Your Chair Is Not Your Friend

Virginia Woolf claimed that, to write, one needed a room of one’s own– a sentiment that I generally share, and even acknowledged in my latest Xenith article.  Being able to close yourself off from the world and have a designated place to focus on your work is a gift (sometimes a curse, but mostly a gift)– and I feel really lucky to have a place where I can work without interruption.

House sitting is great alternative.

I’ve mentioned before that I have taken odd jobs– house cleaning, house sitting, pet sitting, baby sitting, sitting in for studio hours at an alternative funeral home.  I have been increasingly too busy with my writing to keep up with all these jobs, but I continue to help a few families here and there.

Somehow, whenever I am in a rut with my work, I get a phone call asking for a weekend or week long or several week stay at a beautiful home in Arlington, where– in exchange for helping out with the dog and cat– I have everything I need to get good writing done. Quiet and a kitchen table.

And that’s where I have been for almost a week now, working on the latest revision of my book.  My agent and I thought it would be good to get around 60% of my manuscript revised by the end of June, so I’ve been busy busy–

The only thing I miss is my big silver exercise ball, which I started using last winter when  my legs, hips, and low back started hurting after long writing sessions.  This has become a bit of a problem these days, with my marathon writing sessions in the kitchen where I can work with little interruption for eight hour stretches.

What am I so busy with?  Revisions– which mean different things for different portions of the book.  The last section, for instance, was a little rushed when I finished my last draft.  I’ve been spending the last few days rewriting these “chapters” into scenes (the previously read like summaries).  Established scenes that are already plotted need language to be polished, a process that I consider as similar to pulling taffy.  Rather than describing the process, I figured I’d share an example with my work–

” The apartment is quiet, he already left for work.  The rooms are glowing with late summer sunlight, casting a soft glare across the hardwood floor.”

That was an original description from a scene early in the book.  Doesn’t give the reader a sense of where they are, what kind of apartment it is, or what anything looks like.  So I add more–

“The apartment is quiet, he already left for work.  The curtains glow as they absorb the afternoon sunlight– pale yellow in the living room, crimson in the dining room.  A soft glare is cast across the hardwood floors.”

Better, but when I read it out loud (which all writers are supposed to do), it doesn’t sound right.  So, back again with the same details and images, but what more can I say to make this clearer, better understood by the reader?

“The apartment is quiet, he already left for work.  The pale yellow curtains glow in the living room windows as they absorb the afternoon sun.  The dining room is darker, shadowed by our neighbors house.  In the kitchen, the rabbits are silent, sleeping in their cage.”

Better.  Maybe more will change later, but that was good enough for me– and that’s how the description of the apartment currently appears in my manuscript.

This is the technique I have to apply for all 91,913 words of my book.  It’s hardly difficult, in fact, this is where the fun begins!  With this project, the tricky part has been figuring out when to say something.  Now I have that figured out, I’m getting to chose how I want to say it.  My favorite part of reading has always been imagining all the visual details based on the author’s descriptions.

I’m feeling pretty confident that I’ll meet my deadline by the end of my house sitting stay, even if it means I have to write standing up!