Wednesday, May 03, 2006

What Goes and What Stays?

So my house is a mess. I mean, A MESS. Boxes everywhere. Piles of God knows what all over the place. I’ve been throwing things out by the ton.

See, I’m a pack rat. Still am. There are a lot of things I refuse to part with, but since I’m moving, I’m trying to be a little more realistic about what I need and don’t need. That means those jeans I’ve been holding onto for years…gone, Christmas decorations I don’t use…gone, old sinus meds, old t-shirts, unused furniture…gone.

One thing I realize I’ve gained a lot of is hard copies of the different novels I’ve written. (I’ve finished four novels…Hung Out to Die – my first sale – was actually book number three.) My process is this: first draft is done entirely on the computer, then comes the re-writes. I do rewrites in rounds, with each round basically being an edit and a fine tune. For the rewrite, I print out a full copy of the novel and then read it, marking it up as I’m going along. Often this involves complete rewrites of scenes, my revisions wrapping around to the backside of the printed page. I like the feel of reading the text on a printed page. I enjoy crossing out what’s wrong and noting the change I want to make. It’s freeing for me, somehow. That’s the first part. The fine tune comes in as I input the changes into my computer. I don’t just insert exactly what I’ve written. I give it a second look and make sure it’s what I want, rewriting again if I think something better will work.

That’s one rewrite round. I can do three, four, six, ten rounds. To me, getting the work right is extremely important. But don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those people who constantly rewrites and reworks. Between each rewrite, someone other than me usually reads the draft – maybe the members of my critique group, maybe a trusted friend, and now usually my editor. Their notes and questions and suggestions are what drive the next draft.

What does this have to do with my move? Simply this: I now realizes that I have a ton of printouts of all my manuscripts, each a different draft with different notes. And I’ve got to tell you, I can’t throw any of them out. So those five or six boxes are coming with me and probably will stay with me until one of us has turned to dust. My personal writing history. I’ll probably never look them over again. No one will. But these babies ain’t going anywhere.

And you know what? It’s actually a comforting thought.


Anonymous said...

Hey Friend,
Moving is such a great time to take stock of one's life. I have moved a ton of times and it doesn't matter if it is across the country or across town, the cathartic process of evaluating what has been important in my life up to that point begins anew each time. What I have found is if I get rid of things (or they are gotten rid of for me) that I am still "bonded" to for what ever reason and before I am ready to part with them, actually sets off a kind of mourning process and I find I am filled with regret. I have lots of treasures that shall ever be a part of my pack rat legacy; baby clothes my girls wore, a pebble picked up on a beach in Ireland, a rose still pressed between the pages of my high school yearbook given to me by a friend, my dad's dog tags. These things all represent events that have somehow indelibly marked my life and hold a special place in my heart and in my memories. All of this to say, you will know then the right time is to part with "treasures" that you have saved all of these years and for some things, that time to part may never come and that is o.k. too :). Besides, if you get rid of all of your old "treasures", you are robbing your children of that time honored process of discovery when they have the opportunity of going through your things. You have to save a fashion faux pas or two (among other things) to give them fodder for future harrasment of you, because you know as parents we have plenty of ammo to spring on them at their most inopportune time :).
I have been enjoying your blog very much.
ps the earlier anonymous posts were not an attempt at mysteriousness (is that even a word?) I just can't remember my password for this site (stop laughing right now)and I don't want to set up a new account. So just leave me to my mysteriocity (ooh now that is a good word, perhaps I could send it to our Commander in Chief to use in a future speech :). I'll check in again soon.

J.B. Thompson said...

You're doing it again...

The print it out and correct the hard copy thing? J.T. and I both do that, too. See, more proof that we're related.

I still have boxes of stuff I haven't unpacked from when we moved into our new house 2-1/2 years ago. I know it's stuff I want to keep, but we're down a set of very nice shelves that we had to leave at the old house, so I have no place to put all those trinkets and treasures. But we're keeping it. There are also boxes I still have from my PARENTS' house when I moved out at 21. And more stuff my Mom keeps sending me because THEY'RE moving soon. It's a cycle.

And Theresa Anonymous is right - there comes a time when you find yourself able to part with some things, and never with others. I still have a giant jack - wrought iron, painted the most hideous green you can imagine - that used to sit on my desk when I was a kid. I've had it since I was little (so long I can't really remember). It's ugly, it serves no real purpose any more (it used to be a book-end), and I have no good place to put it. But, dammit, it's in my study and it STAYS.

Oh, and I still have the hard copies of all my books, too. ;)

JT Ellison said...

Agasin, we find another link in style. I have an editing coffee table and a stack of green pens. I spread it out and go to town, marking up, filling in. It's a great method, if I say so myself.
I heard of a guy who took his original manuscripts, set his shredder on wide and shredded the pages into strips. Then he laminated them and gave them away as bookmarks. Each one had what page it corresponded to in the final draft. Kind of cool.