Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Off the map

I did something yesterday I hadn’t done in two weeks. I wrote. And it felt good.

I’ve been working on revisions to my latest Mighty Tome, trying in particular to shorten and tighten the narrative, especially in the front end, and it was going pretty well. On July 12, I hit the hundred page mark–and there I sat. For two plus weeks.

Unlike revisions in the past, I decided this time to type the entire, 426-page manuscript over again into a new, blank document, using a heavily-marked printed version as my guide. It was going well, until I started leapfrogging. As an example of what I mean, a series of events that occurred in the Page 150 section of the previous draft are now occurring around page 100. Which is fine–this manuscript does need to be shorter, and it needs to be more urgent in the first half. The problem, though, and the reason I stopped writing, is that I found myself thinking, “Now what? What happens next?”

It’s a bit like driving before GPS, when you had a navigator in the front seat with you trying to makes sense of the world using one of those Rand McNally or Hagstrom road maps in the spiral bind. “Turn left at Sycamore,” your friend tells you. So you do. “What next?” you say, but now you’re off the edge of the map and they’re trying to turn to map 34 and find where you are. Or, in more modern terms, it’s like somehow getting three steps ahead of your GPS. “In one thousand feet, turn left on Sycamore Street,” says the GPS, but you’re already on the interstate highway, and the next exit isn’t for another forty miles.

In an effort to find my way, I printed out those hundred pages and read through them again (finding a lot of things to fix, damn it). Yesterday, I sat and wrote. It was only 1100 words, but it was a start, and I can see where I need to go next. I’m back on the map.

Do you ever get lost in revisions? How do you find your way back to where you need to be?

6 Responses

  1. Yay!!!
    I struggle with the revision process (I could write first drafts forever!!!) so YES I often get lost in the process. I may have to try the printing out idea – haven't done that yet.

  2. Frustrating when that happens. I can get stuck for weeks, with the problem circling inside my head. Sometimes I jump ahead and eventually the solution presents itself.

  3. I've kind of gotten ahead right now, too, so I'm on page 116 of the "new" manuscript and looking at page 130-something in the "old" one and thinking, "What do I do with all the stuff in between???"

  4. It definitely helped. Productivity has been a bit spotty this past week, but progress continues. Thanks, Nick!

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