I thought it would be fun to throw out some stats about how the revision process has gone. Here we go…
First draft = 208,691 words (yikes!)
Second draft = 189,518 words (-19,173)
Third draft = 184,999 words (-23,692)
Fourth draft = 160,537 words (-48,154 )
Fifth draft = 151,896 words (-56,795 )
Sixth – and final – draft = 113,147 words (-95,544)
To compare another way … The first draft? 626 pages. The final one? 359 pages. See?
(BTW – is it sad that it bothers me not to have it end on pg. 360? Round numbers seem so much nicer!)
Anyway, as you can see, this last round of revisions has been particularly strict (long? tormentuous? never-ending?). There were days when it felt like edits would never be finished. There were days when I felt like tossing the computer straight through the window. There were days when all I wanted was to start brainstorming the next book, because seriously, four and a half months without writing has been a true challenge. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate, because there were a few rare times when I got to add new words, new sentences, new ideas to the manuscript, and let me tell you, it was ridiculously exciting. Yes, I’m the person who gets a thrill out of creating more work. Though, and I honestly mean this, even though these edits have felt like a Herculean task, even though there were times when I couldn’t imagine finding anything more to cut out, even though there were times when the light at the end of the tunnel looked impossibly far away, it really has been a work of heart.
The book I have now is so much stronger than the one I had in July. It’s more show, less tell. It’s more concise, less let-me-state-this-idea-again-just-in-case. It’s more dialogue, less exposition (which, granted, is tough in a novel that’s written entirely in diary format, but still). It’s more tightly crafted, less loosely wound. Numerically, it’s less, but story-wise, writing-wise, it’s more. And yes, there were scenes I hated to delete. Part of me is still a bit bitter that Mr. Whistler’s role was diminished so drastically. But another part, a bigger part, is so happy and proud of how shrinking this book has made it grow. Will I ever write a manuscript that’s twice its suggested length again? That’d be a whopping NO WAY. But, on the other side of this editing journey, do I regret starting at that point with this one? No. I don’t. It was the escape I needed during a horribly difficult time, and I will forever be grateful to my characters for that. It was also a lesson in so many aspects of the revision process. I have a much better eye now for what’s necessary to a story and what’s not. Deleting words, sentences, even paragraphs and scenes, it doesn’t bother me anymore. Sure, I still wish I could share EVERYTHING about my characters. I wish I could make everyone love them like I’ve grown to over the course of writing these past two books. But maybe it doesn’t take thousands of little details to achieve that. Maybe it only takes hundreds. And, like I’ve experienced with my favorite books, sometimes it only takes one or two. Will my characters ever resonate for people the way others’ have for me? I don’t know. I can only hope.
For now, though, I’m going to give myself a little break. As much as I want to jump right into brainstorming and planning the next novel, I am forcing myself to take a week to relax (that means no querying the previous MS, either). I’m going to read. Finish holiday shopping. Visit friends. Watch movies. Take walks. Go to concerts. Organize all the papers and other assorted items that I’ve let pile up while I worked, worked, worked like crazy. I’m going to have a celebratory milkshake, or maybe a Peppermint Mocha from Starbucks, and I’m going to give myself a little time to decompress, rejuvenate, and just breathe.
And then I’m going to leap back into the work that brings me endless joy even when it makes my eyes bleed and my thoughts spin. But, this time, I’m going to do it with an always-present reminder: sometimes, just sometimes, less really is more.