My ancient Crown Frigidaire washing machine was carted off this week. In its place is a shiny white Whirpool Cabrio with lid lock and lots of options. While I’ve heard complaints about the new high-efficiency machines, mine–along with getting my clothes clean–has gotten me thinking about revisions.
My old top-loader, while sturdy and definitely a workhorse, leaked on the floor. It used so much water that the utility sink filled with grimy liquid each time I ran a load because the drain couldn’t keep up.
The clothes, while clean, emerged sopping wet, and often took two whole days to hang-dry. Using that washer was like a first draft where the plot moves forward too slowly, the characters’ changes are soaked with emotion and a lot of extra gunk leaks out on each page.
The new Cabrio doesn’t have the traditional central agitator. It’s a circular basket that loads in a snap. But I do place the clothes in there with care–making sure there’s no stray red sock threatening to bleed on the whites, and distributing everything equally. Think of this–a wash cycle in the new machine–as another draft, or an ongoing series of revisions (as laundry–and drafts–are never really done). The same amount of dirt gets agitated away while consuming less water and energy. The finished load is clean and damp, but already on its way to drying.
Proof of Us, my first real novel, even with its lovely language and careful character development, was sort of like that old Crown Frigidaire. That manuscript did its job, and I loved it, but that story soaked the reader in language and fell short of plot efficiency.
After 12 drafts and six years writing Body Copy, my second novel, I’ve wrung the water out of that sucker, spun it clean through various drafts, writing retreats and critiques, and given it a long hot bake in the dryer–not to mention a good dose of de-wrinkling. I’ve been writing novels seriously since 1998, and this one, finally, lives up to my expectations.
Now I’m working on the laborious, but fascinating, problem of a first draft of a new novel. I wish I knew more–and I wish I could be more efficient, or more certain of each scene–but I’ll get there. Next draft. Or the draft after that. In the meantime, I have another load of laundry to do.