If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that Somehow You’re Sitting Here has been my white whale for a long time. While it’s not the first novel I ever started writing (I had a terrible portal fantasy back in Middle School that never went anywhere), it’s the first novel that I really wrote.
And it changed a lot between its various incarnations: it started as a tale of friendship rent apart by senseless tragedy, and my main character’s quest to find peace in that. It grew into a trilogy recounting their entire friendship, beginning to end to aftermath. Then it became a love story, beginning to end to aftermath. And then, slowly, it came into its current incarnation: pastor’s daughter, performing arts school. A little bit of Fame, a little bit of Footloose, a paean to the modern theatre kid.
I wrote it. I polished it with a mentor. I sent it out. I got some really good rejections. And then it fell apart. I shelved it for a while. And now I’m thinking about playing with it again — especially now that I’m part of a great group of writers (led by one of the editors I queried, actually! — but that’s a story for a different day) and I’m learning how to address my weakness: revision.
I really want to revise this story. I really want to set it out.
It’s been shelved for almost three years now. I’ve been saying this for almost three years.
Every time I’ve toyed around with the idea, actually opened up the manuscript, it’s been like trying to swallow an elephant. The idea sounds really good, but the practicality of trying to edit something that large without it becoming a disjointed wreck?
I don’t know. I am such a linear person. I write one scene to the next, in order. And when I reach THE END, I open a new document and use the old document as a reference guide. I rewrite it again, beginning to end, fixing the problems along the way.
But actually sitting down and editing it? Skipping from part to part and section to section and toying around with things? That sounds like a really good way to end up with a disjointed mess.
The metaphor I’ve used before is that of a hundred-string guitar. If you mess with the tuning on any of the strings, you’re going to end up with a discordant mess when you play. If any one of the strings isn’t perfect, the whole thing falls apart.
So you tune the strings in order, and you pray that it ends up right. The editing process that others have described is like trying to tune all of the strings out of order. It doesn’t make sense. I don’t see how it can work.
But maybe I’ll prove myself wrong? I don’t know.
If this story sounds like a repeated refrain, it probably is.
This story has been on my mind for a long time. Part of me thinks that I should let it go: new decade (almost), time for a new novel. God knows that the idea isn’t even that fresh anymore. In the years since, it’s probably been done half a million times. Most of them better than anything I can do.
But the story still sticks with me. And maybe this isn’t all supposed to happen in a straight line.
I just don’t know anymore.