Ever since I can remember, my mom’s had a motto: Orden y Limpieza. Order and Cleanliness. When my sister and I were young and tasked with mopping the floors or scrubbing the bathtub (yellow gloves: mandatory) my mom would repeat this to us with cheer in her voice, hoping we’d echo her enthusiasm.
We never did. When we were done cleaning, she’d look around the room, breathe in the power of Pine-Sol or Pledge or whatever concoction we’d been using, and say, “See? Doesn’t a clean house make you feel better?”
Sometimes we’d humor her and nod and smile. Mostly, though, we’d roll our eyes, relieved to wash our hands of those nasty little chores.
You know how this part of the story goes. I grow up and realize my mother was right …even when the dirty work is torture in the beginning.
As I may have mentioned a few times on the blog, I’ve been busy revising my novel lately. I got my edit letter from editor back in November and turned in the edits just a few weeks ago. Though I’ve always preferred revising to writing rough drafts, this time the experience was different; it was daunting to know that I wasn’t just revising for myself or for my writer’s group, but for my editor (and then, if the edits stuck, for a future audience).
I read her letter multiple times before we spoke on the phone. It was clear I had a lot of work to do, but we were on the same page with most things and were both convinced it’d make the story stronger. I hung up the phone with a truckload of motivation and a deadline 3 months away.
I was ready to get those rubber gloves on and start polishing my manuscript until it shone like a set of abs on a Men’s Health cover. My mom would’ve been proud.
So I began gathering my cleaning supplies—I told myself I needed to research a few things first.
Days passed and the manuscript started getting a little dusty. Weeks passed and the dogs’ hair shed so much that it collected, in clumps, around the corners. Outlines, random articles I printed out, and DVDs of documentaries I checked out from the library began cluttering the story to the point I feared walking into it.
“It’s not a hot mess. It’s just lived in,” I told myself. I skimmed the pages and made small changes like switching a pronoun with a character’s name in places my editor had indicated confusion, or cutting and pasting a passage to a later part of a chapter.
“See? I’m cleaning up,” I thought, when really I was just shoving dirty shoes into the closet and stuffing clothes, unfolded, into drawers to get them out of sight.
Then one day, while sipping a breakfast smoothie and caught up in barely-lifting-a-finger-except-for-the-one-that-hits-delete edits, I came upon a nasty spot. I leaned in to get a better look.
“What? Is that…is that a piece of flat dialogue?” I scratched at it a little, saw it start to disintegrate. The last part of the passage was stickier, though. No matter how hard I scrubbed, I could still see its remnants on the page, glaring at me like the ghost of a wine stain on a fancy white couch cushion. I added some elbow grease. This wouldn’t do. This was personal now.
That’s when the rubber gloves came on. Read the rest of this entry »