But the Fences Are Electrified Though, Right?
In Which We Really Stretch a Dinosaur Movie Metaphor to Talk About Revising
Well, there’s not much new to report this week except that I TURNED IN MY FIRST EVER REVISIONS FOR MY FIRST EVER NOVEL! nbd, but JAY’S GAY AGENDA is now back in the loving hands of my editor, and I’ve been like, crying profusely and cackling in hysterical laughter and then rocking back and forth and then running down the street to high-five strangers. Imagine every facial expression Laura Dern makes in Jurassic Park and that’s me. This gif in particular really sums up the revising process:
One second you think you got it all figured out and then a velociraptor is there to say, “Guess again!”
I was entirely unprepared for the onslaught of emotions that came with revising. I mean, you hear all the time about people stressing from being on deadline, but it was hard for me to really prepare for it until I was experiencing it. Being the Type-A gal that I am, I wish I’d had a sort of step-by-step guide of what you can experience while revising. So, in case you’re like me, I thought I would share the stages I went through here. This way, when the day comes that you get your first novel deal, you will have a slightly more educated stance on what you may experience.
Caveat: Just like our taste in Real Housewives franchises may differ, your revising journey may be entirely different than mine. But in case you are like me and 1) are a sucker for movie metaphors, and 2) strongly relate to anything Laura Dern (who I am not-so-slowly-morphing into) is a part of, I think the stages of revision most closely resemble the journey Ellie Sattler takes in Jurassic Park.
Stage 1: Paleontologist/Publication Party
Here I am, minding my own business, when John Hammond, aka my brilliant editor calls to say, “You’re getting a book deal, baebeeeee!” I was Ellie Sattler minding her own business in her trailer then getting told that dinosaurs are real and she’s going to be seeing them TONIGHT! I am blown the flock (of gallimimuses) away. Cue the music, birds landing on my finger and singing to me…wait, I’m mixing metaphors here. Or am I since birds are evolutionary descendants of dinosaurs? Anyway, nothing can make my excitement go extinct.
Stage 2: Editorial Elation
The gates of Jurassic Park officially open. I’m seeing dinosaurs firsthand, looking at a giant ass leaf like, “This can’t be real? Are you seeing this? Is this real?” Alan Grant (in this metaphor, my agent), whips my head to the side to show me a freaking brontosaurus/my real-life publishing contract like, “This is real and you could make the ground shake with how many copies you need to sign and send back!”
Then Hammond/editor is back. She sends an editorial letter that explains everything we’re about to do together like the good doctor explaining how Jurassic Park works. I’m in awe. Every single note she gives resonates in my soul, and I’m cradling all these ideas flying through my head like Ellie and friends cradling a baby velociraptor in their hands crying, “It’s a miracle!”
What a poor naive ignoramus I was.
Stage 3: Caution is for the Dinosaur Descendants (…birds)
We get to our first real day in the park and I get to my ideas with abandon. I’m Ellie jumping out of cars to inspect triceratops up close and personal. I’m flinging my hands directly into heaping piles of feces because I’m just so freaking excited to get to every single idea that enters my brain regardless of whether or not it’s wise or sanitary. The entire structure of this student club should change! Let’s add a whole new character named Ursula! Why isn’t there lesbian roller derby? (Which is a question we should all ask ourselves about our novels. If lesbian roller derby works, add it.)
I was on a high from the juices flowing that I didn’t stop to question what I was doing or whether the ideas flying through my head really *should* exist. Do I really need to change the structure of that club? But like, what will Ursula *do* besides be ripe for a “Poor Unfortunate Souls” reference? I love lesbian roller derby as much as anyone, but um, how is this going to relate to Jay trying to lose his virginity?
But as we know from Jurassic Park, questions don’t matter. Not now. Not when we’re faced with dinosaurs in the flesh. Not after all these years of waiting to be told that a novel with your name on it actually can be a reality and you’re getting a book deal.
Questions are for Jeff Goldblum, not you, Ellie!
Stage 4: Newman Gets Greedy
Then the power goes out. Newman gets greedy and I’m left in the lurch like, “Where’d all the fracking dinosaur-ideas go?” I don’t have anything else coming to mind after a blissful week of IDEAS, TRICERATOPS, IDEAS, BRONTOSAURUS, IDEAS, BABY VELOCIRAPTORS. The sudden emptiness is unsettling.
And before I have any time to really recover and get my bearings, I realize what I’ve done. Dinosaurs have been created when they should still be extinct. Ideas were made real that should have stayed hidden in the gray wrinkles of my mind. But now the electric fence that kept them in has been shut down by me putting all these ideas to paper. By actually typing these ideas into the manuscript before fully thinking them through. I’m anxiously looking over my shoulders like, “This is going to be okay, right? Nobody’s going to get hur—”
Stage 5: RUN FOR YOUR LIVES
Oh, everyone is going to get hurt. All these idea dinosaurs have wreaked havoc on the second and third act of the manuscript, creating consequence upon consequence that will have to be addressed, and next thing I know I’m wishing I was a lawyer that was eaten off a toilet but instead I’m screaming in the back of a Jeep cruising through the woods while I’m chased by the biggest baddie of my own creation!
I’ve got to somehow turn the freaking power back on and get this fracking manuscript back on track, all while evading these plot dinosaurs before they turn me into a bloody pulp.
It’s not looking good.
Stage 6: I Choose You, Hamitor!
I turn back to my editorial letter. Hamitor (that’s Hammond and Editor…I don’t know that I like that…Edimond? Why do both of these options sounds like Pokémon?) is showing me the map of the park like, “Here’s how you get to the power. How you get this story back on track. But bad news, lady: Only you can run through the park and fix this s@$!”
So now I’m in a tank top because the nerves of revising a novel are giving me hot flashes, but also because I’m Ellie trudging through that park, slowly but surely. Every keystroke is me-Ellie looking over my shoulder certain that a T-rex is going to swallow me whole and the next person that goes digging through dino feces is going to find my femur.
But maybe this isn’t going to go to prehistoric poo after all.
Stage 7: Deadline Dread
We get to the power plant. There’s hope. The ideas of how to get this manuscript back together again are within reach. If I just fill the right combo of plot holes, it will be all systems go.
I’m crying over my corkboard, mixing and matching index cards full of plot points and emotional layers and characters until…Holy Hamitor, I think I’ve got it.
All lights turn green and I’m jumping up and down and then WHAM! A velociraptor slams into me out of nowhere, aka my deadline, and I realize while the power may be back on now I actually have to use it to GET OFF THIS DAMN ISLAND AND TURN IN THE FREAKING MANUSCRIPT!
Stage 8: 90s Computer Inspiration
I sprint through the jungle. I don’t run into any more plot dinosaurs. I make it back to the resort and I’m about to come out a better, wiser, novel-turning-in-on-time Laura Dern only to come face-to-face with a dino in serious need of a pedicure, aka the realization that my flipping timeline isn’t quite right. And I can’t gloss over this like we can all gloss over the fact that not every dinosaur in Jurassic Park is in fact from the Jurassic. I’m going to be eaten alive before I have hopes of starring in a sequel/getting a Book 2.
But if I just take inspiration from that kid clicking on all those files on that delightfully 90s computer, checking which options for plot restructuring would work just right, I think I can do it.
Put this kiss here, that date there, and if this hook-up goes to a Wednesday instead of a Friday (talk about Hump Day)…
Stage 9: Roll Credits
I outrun all the dinos. I see the helicopter. I hit SEND and Hamitor and Agent Grant are in there with me cheering me on as we ride away into the sunset and look at those pterodactyls flying out the window like phantom plot dinos coming to eat me whole, BUT I OUTRAN THEM DAMMIT!
And that’s what you might go through when you revise a novel.
Apparently Book 2 is just like The Lost World. Even more dinosaurs, but this time with a band of bloodthirsty hunters (aka, overly harsh Goodreads reviews) ready to stop you at your every turn.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. There are still more revisions to come, possibly not quite as intensive as the first round. There are still copy edits and first pass pages and all these amazing milestones that I can’t wait to cross off my publishing agenda like Jay does with his Gay Agenda. And when I finally see printed copies of this novel, I have a feeling I won’t feel like Ellie anymore. Instead, I’ll feel like this triumphant shmoop:
Ooh, maybe I should get one of those inflatable T-rex costumes for pub day!