Revision in All The Things

As a writer—I have a lot of drafts. A lot of different versions. We all have our naming conventions, and I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t just happen to writers when they write. It happens when we design things, or pour our creative energies into anything. There are bound to be revisions and a hundred copies of that one single file until we work it and make it write right.

I recently became reacquainted with my local Science Fiction and Fantasy convention called SpoCon. And by reacquainted I mean I became their volunteer Secretary again after a six year hiatus. And dragged Mason along as our Volunteer Coordinator. Since there are currently no Job Descriptions within SpoCon, I’m taking Secretary to mean: a little bit of everything. I subscribe to Adobe Cloud for a reason (mostly for Distracted Dragon business), but also for my photography, orders and – yes, apparently even making fliers.

It was news to me, too. I had forgotten how addicting it can be to sit in front of a computer and tweak a file until it sings to you (unless it is a manuscript, then it’s dreadful). Unfortunately for me that also means I may have been sitting here for four five six?! seven hours and barely moved. I had to force myself to get up and make lunch and to refill my water (yes, I said water, I am turning over a new leaf!).

And speaking of making changes in my life: I noticed my last post was a month ago and I was working on re-reading and revising Six Hours Remaining. I can’t say I lied—it just didn’t happen. It was right about that time I decided I’d dedicate my summer to reading and SpoCon, and so my revision kind of fell by the wayside. I’d like to try again if I can carve out the time. I’m just really, really bad at finishing projects that are half-complete. I have laser focus. Imagine if Cyclops was a cat: full blast laser vision with the attention span and energy of a cat at 3 a.m. Yeah, that’s me. Sometimes my superpowers work for the power of Good—like when I’m able to sit and work tirelessly on promotional fliers or policy documents—and sometimes they work for the power of What Are You Doing With Your Life, where I drop everything and try to bury it under the carpet. I don’t have an answer to: “Michelle, what happened with this revision process?” Um. My attention span? I forgot? I didn’t like it so I moved on to other things? I volunteered for a local non-profit? I am really capable of amazing things when I am avoiding others! I feel like we’ve had this conversation before…

On the topic of SpoCon: if you’re in the Spokane area, we’re having a yard sale this weekend! Well, this Saturday from 8am to 5pm at the Shadle Park High School parking lot. Proceeds from the sales (all the items are donated by SpoCon staff and friends) go to help get SpoCon 2017 off the ground! Mason and I went through our storage unit and pulled out a lot of things to help out. So come do us a favor and consider buying something! There will be popsicles!

Craigslist ad here:

When I think of the word revision (I know I wrote a blog about in some other context), I never really considered that one can also revise oneself. I’ve been trying to take a closer look at myself and my life lately and make some positive changes.

Mason and I each purchased a FitBit Blaze in on April 29th. We’ve had it nearly two months and in that time: we’ve both lost at least 15 lbs (for brevity: I weighed 175lbs and I’m now at 158). We have started go to outside for walks to get our “steps” in each day. I have personally quit drinking Mt. Dew. For those of you who know me: you know I live for Mt. Dew. Turns out: I don’t. We started watching the calories that we eat and drink and try to stay in the “under” zone that FitBit outlines. It’s different for each of us; my average has been about 1,300 calories a day. We don’t starve, and we have three meals a day plus snacks. Pretty much we stay under our calorie limit, stopped drinking sugary soda, and walk a hell of a lot more than we ever did.

And we feel great.

That time my friend Edgar tried to kill me by making me hike.

And it all started because when that scale read “175lbs” I insisted it must be wrong. Ego aside, that seemed outlandishly inaccurate. But it wasn’t. Now, I’m not trying to tell anyone “175 lbs” is heavy. For me, it is, it’s my body and what I believe is unhealthy for me personally. My Biology teacher told me that the “average BMI” was taken from surveys of military men, so not to pay too much attention because they are unrealistic. According to my height and weight, my BMI is poor. I’m considered obese. Well, fuck those bizarre body standards. You know what is healthy? Me, at any weight, so long as I am comfortable with it. My goal is to get back to 145lbs, where I insisted I’ve been for the last 20 years. That is the number in my head that equals a comfortable Michelle.

If you had asked me this time last year “Hey Michelle, are you ever going to stop drinking Mt. Dew?” Surely I’d have replied (and meant it): “Yes. When I’m dead.” When I worked at a gas station, I would drink upwards of 2-3 cups (24-32oz sizes) of Mt. Dew or other soda a day. Now, I was walking a lot more (running food from the kitchen to the hot case) also. But that’s just it: if you’d have asked me a year ago, I would not have thought it possible that I could make such a positive and extreme change in my life. Now, I’m still not perfect: I drink water with Mio (flavor enhancers) in it; I drink Diet Kirkland Signature Green Tea with Citrus, and I have acquired a taste for Coca-Cola Zero Cherry and Vanilla. I had been forced to try a lot of different sodas until I found on that was sugar-free that didn’t taste like shit. I realize also that whatever they put in the soda to make it sugar-free is probably cancerous. Everything that humans create for food is cancerous because it’s not natural. But that’s a worry for another day. These are small steps that have made a huge difference in my life.

It’s all about changing what I eat when I’m hungry or want a snack. I used to graze on bags of Hershey Kisses. Now I look at the calories and I’m mortified that I didn’t end up some 600lbs (and no insult to any 600lb readers; if you’re happy, be happy). I haven’t had more than a couple Hershey Kisses since May. I like Skinny Cow’s raspberry filled chocolates (45 calories), and I love me some Fiber One brownies and cheesecake bars. I eat a lot of frozen lunches now and just keep an eye on the calories. FitBit makes eating fun; you scan the barcode of your food and it tells you the calories. It isn’t always 100% accurate but you should be watching for accuracy anyways.

As I wrote this blog, I also wrote and revised and revised and revised a contract for SpoCon. I will spare you the details but I am no technical writer. It was an exercise to be certain but I have a good supportive team.

Editing notes: Six Hours Remaining

I wrote the first half, and first draft, of a story called Six Hours Remaining back in July 2013. I did it as part of CampNaNoWriMo and had a goal of about 25,000 words. The end result was somewhere around 19,000 (and I must have written other things during that timeframe because the website says I met my goal).

Summer just started, I’ve read one young adult book (The Black Unicorn by Tanith Lee), I have plans to read a few more, and am itching to do something writing-related. As usual, I am struck with this intense self-doubt, and I’m not looking to start a new story, but I also feel inept at revision and editing. Isn’t it great being an author!? However, a dear friend had once expressed that this may be her favorite story of mine to date, and that’s high praise for me. So I thought I’d dig it up and see what I could do with it.

And I’m really happy to say that I think it is written well enough that I can finish it and go somewhere with it. I don’t know where yet, and it’s only half way done, but it feels good. I wanted to share some of my editing experiences along the way:

The story was originally written without copyright issues in mind—based on real-life places, real-life super heroes, things like that. I’ve been going through and re-naming cities and street names.

Coeur d’Alene has been renamed to Awl City—a name derivative of the definition of Coeur d’Alene which is Heart of the Awl. I removed any reference to Post Falls, changed Missoula to Zootown, Victor to Cow Puck and the Lolo National Forest to Lulu. I have a story I want to set in Cow Puck eventually (a rural fantasy setting) so it felt right to start setting the base for it now.

I also have a reference to my story Earth Borne via a video game title in the beginning.

This screenshot shows that I’ve changed some actions in the story that I, at one point, felt were “in character”. Reading back over it now, I decided that it wasn’t necessary, and I could still make their relationship believable without being crude.

This also forced me to take a close look at the interior of the vehicle I had written them into. I had to do some research and make sure an El Camino from the 1980’s was, in fact, a manual transmission and had room enough for all of them. Turns out, um, barely. So I had plans to put all of their items in the cab with them—not happening.

Google Images found this link:

I had to shuffle around some characters to make the trip work.

I had to edit Doctor Who to be Doctor Whom and take out my favorite dirty joke.

And my favorite scene from Chapter 6 remained intact!

I have about 4,500 words left between Chapter 7 onward, and then the other half to write. I know my biggest problem is that I get neck-deep in a editing or revising a story and just never return from it. I struggle with first drafts, there’s no hiding that. I struggle with second, and probably the twenty-seventh if I ever make it that far. I really like this story, though. I want to finish it. Dawn needs to be rescued! More likely, she’ll end up rescuing them. I remember my step-dad had suggested that they lose their truck at some point and have to ride to Montana on horse and donkey-back (because you know Gabe would get stuck with the bony-assed donkey).

Anyways, I’m really here asking for confidence and the ability for me to work through this story until it is finished, and then work on it again. I like where it’s going, I like the voice, I like the characters, I feel good about it, even after a few years of sitting on the shelf. I’m hoping this can be my summer writing project–going back and forth between reading and writing.

I like to inspire myself by making mock-up covers, and recently discovered the joy of reading drafts ON my Kindle, it makes it feel more real.