Monday, February 28, 2011

Cleaning That Garage, Er, Manuscript

The Garage is the Man's Domain at our house. That means when we moved in here three years ago, I shut that door and didn't look at it again.

I had to find a crate for Bob last week. The Hubster insisted that he could find what I wanted without my help. When he couldn't, I trudged out there myself with him hot on my heels telling me to just go buy a new on. As I thrust the garage door up and open, I was horrified at the sight.

It looked like a bomb had gone off (see above, but picture all of that covered with dust and cobwebs because someone, ahem, did SEAL the garage off like I asked as well). I felt my energy drain just looking at the overwhelming project. I wanted a crate, but now I have an entire garage that needs organizing again. Where do I even start?

Are you crying? he asked me. I wiped the tears, swallowed the panic and started divising a plan. Looking at it as a whole was far too much for my brain to comprehend. I couldn't imagine adding the clean up and organization to my already full plate. I mean, we're talking renting a shop vac, buying a heavy duty mop, getting my gardening gloves out (there be black widows in them boxes, loves)...not to mention all the supplies I would need to buy - more clear plastic bins (Cost Co), labels for the label maker (Target), shelving (Home Depot). The list started piling up so I shut down.

It reminded me of the first time I sat down (come on, you knew this was coming!) with my full manuscript to start revisions. Those 321 pages seemed so overwhelming that my brain shut off. I got up and did the dishes, the laundry, vacuumed and then ran a few errands. When I finished all that, it was time to make dinner. There went my day and no rewriting was accomplished.

I sat down to it the next morning...and it went much the same. For probably two weeks I had that problem. Overload. Too much to do and where to start?

Finally, after reading all the advice out there on how to tackle rewrites, I realized that you just have to do it. Just start. Anywhere. You find what works for you. I dug in to my first 100 or so pages and started revising. And you know what? It wasn't bad! I didn't get lost in the pages. I got lost in the story, which guided me through the rewrites! I started with one small part and just worked my way through it.

The garage can't be any different! Taking a deep breath, I thought - one thing at a time. I started with the piles of EMPTY boxes from every new item that has entered the house these past three years. (Why do you men keep empty boxes???) Grabbed the box cutter and went to town. Quite theraputic, actually. Slash, slash, slash. In the recycle bin they went.

I'm chunking the garage like I did my WIP. Taking it bit by by, starting with the empty boxes or the first 100 pages, it doesn't seem so overwhelming. In fact, when I finish that part, it feels like a big accomplishment! I often find that when I just MAKE myself do it, everything starts to flow. Those boxes took 30 minutes of slicing and dicing. That first 100 or so pages took me a week. See? Not so terrible after all!

Soon my garage will look like this:

Neat and tidy, just like my manuscript.

What about you - does rewriting seem overwhelming? Where do you start?

I have an interview with Melissa Wideen from Through the Looking Glass over on our Paws and Learn blog. It's all about her gorgeous cat, Mia. Stop on by and give it a read when you have a moment and let her know how cute that cat is. Mia loves the attention!


  1. I haven't done any major rewrites yet.... (I know! For Shame! And I'm making you girls read it.) I just added in two scenes... and did some random tweaking. I have two ideas to strengthen streads throughout my novel that need to be implemented in chapters 4-23. It isn't even major but I just need to add in a couple extra sentences of thought processes and maybe a couple arguments to make these other threads come in and make my novel that much stronger ( I do what to get at least the stuff for the next section done BEFORE I send it to you guys). But the thought of doing it, with all the other stuff I have to do is overwhelming. I think I'll do it this weekend, though. One chapter at a time. If you can tackle your garage. I can do this too!

  2. What a great analogy! Rewriting has been overwhelming, and I kinda avoided it for a little while. But I realized, much as you did, that you just have to start. So I pick away at it whenever I can, knowing that every little bit I do is just another step closer. It's hard not to think of the manuscript as a whole, but it's the only way for me not to become overwhelmed by it.

  3. I hate rewriting and self-editing. However if you want to be published, you just have to suck it up and do it. And I remind myself of that with every page I edit. I’ll be doing some major edits today. I have a 96 page short novella I finished writing on Friday and I slacked on the edits all week. Now it’s time to edit and add some scenes that the story will benefit from. If I’m lucky, I will take my 24,000 word novella and hopefully turn it into a 30,000 word story.

  4. Love the analogy! Indeed, if I look at a ms as a whole during editing time, it's like trying to hold everything in my head at once. Chunking is imperative. I've taken to going through the manuscript chapter-by-chapter and developing a spreadsheet with intended changes. That way I don't have to remember anything but what's in the next scene.

    Man, my garage needs cleaning. Thanks for the reminder!

  5. I would've closed that garage and never looked back! So far revisions aren't overwhelming - just a bit daunting sometimes.

  6. EEP! I remember that horrifying first revision feeling. I think I shut down for a good...month. And then only got into it because I couldn't justify hiring and editor at that point and no one else was jumping to do it...Now I still get that twinge and I end up putting them off for longer than I should, even KNOWING it isn't as bad as my brain is telling me. Good luck on the garage too!

  7. Revisions this time around are overwhelming and made even worse by the fact that the problems are in the first half of the ms, which means that everything I change early on dominoes into the rest of the book.

    Right now my goal is pretty small - I'm focusing on cleaning up the first 50.

    One box at a time, right? Sigh.

  8. I know what you mean about overwhelming. Not only are they overwhelming, they aren't as fun as writing your book. They are taking me a lot longer to get into and actually tackle.

    We have to clean our Shed out- it looks like your before picture. Pretty overwhelming but usually I can make the hubs do it anyway ;p

  9. That is EXACTLY how I feel when I start rewrites--like I just want to give up and cry at the sight of all that clutter! But it works out...eventually.... Steer clear of those black widows!

  10. Oh wow! Good job sistah! I love how it all sparkles and shines now! I'm sure your manuscript is on its way to being just as impeccable. Hey I wonder when I'll see you again! I miss you!

  11. That was a great analogy:) Here's to a polished manuscript, and a clean garage!