10 Things learned in the course of novel revising

1. Definition of tonight: As in, I will finish this tonight. Whatever odd definitions you might have, the truth is that Tonight doesn’t end until I sleep. So long as I keep my eyes open and I am typing, tonight doesn’t end. Never mind that big ball of molten light out there. The night is not over yet. I haven’t slept.

2. It’s faster to cut words than stew about how pretty they are and how necessary they are. The closer the deadline gets (or further away once it passes by), the less ego you have and the more desperation fills it in. Must. Finish. Book. Now. Give me a razor, a chainsaw, a table knife, a soup spoon . . . gouge it, cut it, eviscerate it, finish it.

3. At some point, you forget how to spell words you know you know how to spell and have to start looking everything up in the dictionary because it all looks like gibberish. All. Gibberish.

4. New, shiny, brilliant, wonderful ideas will pop into your head right as you are ready to close out. Choices. Do you incorporate new brilliance? Or do you go with what’s done? (Answer–done wins out folks. Besides, given #1, how brilliant could it really be?)

5. Cutting room floor: The finished/edited/final (I hope) novel is 125K. I have actually written around 175K.

6. The closer I get to deadline, the more I swear. Loud and long, methodically and happily. My mother would not approve. My dad would.

7. Whom v. who? Who cares anymore? My eyes have popped out of my head and are zooming around on the ends of the nerves like bloat flies. I haven’t seen straight in days. Besides, the copy editor should know (thank any gods you want for blessed copy editors)

8. the same goes for further/farther and lay/lie. I still remember when to use which and that, however. In a few weeks, when my mind thinks about coming back, I will remember the rules again.

9. I hate, with a passion that is more vast and deep than the Grand Canyon, that pore means peruse or study, as in, he pored over the matter and made a decision. Or she pored over the document. Aren’t pores holes in the skin? Damn it! I want it to be pour, which makes so much more sense to me.

10. This is not the time to f**k with my computer. No, Mr. Phone Techie, I will not unplug, move, tickle, massage, masturbate, or otherwise bother my computer. It is working. No, that little device I bought from you that was supposed to plug and play doesn’t plug and play. False advertising on that. What? It comes with a load of annoying software I neither want or need? What? If I take it off my device will work exactly as I need and want it to? But then I’ll lose the stupid software I don’t want anyhow? Ah. Let’s uninstall. Next time, move that option to the top of your list. You know, before I have to start unplugging, moving, tickling, massaging or masturbating my computer.*

*footnote: Duh. Is the night you have to do a marathon to finish revisions really the night to test out the new device? I mean, could you be any more idiotic? Oh wait, let’s go back to #4, i.e. how brilliant am I really at this moment?

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  1. 1. Alma Alexander

    Oh, oh, oh.

    I know this animal. Particularly the all-your-words-are-spelled-wrong-don’tchaknow syndrome. Been there many a midnight, when even the simple ordinary “the” and “and” start to look suspicious, never mind the weird-ass name some fantasy character insisted on back when it seemed to be a new and interesting thing.

    And sympathies on the computer techie thing. Computer trouble at this juncture is just precisely what the doctor didn’t order…

  2. 2. S.C. Butler

    Yeah, number 2! Those evil pretty words that no one else ever notices. Get them outta here!

  3. 3. tycho garen

    I’ve long agreed with the definition of “tonight,” though in more regular practice I often say “sleep/blue skies (or equivalent)” So basically at 7 am, it’s morning even if I haven’t slept, though I can so rarely make my body do that, and I am in the grand scheme of things pretty young. heh.

    Also, I think that sort of dull tiredness makes it easier to cut things, which is what we need to do, but always seem to be dragging our feet on… If we’re too awake it’ll hurt too much.

  4. 4. Karen Wester Newton

    I always make a “to do” file, so I when I get those brilliant ideas just as I’m ready to shut down, I open the file and jot a note to myself. Sometimes they really are good ideas, but sometimes, in the cold light of the next day, they don’t make any sense at all.

  5. 5. Diana Pharaoh Francis

    Alma: yep and yep and yep. You’d think the and and would be always easy. But nope. noap? heh.

    S.C. yeah, it’s talking myself into the notion that no one else will notice the shinies. It’s not until I’m dead tired that I can believe it.

    Tycho: Oh, no! 7 a.m. is just too early for nighttime sometimes! My nephew has been trying to convince me to try some of those energy drinks . . . guaranteed to keep me awake during deadline endings. Picture it. Boing! Boing! Boing!

    Karen: Oh, I’m impressed. Yours are actually good ideas sometimes. I should do that too. But then again, that would require some thinking, which apparently I have little capacity for at the end of the marathon.

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Author Information

Diana Pharaoh Francis

Diana Pharaoh Francis has written the fantasy novel trilogy that includes Path of Fate, Path of Honor and Path of Blood. Path of Fate was nominated for the Mary Roberts Rinehart Award. Recently released was The Turning Tide, third in her Crosspointe Chronicles series (look also for The Cipher and The Black Ship). In October 2009, look for Bitter Night, a contemporary fantasy. Diana teaches in the English Department at the University of Montana Western, and is an avid lover of all things chocolate. Visit site.

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