This morning fog curled around tree trunks, nestled on car roofs, haloed the streetlights. I turned from a two-lane back road onto a six-lane street and slowed, admiring the way the headlights of oncoming traffic brightened the mist—like a sunrise from the north. And then I saw the jaywalker moseying across the street, his silhouette sharp-edged against the headlights that he didn’t seem to notice. (Seriously: if traffic has to slow down for you, it’s not official jaywalking. It’s just being obnoxious.)
For no good reason, the scene made me think of my juvenile fantasy novel.
I finished re-writing it New Year’s Eve afternoon, and spent January in a frantic revision whirlwind. One pass just to read it. One pass to clean up the major incoherencies. One pass for character voice, one for description, another and another and another for this plot thread and this one and this one. There were days I mowed through the manuscript four times, each time hunting for different things to fix.
My first read through the re-write, I was pleasantly surprised. It didn’t suck nearly as much as I was anticipating. And the first couple of times I cleaned it up, I swelled with that sense of satisfaction you get from removing extraneous copy, from clearing up blurry plot points, from strengthening areas you knew were weak (but had secretly hoped you were being too hard on yourself about).
But by the third morning I sat down with the MS, my almost illegible list of “things to fix” at my hand, I felt like I was just muddying an already pretty murky swamp. I crossed out one passage, convinced that I’d shifted it elsewhere, only to discover that I’d evidently changed my mind about the switch—and so I had to replace what I’d deleted. I added descriptive phrases that I’d skipped over in my hurried re-write, only to notice that I’d already added those identical descriptive phrases at other points. My left hand didn’t know what my right was doing, and my brain was so confused by the whole process that it was no help at all.
Last weekend I printed the MS—double-spaced and everything—feeling oh, ever so much worse about the whole project than I did after my first giddy read-through. I’m trying to navigate a path through the fog, but it’s disorienting (as foggy inside my head as it is out!). I’m just hoping for headlights to show up the clear sharp outlines of the jaywalker (the clear path through my plot!), to allow me to find my way from where I am now, fog-befuddled and perplexed, to a final perfect (ha!) revision, submission, acceptance, publication, and adoration. (Well, I don’t necessarily need the adoration. Hearty approval will do just fine.)