Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Revising Is Like Sewing

Analogy time.

It's October, which means Halloween is around the corner, which means I dust off the old sewing machine and become an improviser with fabrics, patterns, and plain old ingenuity. One of my kids wants to be Rapunzel from the movie Tangled this year. Anyone who's taken the time to really look at her outfit (thanks to digital animation) knows its complex and intricate. I'm crazy enough to want to make a kid's costume as close to the original as I can afford.

It's taken two separate dress patterns and some fudging to get the fabric cut right. I have four different materials I'm playing with plus all the trimming. Loads of trimming!

I got started Saturday morning and by the end of the first day had a pretty good replica of the bodice. Sunday was devoted to the sleeves. Let me tell you about those sleeves: I had to cut and sew pink ribbon onto the upper sleeve material; embroider other ribbon for detailing on the lower sleeves; mesh two different sleeve patterns together, and of course figure out how to put it all together. Eight hours later I had two children's sleeves looking pretty darn close to the original. Then I went in to iron down a seam before attaching the sleeves to the bodice. The iron ate the see-through fabric of the lower sleeve.

After eight painstaking hours of work you can imagine how I felt right then. Okay, I admit it, there were some frustrated tears involved. I put it all away and mulled over ways to fix the problem. Next weekend I'm going to spend a few more hours unpicking the see-through material and replace it with a sturdier fabric. Afterall, if the iron can do that in seconds to the fabric, imagine what a washer and dryer might do!

So how does this tie in with revising?

Ever had one of those horrible moments when you realize that you have to cut out hours and hours worth of work because something's gone wrong in your manuscript? I have. Sometimes it means cutting a character or two, a background story, a setting, a time period, or entire chapters and scenes. It's painful. It's tempting to think of all those hours as wasted time and want to throw in the towel completely.

This is where we need to put the story away, go do something else, and calm down. There's a rational part of our brains that will continue to point out why that character or scene needs to be cut.

The truth is, all that time wasn't really wasted. We were practicing, experimenting, and honing our craft in those earlier drafts. Sometimes what ends up on the cutting room floor can be used later in another story. Sometimes not.

The trick is not to give up or ignore that practical voice in the back of our minds. It's time to get out the seam ripper and get rid of the bad pieces to make way for newer, stronger ones. And yes, sometimes the finished product will look different from what we first envisioned.

I'm over my despair about the sleeves by now. I'm not looking forward to added hours of work (especially when I have another costume to make after this one) but I want my daughter to have her costume and I want it to be durable and of quality workmanship. It's the same for revising a beloved story.

Had any revising woes lately? Got a good revising analogy tagline? Post in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. You know my story already-- I ended up cutting three characters at once from my MS. That said, it's never been stronger, but it was seriously intimidating to try to edit it right after I made the decision.