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 first draft of the scene from yesterday, and I’m going to apply step 1 of Jordan’s revision advice.
I’ve had a hell of a day. By 8:00 this morning I was struggling to hold my eyes open, fighting abject exhaustion and trying to focus on what the physical therapist was saying about my husband’s grandmother’s rehabilitation exercises. I know it sounds kind of bad, but the harder I tried to focus, the more I caught myself nodding off after a long, sleepless night. Every time my head bobbed, I would blink and squint into the too-bright fluorescent hospital lighting. I bet you’re wondering how I could possibly be that tired, right?
Well, our black and tan coonhounds Bear and Bryant paced around our small but cozy vintage two-bedroom home, bayed, and howled all night long, as if there were a prowler in the yard, but every time we looked, we couldn’t see a damn thing. The dogs finally got quiet sometime between 3:45 and 4:15 this morning, and then we heard a nerve-shattering crash out in the shop.
By the time we made it out to the open-faced cinderblock structure, whatever knocked our shelf of tools and racecar parts over was gone. The shelf busted the Lexan back window out of my husband’s ’67 Camaro drag car. It gouged the crimson paint job in a couple places, and left dents in a couple more, and that was a damn bad way to start the day. The Camaro is my husband’s baby, and to say that he was upset is a grave understatement.
So, we got two hours of sleep, he had to go to work, and I had to drag my exhausted ass to Mobile Infirmary with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law to learn how to properly do rehab for Granny. I tried to push through my mind-numbing exhaustion and stay awake, but my body at 26 just can’t bounce back from lack of sleep like it could when I was 16. I was fine when we were standing up and moving around, but when the physical therapist took us into a private room with a comfortable couch I was done for.
The moment I sank down onto the overstuffed, floral cushions and felt the morning sun beating down on me through the window, I knew I was doomed. The more the physical therapist talked in her most pleasant, soothing voice, the heavier my eyelids got. After a few minutes, I decided it would be easier for me to listen with my eyes closed. I felt a nagging sense of guilt as the physical therapist’s voice got fuzzier and farther away, but it was suppressed by the dreamless sleep that overtook me. Some time later, I wasn’t sure how long, I got jarred out of my dozing off by my husband’s “Yea, Alabama!” ringtone. “Hello?” My voice was thick and husky with drowsiness.
“Babe…I know you’re at the hospital with Granny, but I just wanted to call and let you know that my truck burned to the ground today while I was away at a job site.”
I was wide awake in an instant, and my heart was pounding so hard at the news that I could feel my pulse in my fingertips. “WHAT?! Oh my GOD! How the hell did that happen?!”
I could feel myself shaking, and saw the other three women in the physical therapy room with me go still, breathless, and pale at my words. 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. Everything that was in the truck is gone…burned completely up. My granddaddy’s truck and some sorry excuse for a human being burned it to the ground. I don’t know who’d do something like that, but they better pray I don’t get my hands on their sorry ass is all I can say.”
He may not have known…but I had a pretty good 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 so many 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 this first revision! Thanks!]