Barefoot Re-Writes

There are benefits to having a blog as a pet. They are there when you need them, but they can go without feeding for weeks on end if necessary. While it hasn’t been exactly weeks, it has been a while. I’ve been volunteering at a school and setting up their computer lab. Three weeks, thirty computers, seventy separate accounts to set up. I’ve felt a little lot like this guy:

Photo credit: https://www.robsimdb250challenge.blogspot.com  I found this image when I searched "Jurassic park computer dude." I kid you not.

Photo credit: https://www.robsimdb250challenge.blogspot.com I found this image when I searched “Jurassic park computer dude.” I love the internet.

Not in the super-smart, intimidating kind of way. In the talking-to-himself, never-leaves-the-computer kind of way. And minus the killer dinosaurs and the candy (there will be NO eating around the new computers! Any questions? *insert psychotic death stare here*). By the time I got home at the end of the day, the last thing I wanted to do was sit at my own computer to do anything at all.

On Friday, except for a couple of minor adjustments, I finished my project. To celebrate, my family and I went to the mountains to hike. Let’s just say it was a treat to be free of error codes and captchas.

We were about twenty minutes in when Girl-child decided your garden-variety trail hike was too easy. She challenged me to take the rest of it barefoot. I’m pretty sure it was a double-or-triple-dog dare, and the honor of my entire family was at stake.  Or maybe she just said “Hey, wanna go barefoot?” I can’t remember. I ate a lot of paint as a kid. On a dare. There might be a lesson there somewhere. Anyway, the next thing I know, I’m stumbling over rock and bramble, my shoes swinging cheerfully from my husband’s backpack a mile ahead of me down the trail.

Alone in the woods with nothing but the sounds of my own cursing the birds and kamikaze gnats, I had a little time to think. It came to me that barefoot hiking has a lot in common with the process of rewriting.

I can’t cover as much ground as I am used to. Chacos securely on feet, I can trot down the trail at a respectable clip. The hike we did would take an hour, plus any time we spent playing in the stream.I can’t do that barefoot. Each step matters.  Writing that first draft, I don’t watch where I put my proverbial feet. I just go, laying down the pages as fast as my imagination will let me. Rewriting means slowing down, carefully picking out that next step.

I will see things I may have otherwise missed. A slower pace has its advantages. By checking out the scenery around me on the trail, I may discover things.

This critter was about 1/2 inch long.

This caterpillar was about 1/2 inch long. The guys missed it because they were moving too fast. I don’t know what species it is. A Google image search tells me it’s sushi or a quiche. Oh, well. Win some, lose some.

Rewrites force me to slow down and look at the details. Is that bit of dialogue lame? Was that scene in keeping with my characters personality? Are my descriptions adequate without going overboard?

I get the opportunity to pull back and look at the big picture, too.

scene

Sometimes it’s good to look at the plot as a whole. Is the path clear? Is it taking my reader where I want them to go, or is it leading them straight off a cliff? Are there too many side trails where they’re going to get lost?

Sometimes I find hidden treasures. 

It's a pile of leaves, right? Of course not. Do you see it?

It’s a pile of leaves, right? Of course not. Do you see it?

Look again. It took about 5 minutes for me to find it, even though I KNEW it was there.

See him now? Or her.

See him now? Or her.

Another view.

I'm pretty sure this is a juvenile American toad.

I’m pretty sure this is a juvenile American toad.

There’s no better feeling than re-reading something I have written and coming across a passage that makes me so proud that I can’t even believe I wrote it. Those little gems make the effort worthwhile.

And finally, it hurts a whole lot more. I ended my barefoot stint aching in muscles I don’t ordinarily use, feet filthy and bruised. Rewrites can bruise my heart. That precious scene in the diner that made me laugh out loud as I wrote it? Yeah, it was superfluous. It’s gone. Sometimes a whole character that I fell in love with the moment I birthed them has to go, or at least has to be stripped down to the bones and rebuilt into someone different, someone that better fits with what I’m trying to say.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that I’m not in a hurry to repeat Saturday’s hike. To quote Patrick Henry, “Give me shoes, or give me a piggyback ride and a foot massage.” Rewrites aren’t my favorite thing, either, but I’ll buckle down and do them.They’re necessary to get to the next step. By January, I want to have the manuscript whipped into good enough shape to begin querying agents. Go ahead. Double-dog dare me. See what happens.

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38 thoughts on “Barefoot Re-Writes

  1. Love this post! I’m a at prewriting stage. To make an analogy with my weekend activities, this stage is like taking a 3-hour nap while your husband takes over mom-duties. The idea is luxurious; I’m hopeful that things are going to work out; but part of me wonders if it is even a good idea. 😉

    Happy rewrites!

  2. Amazing how that frog blends in–but then with a bit of focus–there it is. My rewriting process is similar–agonizingly so at times. However, my favorite image here is of the caterpillar. How beautiful. Have a great week, my friend.

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

  3. This is the most encouraging and practical piece on rewriting that I’ve ever read. Your metaphor resonates with me more than any dry explanation of the process ever could. Thanks, I needed this today!

  4. Wow, brave! Glad your feet made it through, re-writes to follow, I have no doubt. Beautiful pictures, I am amazed by the caterpillar which does indeed resemble sushi to some extent. Glad you didn’t step on it!

  5. I try and write weekly, rewrites, I don’t really do those. Sure I fix the spelling and grammar errors, may reword a sentence or two, but generally I leave my first draft alone.

    Love the pictures. How I miss walking in the forest, maybe tomorrow.

  6. You know you’re a dedicated parent when… 🙂

    Assuming there’s nothing sharp or otherwise not-fun to step on, I think going barefoot would actually make me hike faster and more confidently. With shoes on (well, ok, maybe hiking boots would’ve made a difference vs. plain tennis shoes), I get really nervous on downhills. I pick my way slowly, carefully, gripping a railing or a nearby branch lest a wrong step on the wrong spot make me slip and hurt myself.

    I’m also kind of a slow hiker by default because I tend to stop to take photos of anything that looks cool — a neat little bridge. A small pool as seen from above. And from its own level. And, “Oh, Mary, wait a sec! Can you take my picture by to this wall? (can you see all the ivy here? Maybe step back a bit…) Oh, one more, one more! –me looking into this tree hollow.”

    Why yes, I did go hiking recently, why do you ask? 😉

    Anyhoo…I can definitely see the similarities between my way of hiking and my way of writing. I.e. I spend so much time being careful that I don’t let myself even get to the re-writing stage. It’s gotten better over the years, but I’ve been one of those people who’d agonize over every word, trying to make the story or essay perfect from the start instead of letting myself write whatever comes to mind and then go back to fix things…and it’s especially easy to block myself this way when writing on the computer vs. in ye olde tree-based notebook. With Word, you can too easily and instantly erase any word or sentence you decide doesn’t sound right. An hour later, you’re still staring at a nearly-blank screen.

    Maybe for me, “going barefoot” means not slowing down and focusing on details (I’m already plenty good at that :-/ ), but going back to a more natural, uninhibited state of mind so I can jog along confidently on that leafy path, down that smooth-stone slope, on those sandy stairs… And also not stop so often to take pictures/think over a particular word or idea, but instead just focus on the experience as a whole/just focus on writing, on the main idea I want to convey rather than on specific elements.

  7. I can’t believe you hiked that trail barefoot–ouch! While I’m not daring enough for that, I once found a tiny green frog near the 9th hole at a particularly swampy golf course. It was the highlight of the day for me. I liked your comparison of writing to barefooting. I’m still wading through the first draft of my novel. At about three quarters done, I know where my characters are going and how it will end, but it’s still hard work getting it down on the screen.

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