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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