Writer’s Epiphany #1: If You Don’t Write It, No One Else Will – or – Strip the Wallpaper Yourself if You Want to Paint Before Labor Day

My son is home from college and as of yet without a summer job. The local, transferable class he is scheduled to take starts in two weeks.  So, while he lies on the couch with his laptop and iPhone, watching DVR’ed episodes of every TNT show he can remember to record, I look at him and wonder how long he can sit there, staring at two screens, composing amusing Facebook statuses, watching YouTube videos and texting his friends.

Uh oh.  (At least I know where he gets his proclivity for technological multitasking.)

Except — I have things I have to do.  In my professional life I write, I edit, I read.  In my personal life I have two teenagers and two dogs. Yet, sometimes, I just stare at my laptop like it is going to erupt in song (which it can, as you know) and the way I can also stare into the refrigerator waiting to Guy Fieri to pop out and take me to Flavortown. (Yes, I watch a bit too much TV sometimes.)

Lucky for my kid, I have a list of chores and household projects just waiting for an able-bodied nineteen year old to do them.

Lucky for me, staring at him made me realize that I wasn’t doing enough either.

So I handed him the tools necessary for removing wallpaper — and I sat down to revise my novel at a faster pace. For him, I pointed to the directions of the back of the packages.  For me, I made a cumulative list of changes to make in my book.  He’s working on the wall in strips.  I’m tackling my manuscript ten pages at a time.

The difference between stripping wallpaper and revising a manuscript?  As with most tasks or chores, anyone can do them.  You can do it yourself, with a friend, with your kids or you can pay someone to do it for you (my personal preference when the budget allows). Ordinarily, I am not a Do-It-Myself  kinda gal.  But when it comes to writing my own unique story in my own unique voice with the characters and twists and turns and emotions and endings that originated in my imagination, well, I’m out of options.

Do-it-myself, I must.

And even if I had a gazillion dollars, I wouldn’t pay someone to Snookie a book for me.  I’m a writer, I love to write. But the logistics of the how-to’s get in the way and there’s no instruction manual. Not even in another language. So, I do-it-myself.  I realized recently that if I don’t revise these pages — stop the presses — they are not going to get revised!

And that, my women’s fiction writer friends, is not an option.

Is it an option for you?  Could someone else write the book you’re writing?  Could someone else tweak and tone your book better than you?

Probably not. It’s very motivating – at least it was to me – to realize that the story I was picking at and wading through was one only I could tell.  And while I asked writers how they tackled revisions and fixed their manuscripts, the answers really didn’t matter because the real solution was in my own head waiting at the door for me to let it out and onto the page.

The plan was to have my revisions back to my agent by the end of May.  Um, uh, well, that’s now.  To get my novel as close to literary gorgeousness as I can, I’m looking at finishing by the end of June. But, considering the backlog of DVR’ed episodes of House and King of Queens, that’ll still be weeks before the wallpaper stripping is done.


9 thoughts on “Writer’s Epiphany #1: If You Don’t Write It, No One Else Will – or – Strip the Wallpaper Yourself if You Want to Paint Before Labor Day

  1. Great post, wonderful analogies…I often have to remind myself that if I don’t revise my book, it “ain’t gonna’ happen.” I do have to put my book aside from time to time to get some emotional perspective but this last time has been more than six months with it nagging at me in the back of my mind. I have gone and washed dishes rather than dealing with the book. It isn’t that I don’t love the book. I think I love it too much.

    Anyway, love you post and wish you well in your revisions and with your 19-year-old.




  2. I spent the entire weekend reworking my outline for Draft 2 and I agree…there’s no one who could know this story as well as I do. I have to say, though, my beta reader’s comments have been invaluable! But I’m the only one who knows what to do with them. 😉

    Good luck on revisions!


    • Hi Mallory,

      Someone (and I really don’t remember who) told me once that the best beta readers and critique partners are the ones who know what you need to fix but don’t try to tell you how to fix it. I’m lucky to have one of those!

      Good luck on your outline…I’m impressed. Outlines scare me!



  3. It’s funny – I was thinking the other day -what if something happened to me before I’m finished with revisions on the book I’m working on now – would anyone finish it and have it published? And how could they….. lawd.


  4. Great points. Nobody does it better than the one writing the story, or so I tell myself. Still, as writers we insist on having others read our works before sending it out into the world via queries and the whatnot. Soon many have had a hand in writing “our” story.

    When does one decide to use what they can and can what they can’t? Sometimes the line gets blurred between “my story as I see it” and “what others think.” Tough job and it’s why I step away for weeks at a time in order to see my vision clearly again. In my case, maybe the walls will be scrapped by Labor Day, maybe not. 🙂


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