Let me start off by saying that I have been plagued by writer’s block lately. This is my fault. To be honest, it is almost a self-imposed form of writer’s block. I am not the sort of writer who is able to write in short snatches of time. Nope. I need long stretches of time, uninterrupted thoughts, and quiet. Right now I am painfully aware that if I begin to write, I will be interrupted. My boys are home on spring break, my husband is in and out of the house, I am distracted by the approaching release of Every Day After and all the nerve-wracking things (trade reviews, promotion efforts, etc.) that come along with that.
This is me right now: I am sitting in front of the computer filled utterly to the brim with a cursed block, knowing I must write a somewhat rational post for this my favorite historical blog. I’m absolutely sure I have nothing worthy to say. Absolutely sure. I am rhythmically tapping my fingers on the keyboard, filtering ideas through my mind at a rapid pace, and tossing them aside one by one. I decide to pull up the actual blog for inspiration. I stare at the title banner at the top of the screen. I think. I ponder. Then, like a bolt of lightning: Corsets, Cutlasses, and Candlesticks! Ha! The very name of this blog is my saving grace. Here these words are used to conjure images of historical items. But each of these could also be used as a metaphor for different parts of the revision process. You need the functionality of these items to carry out a successful revision.
I actually think I might have something to say about this! I hope to be in the revision process on a new manuscript by, oh, I don’t know…by Doomdsday. So bear with me, and my writer’s block, as I dive in to this highly metaphorical blog post that may or may not be rational.
Corset: a woman’s tightly fitting undergarment worn to shape the figure
The first draft of any story is bound to be uneven and/or shapeless, much like me. One goal during revisions is to shape the structure of your story. Well, apply an imaginary corset to your manuscript by creating an outline, then tighten and adjust the laces by moving around events and even entire chapters (you may cut some, add others) until you achieve the most pleasing shape. Eventually you will tie the corset laces, stand back, and admire the final result—a story boasting a drool-worthy shape, unlike me.
Cutlass: a short sword with a slightly curved blade, formerly used by sailors
Once you have achieved a sturdy structure, draw your cutlass (aka the delete key) and begin to slice and shave off extraneous bits of fat from your prose. Excess fat typically takes the form of unnecessary adverbs, unneeded heavy description, or events that don’t enhance the plot. You may kill a few darlings in the process, but it is all for the best. When you have completed your battle against the bugle, your manuscript will be sleek and polished to perfection.
Candlestick: a support or holder for one or more candles, typically tall and thin
Whatever you do, don’t forget a source of light to work by. I have terrible eyesight. I’m blind as a bat. I don’t relish the thought of working in the dark. In Revisionland this equates to not having a clue about what your story is genuinely about or where it is heading. To illuminate the situation, I always keep my trusty candlestick close by when I’m revising—my candlestick being my story’s throughline. Identify the throughline before you begin revisions, and never let it go. What exactly is a throughline? It is the backbone of your story, the main plot propelling your protagonist forward on their journey from beginning to end, the ultimate story goal and the path to achieving it. Find it. It will supply brilliant light on even the darkest days of revision.
So that’s it, folks. We’ve reached the end of my Corsets, Cutlasses, and Candlesticks themed revision plan. I am still absolutely sure that I had nothing worthy to say. But I did manage to overcome writer’s block, temporarily anyway. Hey, celebrate every success, right? Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a nine-year-old tugging on my arm, a husband pacing around my office, and a second manuscript to draft…hopefully before Doomsday.
Laura Golden is the author of EVERY DAY AFTER, a middle grade novel about a young girl learning to let go and find her own way amidst the trials of the Great Depression. It will release from Delacorte Press/RHCB on June 11. You can learn more about Laura and EVERY DAY AFTER by visiting her website or following her on Twitter and Facebook.