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MyNoRevMo, Day 7: Performing Minor Surgery

During the first week of NaNoWriMo, I’ve been getting good news from my writer friends, who have either kept up the 1667-words-per-day pace or sprinted along to give themselves some room for days later in the month when they won’t have as much time to write.

Meanwhile, I’ve been doing my daily 1.5 hour of revision. I’m wandering around in part two, doing whatever I feel needs to be done. And there are basically two things that need to be done: add or cut. But it’s not quite that simple. Cutting involves slashing a paragraph here, then performing minor surgery on a paragraph there. Adding involves extending this sentence, adding that completely new sentence, and keeping a list of scenes to write later (and, some days, writing one of those scenes).

The process comes dangerously close to being aimless, but it’s more accurate to say it’s a necessarily flexible way to explore the structure I laid down in planning and writing the first draft. I’m figuring out how the story works. Working in Scrivener is crucial to this process. The application allows a writer to create individual text files as large or as small as necessary, so I can drag-and-drop the parts to explore the possibilities of the whole.

For example, I had a set of scenes that felt connected, but for months I didn’t know how they would fit together. On Friday evening, the time came to play with them. I started trimming the big, chunky scenes into pieces and began weaving them together. With a little cutting and adding, I think they tell a story now as two chapters that keep the bigger story moving. Maybe they’ll need more work (I’m certain they will), but I’ve done all I can do for now. I may get the urge to work on them again tomorrow, or maybe months from now.

I’m relieved to have freed myself of the notion that I can only revise a piece of writing so many times without damaging its integrity or that I must impose a deadline on the writing I do for myself. As if writers must attend to time and material the same way an ice sculptor does. As if writers’ processes still revolve around writing longhand with a quill instead of taking advantage of technologies that allows us to take our time. I don’t mean that I’m going to smush together whatever crap I’ve written, admire it for months, and call it brilliant. I’m just going to trust my process. And I’m going to enjoy it. I’m surely not in it for the money.

The most important part of the process is putting in my time every day, which I haven’t done yet. It’s amazing to me how much harder it is to fit writing in on the weekends than during the workweek. Working on my novel this evening will be my reward doing everything else I’ve got to do today. Seeing writing as reward (rather than a setup for punishment) is the biggest change in my process in the past few years. Everything about writing takes longer than I think it should, but since I feel it’s worth the time it takes, that’s about all that matters.

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