Thursday, October 1, 2009

five steps

Okay. So, the other day I mentioned how I'd received a revision package from my editor, but that I was only in Stage One, so I couldn't really talk about it. Well, I'm over that now and have come to realize that it just may be that I have something important (or not) to say about the writing process for those who aspire to go into this self-flagellating vocation.

First of all, this is my third -- yes, third -- book, The Marbury Lens, which will be coming out in 2010. And, having received the editorial letter, I realized that with every book I've written so far, I have gone through a similar process in dealing with the edits.

A kind of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross 5-step process in coming to terms with working with my editor and revising my work. If you are unfamiliar with Kubler-Ross, she is responsible for identifying "The Five Steps of Grief" -- Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. I think these steps have a lot in common with the revision process, so here I submit MY Five Stages of Coming to Terms with Revisions:

Stage One: "Skimming"

Skimming is the first thing that happens with an editorial letter. During this event, the subject refuses to sit down and actually read the entirety of the letter, choosing instead to skim through it for words like "perfection" and "brilliant." Very much like Kubler-Ross' Denial, during this stage, the subject may also internally vocalize such statements as... Gee, why is this letter so long when it only takes a few words to express how brilliant and flawless my work is? Sheesh... windbag editors!

Stage Two: "I am a Douchebag. I Can't Do This. I am Incompetent. I Totally Suck"

During Stage Two, the subject has actually taken the time to read the fucking letter. This is when he will usually begin to realize that the editorial diagnosis was correct, a second opinion from the buddy who still owes him a six-pack of Coors Light for kicking his ass at Polish Horseshoes is unwarranted, and the editor has made some keen observations -- leaving a trail of Zen-like, unanswerable questions that frequently result in thoughts of suicide, cutting off one's typing fingers and running away to become "Flipper Boy" in the circus, or any number of self-destructive and career-ending missteps.

Stage Three: "Postponing the Deadline"

"If only I can buy more time," the subject bargains with himself during Stage Three, "then maybe I can do something truly significant with my life -- like organizing my iTunes library." It is while in Stage Three that the subject will attempt to devise a deadline date that is either unreasonably impossible to meet, or falls during a time when the editor is on vacation where there are no cell phones or internet access.

Stage Four: "Commencing the Operation"

During this stage, the subject has resigned himself to the inevitable: it's not going to write itself, douchebag. As Kubler-Ross suggests for step 4 of grief, there's no sense trying to cheer the author up at this point, he is going to be a miserable, foul-mouthed, impossible-to-live-with sonofabitch once he actually begins the work and admits to himself, "Gee! I'm on page one of 412. I hate myself. Death is too pleasant an option for someone as wretched as I. Yippee! Now I'm halfway through the first sentence on page one of 412."

Stage Five: "The Revelation"

It all boils down to this: At Stage Five, the subject finally realizes that only now can words like "perfection" and "brilliant" be applied to the work. He has gone through the first four steps, struggled with understanding his directions, and allowed himself to be guided into producing something far better in quality than he might have done on his own.

Unfortunately, he may revert to Stage Two as a result of this revelation.