I don’t write polished prose. My first drafts are silly, the characters are as interesting as cardboard cutouts, and the jokes don’t land. Still, my imaginings are on paper, and I can fix the mistakes during the editing process. The problem? This can take months of rewrites, followed by months of revisions. And now a massive case of Reviser’s Block has stalled my progress even more!
It hit when I’d finished half of the line-by-line revisions for SAMUEL ASH AND THE GRASSHOPPERS OF DOOM. Chapter 18 suddenly transformed from seven pages with minor issues into Sisyphus’s hill. No matter what I changed, a heap of fresh problems greeted me the next morning.
I took a one-week break, hoping my subconscious would figure out a solution while I caught up on the rest of my life. When my muse continued to play hide-and-seek, I researched poltergeists and updated my website. At the start of Week Three, I forced myself to edit, but four of the five characters in the second scene went on strike. The fifth stood in silent disapproval, reminding me that I’d given her only a single line of dialogue. Oops.
Hoping to avoid a prolonged walkout, I cut deals with each of the strikers, but we weren’t happy with the results. They insisted they wouldn’t act like that, and I kept finding inconsistencies. Finally, I had an epiphany. What if Sam walked in the OPPOSITE direction at the start of the chapter? I’d be able to eliminate two characters who are, frankly, becoming divas. An inexplicably long phone call would disappear. Another main character would behave more sensibly. The scene would become less forced without affecting Chapter 19 and the rest of the manuscript.
So, I’m off to cure my Reviser’s Block by sending Sam along a different route. Cross your fingers that Robert Frost was right when he wrote,
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”