Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Revising is better than Math!

Today I have a guest post from author and friend Amanda K. Morgan. She's hilarious! Go for it, Amanda!

Hey all! Suzanne asked me to guest blog….and since I’ve recently received revisions from my awesome new agent (shout out, Mary) I’m going to talk about them. So.

Just after I graduated from high school, I snagged a job at the Game and Parks on Lake McConaughy. I thought I’d be a pretty easy job; after all, my brother did it and it didn’t sound so bad. He mostly mowed lawns, painted, and sometimes took swims in the lake when he was finished early. After work, he’d sit on the beach with the other workers and drink beer.

When I applied for the same job, I definitely wasn’t dreading it. In fact, I was sort of looking forward to it. It all sounded kind of fun.

Except that one small detail hadn’t been mentioned.

I wouldn’t be doing much mowing or painting.

My main job would be collecting money on the busy weekend nights when the campers rolled in, towing boats and haphazardly concealed cases of Busch Light—and, of course, cleaning port-a-potties and bath houses.

Yep. I was what the bosses fondly referred to as a Pots Girl.

Go ahead. Imagine it.

It’s just like that, only worse.

But there were perks; we’d back our trucks up to buildings so we crawl onto the roofs to eat lunch; we got to use handles on the CB radios (it’s the little things, guys); and generally, work with cool people.

Collecting the money was much, much worse.

I’m sure my bosses, seeing how my brother is something of a scientific/mathematical prodigy and worked for NASA before he ever graduated from college—well, I’m sure they thought if I was half as good at math, I’d be fine being in charge of the money for the kiosk.


Let’s get one thing straight here: I don’t have one bit of mathematical talent. I think that calculators on cell phones are an invention on the same level as light bulbs. And the only reason I was ever a good math tutor is because I knew how to break things down into tiny bits so I could figure it out.

And, at the end of the night, if my figures were off—and trust me, they always were, by some weird number like 36 cents—we had to recount everything. And then we’d discover I’d added 4+9 and ended up with 49 or something. And we’d just sit there, trying to figure out where we went wrong, looking in horror at my hideous scrawl of numbers and wondering if we were going to have to stay until 1:00 a.m. again.

Anyway, when I started revising one of my early novels not long after I finished this job, I’d start to have horrible Game and Parks flashbacks and I’d sit there and stare at the word document, wondering if I randomly picked a spot in the middle I might find out where I went wrong and hope that all of the numbers add up in the end.

And then I’d scroll back to the beginning and start revising at Word One. And then, slowly, I realized that revising wasn’t so bad. First of all, I didn’t have to deal with any numbers, other than the ones at the top of the page, so that made me feel better. And then I realized revising wasn’t the act of finding a little plot hole to fill or deleting a scene. It’s making everything better, word-by-word. It’s not pinpointing an error—it’s improving every sentence.

Basically—and fortunately—revising a novel isn’t a math problem. It’s not looking at a question your reader asks and answering it. It’s asking yourself why your reader asked the question in the first place.
Thanks, Amanda! And please check her out at her
blog! Have a great day everyone!


Jen said...

Love this post!!! What a great way to think about revising! I'm about to finish my first draft and being the revision process and I will think of it that way, because I'm like Amanda, calculators are on the same level as light bulbs!!

Shannon Whitney Messenger said...

LOL. This was an awesome post. Comparing two things I absolutely loathe and finding a way to make revision sound not so horrible is GENIUS--and just what I needed as I get ready for the scariest, most intense round of revisions yet!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

LOL. Fortunately I'm much better at revisions than I am at math. Maybe revision is more like science. I <3 science = I <3 revisions

April said...

From one non-math person to another, I wholeheartedly agree that revising is better than math!

Great post! Thinking of a revision as a total structure improvement--instead of little changes--helps me visualize the novel better.

At least I know no matter how awful my revisions sound...I don't have to be a Pots Girl this summer.

Jennie Englund said...

Questions about questions. LOVE it!!!

Tara McClendon said...

What a great post. I'm not so good with math either, but I love writing and editing. It is much better.

Daisy Whitney said...

Love this post! Great analogy. I love revising too!

Shelli (srjohannes) said...