Wednesday, April 21, 2010

House Remodeling & Novels

Revising a novel is not unlike remodeling a bathroom in your house.  Right?

First, there's the initial exuberance. You wholeheartedly start clearing out dated fixtures, knocking down walls. (In novelspeak that translates to: getting rid of characters and scenes, re-plotting, deleting.) At night, you lie in bed happily reviewing the day's latest events--isn't it great that the old floor has been pulled up? At last, that protrusion in the wall has been ripped away. (Novelspeak: thank God I got rid of that subplot.)

Another week goes by and that flush of adventure shifts.  You see progress but it's not obvious. The walls are down but when (oh when?) will the new ones go up? And once they're up, how many days before plaster completely dries?

More details.  Screws.  Lights.  Paint. The project's simply not done.

Sometimes you want all the work people and craftsmen to go away because you need a break from the crowds.  (In the case of your novel revision: you want those messy sentences and paragraphs to disappear on their own. You don't want to have to kick them out yourself.) Then, there's the electrician kneeling in your hallway, twisting wires, going back and forth between the electrical panel and wall plugs. Honestly, can't you have a few hours of silence again? The plumber is sawing old pipes. Scraping loud and irritating.  The house stinks.

Soon, you wonder: will this end?  You may even want your old bathroom back because you have laundry to do and your new washer/dryer hasn't arrived yet.  Dirty socks are taking over the kitchen.  Dinner plates are covered in micro dust.  Everything's upended. Everything, in fact, feels uncertain. But it's too late to turn back.  So you plod on, one day at a time, toward your remodeling goal--and then, a breakthrough.  One day, you're finished.

Finally, a new bathroom.

Finally, a revised book.

So, I'm celebrating with these yellow flowers.
What are you revising or remodeling this spring?


  1. Welcome back. Love the daffodils. (And the mailbox pitcher too!)


  2. Hey, Jennifer. Are you remodeling your flower beds? I know you're a gardener.

  3. We will probably never do major home renovation b/c I can't bear the chaos in my living space! Although oddly I love thinking about renovation and at times have had entire notebooks of sketches and ideas for different things to do with the house.

    I would never be able to stay out of the way of the contractor and the idea of ripping things out (walls, etc.) makes me shudder.

    The editing process is fortunately easier for me... :) Although I can get quite discombobulated if I don't have a hard copy in front of me as I make big changes in the word doc.

    My favorite editing story: I was revising a novel with agent, whose suggestions I totally agreed with, but I got so tangled up trying to actually do it in the ms, I took the day off to garden.

    W/in about 15 minutes I found myself completely entangled, literally, in a blackberry bramble that was in the back of my biggest bed. All I could do was snip one piece of the bramble at a time, eventually freeing myself.

    I went in and applied that to the revision - it worked. :)

    Haven't quite figured out how to apply that to home renovation - sometimes things just have to be completely ripped apart to move forward. Right now the only thing I'd really like to do is get the hardwoods refinished - but we'd have to pack up cats and dog and camp out in the barn for the time it would take to get it done.

    So glad to see a new post from you! As usual, you stimulate lots of thought and get me writing about it. :)

  4. Billie,
    What a fantastic image of you caught in a blueberry bush, snipping away, mirroring your struggles with your revision. To me, it underscores how each activity in our day absolutely reflects the larger picture of our life--perhaps more than we want to believe or perceive. Brilliant!

  5. This is gorgeous, and you ought to send it to PW or Poets & Writers or somewhere it can be printed for a larger audience.

    And mostly: Congratulations! What a brilliant and hard-earned achievement! I'm looking forward to hearing the lucky person who snatches up your book!

  6. Sue--thank you! And thank you for sharing key insights and revision tactics with me during your recent novel revising process. Your debut, Up From the Blue, is a stunner. I can't wait for readers to get a hold of it when it comes out in the fall.

  7. Congrats on the revision and welcome back -- I've missed you here at your blog! The daffodils are lovely.

    My own gardens are full of changes this year with new flowering trees and more sunlight making everything seem new and fresh (and inspiring new stories).

  8. Hi, Dory. Great to see you here, too! I'd love to hear about a story or two, and about that "new" sunlight. Did you trim something away to allow for that new open space? (Concretely or metaphorically speaking?)


  9. Those daffodils certainly look appealing and well-deserved. A finished revision--and even before your deadline! I'm so excited for you.

  10. Yep -- we lost an old beloved maple last fall which had shaded most of the backyard. You can read more about that here:
    Amazing how gardens have such an impact on our lives, as I know from your posts that you understand very well.

  11. Dory--how sad to lose a favorite tree. Thank you for posting your link about it. I love how you call your porch your "summer office," and planted two new trees where the maple used to grow. I wish them well.

  12. Patry, you're almost there, too. So close!