Revision is Like Washing the Dishes (except I ENJOY revision)

Dirty dishes. They happen. I mean, we have to eat, right? But I have such a hard time getting them all finished in one sitting (standing?). A friend and I were talking about how proud we feel if we do all the dishes, because usually there are a few things left over--maybe a frying pan, a couple of containers from the five-year-old's lunch box, a cutting board. We called those things the Last Ten Percent because they can be left on the counter through many cycles of dishes. Lingering.

I was thinking how the Last Ten Percent relates to revision. After I'm done with the first draft, it's such a rush to dive in and get the new order of events down, or tweak an element of the character arc, do the things necessary to get the manuscript to a point where the flaws aren't quite as embarrassing. But then, draft after draft, some of the same little things crowd the end of my revision to-do list, things I'm maybe not as excited about fixing. Either they're too big (like the deep fryer my mother-in-law used to make an Italian dish I can't pronounce, much less spell), or they're lots of little bracketed things (like the disposable toddler spoons I insist on washing to use again).

As I embark on a new set of dishes--or revisions--that Last Ten Percent is always there, taunting me, or haunting me, until I finally force myself to sit there and just get it done.

If I'm not careful, the Last Ten Percent can prevent me from submitting a manuscript that's ready to go--whether it's going to critique partners, or agents, or editors. I guess another question is whether that Last Ten Percent is real or imagined--because I've held on too long before.

What's your Last Ten Percent, and how do you find the energy & motivation to follow through?


My Last Ten Percent is always the thing I can't quite see clearly--like that coffee cup hidden behind the fruit bowl that you don't see until you've emptied the sink. I know there's more, but I don't get it until the next round. Great analogy, Beth!

I can handle revisions a bit at a time. If there is too much red ink on the page I shut down and don't start. I think for me multiple drafts might be the answer, editing one major issue per time, or maybe just working on the pots today, the coffee cups tomorrow and saving the silverware for another time. I do wish I had a dishwasher...

Laura, that sounds like a great method for tackling the dishes--uh, I mean revision! One thing at a time.

Ooh, yes, because half the time I don't get to the frying pan because there wasn't enough room on the counter for it, and it was behind me all the time. Once everything else is cleaned up, I can see the other Last Ten Percenters even better. I like where you took this analogy!

Love this analogy. It also makes me want to buy you Revision Gloves.

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