Work It #14 from A Writer’s Guide to Persistence by Jordan Rosenfeld
Chapter 14: Relish Revision
Choose a scene or a chapter or a paragraph that is in the first-draft stage (or write a fresh one). You’re going to do three drafts (it’s okay if you break this up over several days). Follow these steps.
- Make sure all the elements of a scene are included: The character has an obvious, consistent point of view; your sensory descriptions and imagery show setting and emotion; the action creates a sense of real-time movement and/or dialogue, and a plot goal is present, some piece of which is apparent in this scene.
- Cut all flabby, extraneous language, such as adverbs, adjectives, “telling” language, and pleasantries between characters. Hone your sentences. Strive for clarity and beauty.
- Add a “push-pull” energyof tension to any dialogue or interaction between characters.
Today, I’m going to take the revised scene from yesterday, and I’m going to apply step 3 of Jordan’s revision advice.
I’ve had a hell of a day. By 8:00 this morning I was struggling to keep my eyes open, fighting exhaustion and trying to focus on what the physical therapist was saying about my husband’s grandmother’s rehabilitation exercises. I know it makes me sound like a jerk, but the harder I tried to focus, the more I caught myself nodding off after a sleepless night. Every time my head bobbed, I would blink and squint into the hospital lighting. I bet you’re wondering how I could be that tired.
Well, our black and tan coonhounds Bear and Bryant paced around our vintage two-bedroom home, bayed, and howled all night, as if there were a prowler in the yard, but every time we looked, we couldn’t see a damn thing. The dogs quieted between 3:45 and 4:15 this morning. We were drifting off to sleep when we heard a nerve-shattering crash out in the shop.
By the time we made it out to the cinderblock structure, whatever knocked over our shelf of tools and racecar parts was gone. The shelf busted the Lexan window out of the back of my husband’s ’67 Camaro drag car. It gouged the crimson paint job in a couple places and dented the trunk. The Camaro is my husband’s baby, and to say that he was upset is an understatement.
We spent the two hours before he had to go to work cleaning the shop. After that, I had to drag my ass to Mobile Infirmary with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law to learn how to do rehab for Granny. I tried to push through my mind-numbing exhaustion and stay awake, but my body at 26 can’t bounce back from lack of sleep as well as it could when I was 16. I was fine when we were standing up and moving, but when the physical therapist took us into a room with a couch, I was done for.
The moment I sank down onto the cushions and felt the morning sun beating down on me through the window, I knew I was doomed. The more the physical therapist talked, the heavier my eyelids got. After a minute, I decided it would be easier for me to listen with my eyes closed. I felt a sense of guilt as the physical therapist’s voice got muffled, but it was suppressed by the sleep that overtook me. I don’t know how long I slept before I got jarred out of my dozing off by my husband’s “Yea, Alabama!” ringtone. “Hello?” My voice was drowsy.
I spoke through a yawn. “Yeah, honey, what’s up?”
I heard him take a shaky breath and sigh. “I know you’re at the hospital with Granny, but I wanted to call and let you know that my truck burned to the ground today while I was at a job site.”
I was awake in an instant, and my heart started pounding with violence at the news. It pounded until I could feel my pulse in my fingertips. “WHAT?! Oh, my GOD! Rick, are you okay?”
Another shaking breath on the other end of the line. “I don’t know.”
“How the hell did that happen?!” I could feel myself shaking, and saw the four women in the physical therapy room with me pale at my words. The physical therapist stopped speaking. All of them leaned in, listening. I tapped the speaker button on my phone so my husband’s grandmother, mother, and sister could hear his reply.
“Cops say it looks like a Molotov cocktail started the blaze.”
I heard Granny moan. “Oh my God.”
“Everything that was in the truck is gone…burned to ashes. My granddaddy’s truck and some poor excuse for a human being burned it to the ground.”
“Oh, Jesus, honey, I’m so sorry.”
Granny started crying. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law both clapped their hands over their mouths and shook their heads in unison.
“I don’t know who’d do something like that, but they should pray I don’t get my hands on their sorry ass is all I can say.”
I started crying, too. “I’m so sorry, honey, I don’t know what else to say.”
He may not have known…but I had an idea of who would do something like that to my husband. I’d been trying to handle the problems I was having at work myself because I didn’t want to be the girl who cried wolf. I didn’t want to overreact. I didn’t want to be the histrionic personality that people assumed I was. My mouth went dry and my tongue felt like sandpaper as I struggled to work up the courage to reply.
[I’d love to know what you guys think of the revisions! Thanks!]