Here’s a dictionary definition for “tune-up:” “a general adjustment to ensure operation at peak efficiency.” Sounds just about right as a description of the next phase of work I face in revising my YA novel. In the past few weeks, I’ve received some feedback from the publishing marketplace about my story — some of it very general and some of it specific enough to be helpful.
I’ve had some time away from my draft and now it’s clear that I need to revisit it and make some adjustments “to ensure operation at peak efficiency.” I’ve been letting a few promising ideas percolate and now it’s time to see if I can actually integrate them into my story seamlessly.
At one point, I would have seen this as major surgery and gotten angsty about the next pass I have to make through my pages. But at this stage, I’m taking a more workman-like approach and thinking of what I need to do as giving my manuscript a “tune-up.”
I like this metaphor a lot. It sounds manageable and self-contained. It calls up images of tools and fine-tuning: It makes me think of the task ahead as a form of tinkering. It sounds necessary, but not drastic or radical. It also gives me the feeling of being an experienced craftsman — someone with the skills required to get the job done with a minimum of muss and fuss. And finally, it reminds me that I’m not dealing in a heavy-handed way with the meaning of my novel, but working on the mechanics — on how I
drive the story forward.
Revising is never easy — especially when you’ve been through several rounds. But how you think about it and capture it in words can make a big difference. Let’s pay attention to how we talk to ourselves about the writing challenges we take on. After all, we’re wordsmiths: may the words we use always be wise and well chosen. Write on!