Skip to main content

The Unwieldybeest: Revising the novel

With this gorgeous expanse of time I now have on my hands, Project Numero Uno has been to finish revising the (dang) novel.  I have a personal deadline of Presidents Day weekend, as that is when I will be attending the San Francisco Writers Conference.  My goal in this (please let it be the last) revision is to add/remove/repair/ensure that were it to go out into the world as is, I would be proud of it.  I've had to remind myself on an hourly basis to stop asking "will it get published?" and start asking "if it did get published, would I be proud of it."  And I'm inching closer to that goal, but revising a novel is a hefty challenge.  And while I had to look up just what the heck a wildabeest actually is (click here for some beautiful images from National Geographic if you are curious), the image in my mind all week has been of wrestling the Unwieldybeest.  As if the novel were this enormous, part mammoth, part alligator-like creature that I have to somehow find a way to capture and convince to wear a bow tie.  The Unwieldybeest comes close to hint that I'm almost there, just one more step/page/tweak, and then the ridiculous thing goes running off back into the forest.

I have tools for its capture: a color-coded spreadsheet of chapters so I can remember where things go, what season it is and who's doing what.  I have a hand-written list of the steps I want to make sure I hit before President's day weekend (including a checkbox for Celebrate, of course.  I do love a list).  I have feedback from trusted readers that I'm incorporating.  So, it would seem I have the upper hand with Mr. Unwieldybeest.  But it scoffs at my tools and good intentions and snorts with delight when he slips through my hands.

I'll get you yet, Unwieldybeest.


  1. "As if the novel were this enormous, part mammoth, part alligator-like creature that I have to somehow find a way to capture and convince to wear a bow tie."

    What an apt (and amusing) metaphor! My unwieldybeast and I are down in the mud, too, right now. I can't tell who's winning.

    Your 8 hour days are inspiring.

  2. When your novel is done, Nate, it will have a bow tie, a cane and an entire musical number choreographed, it's that good.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

For Mom, Twenty-One Years Later

I lost my mom twenty-one years ago today. She died from complications related to a long battle with chronic-progressive multiple sclerosis. I was a week away from turning twenty-one. Which means I have not had her as long as I did have her.
It used to make me unique among my friends, to have lost a parent at such a young age. But I’m no longer young and many friends have joined this depressing club. The dues are astronomical and no one prepares refreshments.
People, moms are important. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Whether you were once a child or are currently a mom. They are the sun, moon, and stars, even when they are completely obscured by darkness.
I wish she mattered less. She doesn’t. She matters more than almost anything: that first hit of love, that childhood sense of safety, that initial understanding of what it means to be a woman in the world: mom.

Memory is funny when it comes to dead people: I can remember her any way I want. Which means I can also mis-remem…

Writing is a Confidence Game

Some people just naturally walk around the world feeling like they are hot shit. I'd wager most weren't writers. Oh sure, there are some exceptions: some cock-sure arrogant types who truly believe every word from their pen is golden. They've either been praised too much in their youth or never been workshopped before.

In general though, writers are a needy unconfident bunch. An unexpected side effect of going part-time and tripling my writing efforts is to get way more in touch with this part of myself.

My job has its own cycle of feedback and reward, and mine is not generous in either but I generally know how I'm regarded, and I'm quite confident in about 60% of what I do. The other 40% are either things I'm getting better at, or things I don't care if I ever get better at.

It took me a solid one and a half to two years at this job to feel confident. That's a really long ramp-up time, but universally true for my role in my organization. It's compli…

Book Review: Anything is Possible, by Elizabeth Strout

I inadvertently found myself in possession of an advance reader's edition of Elizabeth Strout's newest book, Anything is Possible. It's set to drop on April 25th.

Scrabble's response to the title: Does this mean I can eat ten times a day?
It's a companion, a follow-up if you will (but not a sequel) to her last novel, My Name is Lucy Barton. Which was fantastic and spare and a perfect example of Strout's phenomenal carefulness in her writing. I loved it for all those reasons. I love Anything is Possible for completely different reasons.

It's a collection of linked stories, not unlike Strout's Olive Kitteredge. Each of the stories showcases a particular character referenced in My Name is Lucy Barton. In My Name, conversations with her mother over the span of a few days reference a host of do-you-remembers, and whatever-happened-tos involving offscreen characters that are delightfully interesting in their own right. Anything is Possible is full of these ri…