Out come the pruning shears, the hatchet and axe. Revision, with ruthless yet judicious paring and cutting, is the heart of making a novel the best that it can be. This manuscript will go through multiple revisions--cutting, inserting the last few details and connections, then cutting more--until the book is happy and complete. Then an editor will bring his/her insights and questions and suggestions to the work, and the manuscript will be revised yet again, until it's truely "done."
Of course, months after the book is published, a re-read will reveal lots of places that could have been improved--but it's futile to be a perfectionist in an imperfect world, so we won't worry about that.
A couple of years ago I dreamed (I love to dream) that I was fishing in a pond with rather precarious, steep grassy banks. Suddenly there was a great pull on the line. With effort, I hauled in AN ENORMOUS GOLDEN FISH. No sooner had I landed this exquisite creature than my line (back in the water with no help from me, by the curious logic of dreams) shuddered and sank again--and I pulled up and landed A SECOND ENORMOUS GOLDEN FISH.
I've kept dream journals for years. Since I was hard at work on one novel, with another percolating steadily in the background, I interpreted this dream to mean that I would complete both books--pull them from the waters of the subconscious--and that they would be satisfying to me once completed: substantial, mysterious, and worthy.
The dream reminds me of the tale wherein Jesus tells a disciple who's worried about having no money to pay taxes for the little band: Go to the lake, throw in your line, and you'll catch a fish. Open its mouth and take out the golden coin you'll find...which will be more than enough to pay the taxes. And he throws in his line, and catches a big fish, and there's the golden coin. A couple of years ago I was sitting beside the Sea of Galilee having lunch on the deck of a Chinese restaurant, and saw an enormous fish (it looked just like a Mississippi river catfish) corkscrew down into the jade green water and disappear. That could be a descendant, I thought, of the fish with the golden coin.
One year ago, my first novel, WHERE THE LAKE BECOMES THE RIVER, made its way out into the world. Now PIPER, the second in this series of what I suppose I'd describe as quirky, romantic metaphysical parables, begins its journey of finding a publisher who's a good fit, and can bring it to its readers.
I can't say much about PIPER yet. For me, talking about a novel too much before it's had a chance to jell into exactly the book it wants to be, can halt the process. As the Navaho say, talking about it "steals thunder" -- robs energy that's been building in the creative process, energy necessary for carrying it through to completion.
There's more to come, on this blog, about this new book...but for the moment, suffice it to say that I'm happy to have landed these two golden treasures from the watery deep. I'm rolling up my sleeves each day to get the second book into its final form--but hey! Another deep tug on the line--a third great golden bookish creature is swirling at the surface, collecting its energy and getting ready to leap into the light of day. I won't even speak the name of this third book; I know it, and know the story's full shape, but am content to let it swim for now, and grow, and ripen, in the depths.
Good fishing to you all, and let us give thanks for all the treasures that have found their way to us, in this season of Holy Days.