Revision, Revision, Where Art Thou, O Revision?

Made it through the first 30 days of this book (book-days, not our days) and straightened out the more obvious problems.  Then came a floating scene…one I’d labeled “move to where it belongs”…that dragged behind it a big important Event connected–alas–to a particular timing that no longer had space to fit it in.  Logical space.  Logical time.  It was only about 12 hours long, but those 12 hours had to make sense along with the straightened-out  timeline of the first 30 days.  Part of the straightening-out process was deciding how long it would take to do A, B, C…if, for instance, you hire someone who is on another continent, how long will it be before they show up, given their existing employment status, family situation, living situation, transportation, etc.  If you change the paperwork supporting a request for change of guardianship…how will that affect the court date?   What will feel right, in terms of the existing social/political/legal milieu that’s been created in previous books.   Business stuff, legal stuff, travel stuff, cannot be too quick & easy (though we all know enough money greases the wheels, the flight still take 15 hours or 2 hours, there are things in the queue that don’t budge, and 100% efficiency is a goal never reached, esp across platforms.)

So what about the floating scene and its long, vivid tail?  Still looking at the logic.   Is there a place for the tail, but pulling out just parts of it (whodunnit and why) and substituting?  Is there something to replace it?  (Needed to cut words anyway, but also needed, I thought,  a threat at about that point or earlier.)  Maybe.  Today I will extract it, with great care, into a separate file and if it finds a home later, well and good.   Unfortunately, the tail then generated other plot, which also needs to be extracted as delicately as a tumor nestled inside a body, labeled as consequences of the first extraction.  Ah, the glamor of a writing life…<G>

8 thoughts on “Revision, Revision, Where Art Thou, O Revision?

  1. Hi – just a stupid question – do you not outline your works? Is the problem a lack of organization or that you just write everything down and then pick out the good readable parts? I agonize when you have these problems but since I do not write I have no real way to relate.

    BUT I do wait, sometimes impatiently, for your next work.

    Jonathan up here in snowbound New Hampshire

    1. Leslie: That trees communicate with one another has been “out” in the sciences for some years now. I’d have to check out the German forester to see how old he is and how long he’s been working on it, and exactly what he means by “whispering”. The work I’m familiar with has to do with complex chemical signals and movements of chemicals in the soil by specific trees to specific other trees.

      It’s been known a long time to orchardists that some trees grow much better if a shovel-full of soil from under a healthy specimen of their type is included in the planting mix. That goes back at least into the 18th century in some areas. When I was studying ecology, the texts concentrated on the ways plants *limited* each other by producing toxins that suppressed competition (think black walnuts, who don’t do this as baby trees, but as they mature…they’re notorious for killing off other plants. Same with some desert plants. More recently (recent being 20+ years, researchers have actively looked for ways that plants (not just trees, but trees are pretty obvious) support and promote other plants, often in the same taxon but not always.

      Then the role of parasitism and symbiosis…both of which involve contact and thus the potential for communication. And so on. What we have now are better means of detecting what chemicals are moved from plant to plant and which cause which effects. “Die, intruder!” says the black walnut to other tree seeds and even grass; “OK, let’s be friends,” says grass to the Indian Paintbrush, which has to have grass to live with. The much-maligned Ashe juniper of central Texas is selective in its friendships…I consider it a nurse plant for agarita, redbud, and to some extent Mexican persimmon…it shelters the young of those and a few other species…including cedar sage…but does produce apparently bare ground if those seeds don’t fall under it.

      It’s out of my experience and study of ecology that I came to the concept of the taig.

  2. Jonathan: I don’t outline. Never have. I’ve tried, and I lose interest; if I know what’s going to happen, where’s the fun of discovery? I’m the same way about cooking (I start with a recipe…eye it with suspicion, and then…take off on it), and various other projects. “Let’s see what will happen if…” I have an idea where we might be going–I’ve described it before as standing on a mountain or hill top on a day there’s fog in the valley. Here and there another hilltop or mountain sticks up, and I want to get from the one I’m on to a specific other one. So, keyboard under fingers, I set off in what, for the moment is the right direction. Into the fog, into the unknown, and then keep going. Every now and then I’m up high enough, or the fog’s thin enough, to see the goal again…oops…angle right 20 degrees…and then I’m back in the mix of forest, brush, rocky areas, stream crossings, a bog to be circled cautiously, etc. As I get about halfway, the fog thins out *behind* me and I can feel the pull of the goal, end-of-book, but I’m still working through the unknown.

  3. for me, the only downside to your blog vs your facebook is I don’t have the option to just ‘Like’ to let you know I’ve read and appreciate the article!

  4. Writer rethinks comment response. Is it disorganization? I am the first (well, usually) to admit that organization in the ordinary sense is not my strong point. In fact, organization and I have a difficult relationship. I’m organized in area A, disorganized by sloth (in various ways–lack of attention, disinterest) in area B, disorganized intentionally in area C, disorganized by a visceral hatred of that particular kind of organization in area D. My very organized engineer mother could walk through a room and behind her neatness and organization appeared. I can walk through a room and behind me any existing organization frays.

    Sometimes it’s intentional. Take the perfect tidiness of a hotel room where I stay during a convention. I find it irritating. I don’t want a total ugly mess (social pressure) but I want something I can relax in, and hopefully do some work in.

    I need specific patches of color, texture, and shape (in recent years, when traveling, I’ve carried knitting with several skeins of wool in colors that work for me.) I need stuff on the desk–any desk–I’m working on. I will square up the magazines, books, papers, etc. before leaving the room, but when working I want things that create focus for me, which means something different for me than for the neatniks. This visual chaos improves my concentration on whatever work…I don’t want to neaten, straighten, organize…so I look at the mess and use work as an excuse to not do it. (I was the same with homework and studying.) Some people either LIKE sorting, folding, neatening, etc., or feel so guilty for not doing it that it becomes a distraction. Not everyone’s the same. I have work to do, things I like doing, and I don’t want to bother with anything else.

    OTOH, my computer files are sacrosanct and very well organized. (In my opinion.) I know exactly how I want my data disks laid out, and get annoyed with software that wants me to do it another way. My kitchen’s background organization is clear, from the spice shelves to the pot storage to the pantries to the kitchen towels. (Counters are a wreck and a half: horizontal surfaces collect anything and everything. In the dream house I’ll never build, every wall is thick enough to be a storage wall so I have shelves and drawers for everything, and exposed horizontal surfaces are at a minimum because I will, without even noticing, put things on them, and things that have been someplace for 24 hours become “where it goes” and I don’t notice them unless looking for them.)

    The organization of pots and pans does not extend to how I cook–the whole prep-everything-in-little-glass-bowls thing almost never happens, because cooking is spontaneous (big events like Thanksgiving dinner aside) and leads to discoveries like wrapping a bit of pastrami around a ginger-snap because it suddenly seems like a good idea. (It was. That’s an incredible taste combination; now my husband’s hooked on it, too.)

    Certain books are very organized and not allowed to wander far (dictionary, Chicago manual of style, and my row of field guides just to my right) and others wander freely around the house, fetching up in bedrooms and bathrooms and beside both our desks, only to be redirected someplace else for a few months before being sought again. The writing is a mix of organization and experimentation and exploration, the later two not being organized because…that’s not how it works. In the course of a writing a book, I’m the hound sniffing out the trail, zigzagging as the prey (not knowing it was prey) did…and then refining the trail later, which is back into revision and editing, and thus back into organization. Imagine us going from here in central Texas to Utah, say, starting with a trip to Dallas to visit a friend, then coming back down to, oh, Lampasas to pick up a pair of boots at the western shop, and then up to Lubbock, but deciding to avoid a storm by heading southwest, and then (why not) taking an interesting back road to pass by some particular mountain/archaeological site/pretty canyon, and then, once in New Mexico, stopping to visit another friend, etc. Efficiency is not the point. Avoiding error (the interesting road dead-ends on one side of a canyon…something not shown on the map) is not the point. The point in that case would be “Road trip! See new stuff! See friends!”

    OTOH, on a road trip I always have the emergency stuff, the water, the shelter, the shovel, the hatchet, matches, something to cook and something to cook it in. That’s the organized part.

    Partial engineer brain from my mother. Partial free-wheeling “Let’s see where this goes” adventurer. Lazy adventurer, these days.

  5. You have exactly described my life, horizontal surfaces collect stacks; I was going to tell you about the stack on my desk that was about 9 inches tall; however, as I went through it, I decided to put it all back where it really belongs. I think the idea of a home with walls of drawers and shelves is an amazing idea! Thank you for the motivation to deal with this stack.

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