Friday, November 13, 2009

An Edit and A Bar of Soap

Yesterday was a very low day for me. I got a long awaited email from my agent about a book of mine she'd been reading. This was my most recent book and therefore the one I am the most in love with right now. It was the one that was going to get me published and be awesome. Well, guess what? She didn't like it very much. This in and of itself is a good excuse for being bummed, but what got me down even more was the reason she didn't like it. She said she didn't like the narrative voice because I was telling too much instead of showing.

WHAT??? That's like writing 101. That's something I had never had much of a problem with even when I first started writing. I was telling instead of showing? It shocked and embarrassed me. Plus, it wasn't something I could easily fix. It wasn't a plot hole I could patch up or a scene that didn't make sense. This was major. In my mind it meant a total rewrite. I was sooooo depressed. So what did I do? Well, after pouting for a while, I marched to my kids' bathroom.

Why? you ask. A few days ago my son had flushed a bar of soap down the toilet and it was clogged. My husband had been bugging me to call the maintenance guy (because it was really stuck), but I had been resisting. I didn't want to call the maintenance guy, I was embarrassed. Last year he had replaced two toilets and had subsequently been back to unclog them not once, but twice because of this same issue (not a bar of soap, but other items flushed by the boy). I didn't want him looking at me and saying: Why haven't you gotten toilet locks or locked your bathroom doors. I didn't want to have to explain to him it was because we were potty training now and I had to leave toilets open for the potty emergencies.

So anyway, I marched into the bathroom because I needed to unclog that toilet. I needed to have a feeling of success for the day because I was feeling so crappy. I must've spent thirty minutes in there with that stupid toilet snake and that stupid plunger. All for nothing.

I threw myself onto my bed. "I can't write a book or unclog a stupid toilet!" I whined. I think my husband thought I was nuts.

When I got over feeling sorry for myself, a thought came to me. I needed to highlight my entire book into sections. Green for dialogue, Gray for action, Purple for inner thoughts, Yellow for description, and Teal for narrative. It gave me a purpose. I sat down, determined. I reached page 120 last night (highlighting an entire book is a lot of work). And guess what I discovered? The teal sections need to go. They are the sections where I am "telling" the reader about my world. I need to either change them into dialogue scenes where I convey the same information or I need to cut them altogether. I also realized I can reduce the purple sections as well. My favorite sections were the gray and green. I wouldn't have to rewrite my entire book after all. It's still good. I still love my book. This edit is only going to make it stronger.

I was so happy and rejuvenated when I woke up this morning that I thought maybe I'd give the toilet another go. I wound that metal snake down there with confidence and determination. And I unclogged it! An entire bar of soap was yanked from the clutches of the toilet by the toilet snake. An entire bar of soap. So I can write a book and unclog a toilet! Wahoo!

Back to editing for me. This highlighting is so eye opening that I might start doing it for all my books. (by the way, my agent rocks!)


  1. Woohoo!! I'm so impressed with your attitude and your plumbing abilities. Your edits will only make a great book better. :)

  2. Highlighting sounds so cool. I've got to try that when I finish my book.

    You sound like Superwoman; able to figure out your book's problems and unclog a toilet in the blink of an eye. Way to go!

  3. We had to have a plumber remove an oreo cookie toy from our toilet, only it was my nephew, not my son, who was responsible. So far my son has not discovered the wonders of flushing foreign objects down the toilet. Hopefully he never does. I am really impressed that you used a snake. That is advanced mommy-plumbing. I stop at the plunger. Is this your secret superpower?

    So your agent didn't like it, but it was just the narrative bits she didn't like, I assume, and she thought the rest of it was worth saving?

  4. Good for you! (Your book and your toilet!) Way to change your attitude and persist!

  5. Congrats on your writing epiphany and conquering your toilet. Were you by any chance chewing gum and juggling? That would really add to the mental picture! :)

  6. Aw Kasie, this really is great to read. Way to overcome!

    I'm sorry to hear that you were feeling bad. So glad you took matters into your own hands. (120 pages in a day?! Go you!!)

    Your friend in Editland,

    Ren :)

  7. girl, I am so happy for you. You tackled something hard and you did it with gusto.

    What happened to you is one of my biggest fears. The book I'm getting published was always supposed to be my 'foot in the door' book. The real book I want to get published, the one that's supposed to get me famous, is waiting for another revision. But I'm terrified that will happen to me. My star pupil will turn out to be the worst book ever.

    You'll fix your book and it will be awesome.

  8. toilet unclogging aside (and that is impressive!), I am in love with your highlighting idea!!

    What an awesome way to get a handle on how much of each thing is going on. I am totally doing this to my MS, tonight!

    Thanks Kasie :-)

  9. I really like this post. Like how you became proactive in overcoming your disappointment. Great idea to highlight your story. Good luck on the rewrites.

  10. You're amazing! You know I wouldn't have rebounded so easily.

    And you even got to add minutes to your NaHoCleMo count! :-)

  11. This post was oddly inspirational. Such a happy ending! Soap: 0. You: 1.

    I love your editing method! I want to highlight my book now to see how many colors I'd have...

  12. just buy a new toilet and your problems will go away :)

  13. Everything feels better after a good tantrum. I just discovered how helpful highlighting can be. Great attitude and congratulations on unclogging a toliet.

  14. Wow! what an idea! I hope it works out so you can "see" what you need to see...

    Did you get the soap out yet? laughing!!

  15. Candice, yes, be impressed, be very impressed.

    Melane, I'm sort of like superwoman, except with more useful powers. :)

    Jessie, my power to harness the toilet snake is related to my super powers, but is not, in fact, the secret power to which I eluded to the other day in your comments section. Nice try to get it out of me, though. And yes, my agent will soon love my book completely. :)

  16. Annette, thank you. A good attitude is key to getting things done. Without it, I tend to mope and whine.

    Julie, I might have been chewing gum (I often do) but I was definitely not juggling. I don't know how to do that. :)

    Renee, yay for editing! (I often pretend to like it in order to trick my brain into working)

  17. Tamara, yeah, it wasn't a fun email. But, it's okay, the book that my agent fell in love with is still going forth into the submission realms. I'll just have to make this one shinier. I think we often save the books that are closest to our hearts and edit them to death. I have one like that too, that my agent hasn't seen yet.

    Ann, you should definitely do it. It has really been eye opening and exactly what I needed to "see the light". :)

    Mary, being proactive worked out much better than the last time I was disappointed and I crawled under my covers and pouted. :) This way seems to actually fix problems.

  18. Linda, whatever. You would've totally rebounded. You may have analyzed it a little more, but you probably would've come up with several solutions because of it, instead of just my one.

    Sara, I so beat that soap. He'll think twice before he challenges me again. :) And highlighting is a strangely satisfying endeavor. It makes me feel like I'm working hard, but it doesn't take a lot of my brain power. It's just what I needed.

    Shelli, yeah, already had to do that....twice. Apparently it doesn't solve all problems. LOL

    Patti, it's so true. A good tantrum is good for the heart and the sinuses. :)

    Kathryn, the soap has been conquered. :)

  19. You have done some pretty amazing things since we've been married-finish college with 1.8 children, write several books, do boys pushups; but I've never been so impressed as I was when you augered out that bar of soap from the toilet. You truly have a gift. Love you,

  20. And I'm impressed with your use of the word auger. :)

  21. Wow. This post is screaming in all ways exciting. The writer in me is elated with your highlighting skills; the mother in me bows to your toilet unclogging ability, and 1.8 children (per comment above) is quite an impressive percentage. But boy pushups? I can't even do a girl pushup. Amazing.

  22. Impressive bar soap and the percentage really amazing!