February 9th, 2009


Box of creepy. The good kind.

My favorite book in the entire world -- the comforting, reassuring book that I return to over and over again, because it makes everything better for as long as I'm reading it -- is IT, by Stephen King. This probably explains a lot about me. I've read IT at least once a year since I was nine, more frequently two or three times a year, because when I'm stressed, I want familiar things around me, and my definition of 'familiar things' includes scary evil clowns. (My grandmother had a clown collection. I lived with her for a while, and it's a miracle I never took a hammer to her curio shelves. When she passed away, all the clowns went into boxes, and I never saw them again. I do not miss them, although I sort of wish I knew where they were, so as to remove 'under my bed with knives' from the available options.)

Because I re-read this book so frequently, I've actually managed to imprint on a specific edition, like a baby duck imprinting on a fire-breathing hellhound as its mother. I must have the 1985 paperback edition, or the words are in the wrong places on the page, and the book feels wrong to me. Yes, I recognize how absolutely bizarre this is. It doesn't change the fact that they re-paginated in later editions, and things just don't look right.

It's been getting increasingly hard to find copies of IT in my preferred edition, maybe because it's a twenty-four year old paperback that wasn't all that well-bound to begin with. I've been hoarding them with increasing desperation, knowing that the well is getting closer and closer to running dry. I had fourteen copies, at last count, after giving one to Vixy for Christmas. Well, I found a cardboard box on my porch this week, sent from Merav in New York. She's pretty good about telling me when things are perishable, so I let it sit for a few days before opening it.

When I did open it, I laughed myself dizzy. Because inside were seven -- yes, seven -- copies of the correct edition of IT, all neatly stacked and waiting to join the pile. Between her and Joey (who did something similar at my 'hooray, we've sold the first three Toby books' party), I may finally have sufficient copies of IT to get me through my lifetime.

My friends are very strange.

Thoughts on Writing #23: Embrace Revision.

Welcome back! It's time to call class back into session for the twenty-third essay in my ongoing series of essays on the art and craft of writing. (Really, it's all just an excuse for me to eat a lot of apples and claim to be spelunking for worms, but don't mind me.) We are now almost halfway through what will eventually be a series of fifty essays, all of them based on my fifty thoughts on writing. If you missed an earlier essay, never fear; they're all linked from the 'fifty thoughts' post as they're finished.

Here's our thought for the day:

Thoughts on Writing #23: Embrace Revision.

I think we've all been tempted to say 'the first draft is good enough' and move on to something new, rather than going through the often-painful process of trying to edit our way down to the heart of the matter. Many of us may have managed to get away with it a time or two...or even twenty, in the case of high school and college-level creative writing classes. Which brings us to today's expanded topic:

For the sweet love of all that is holy, edit, proofread, revise, and practice the art of self-critique. I mean it. There is no one on this planet so good at this game that they can just throw a fistful of words at the page and declare it brilliant. Needing to revise does not make you a failure, and becoming a better writer isn't going to take that need away. Embrace the revision process as a chance to dig down into the heart of your text and make it everything that it deserves to be.

Revision is a huge and tangled topic, as is revision's sister, editing. Some people will argue that a really good writer doesn't actually need to edit or revise; a really good writer will always get it right the very first time. While it's true that writers will get better with practice -- writing is a skill like any other, and even those who start out with more raw talent than others will improve or decline according to how much they work at it -- you're never going to meet a writer who has improved to the point that they no longer need to review their work.

So there it is; that's what we're going to be talking about today. Ready? Excellent. Now let's begin.

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