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Putting the book-monster together

Here I go again, tackling a monster puzzle. I’ll be tearing my hair out by the end of the week. I’m not talking about a jigsaw puzzle, although we just finished one, inspired by my friend Dee who blogged here about doing a puzzle every Christmas. (Ours is a barn scene in Maine. Nothing spectacular.) My husband and I put the edges together in short order and started on the harder parts. After a few days, it was work instead of entertainment, but by then it was only a matter of time and perseverance. If there’s only one spot for each particular piece, you’ll find that spot even if you have to try every remaining piece in every remaining hole, although by then you’re gritting your teeth and asking, “Why do we do this to ourselves?”

My hair-tearing puzzle is a novel that I need to revise. I don’t have precut pieces that come back together to “make” a perfect picture that had already existed, complete and unblemished, before it was cut into a puzzle and thrown into a box. I have a manuscript that I cobbled together myself, making an imperfect picture that I can see more clearly after having set it aside for three months. At this point, I can’t even put the edges of the picture together because I’m not sure what my boundaries should be. Do I make it a “big book” that covers at least part of my characters’ early lives? Or do I bring in the boundaries to a more manageable size and focus on a smaller picture, a shorter timeframe?

Decisions, decisions. Revisions, revisions. Why do I do this to myself?

Our finished jigsaw puzzle is still sitting in the sun room in all its useless splendor. The cats are using it for a napping mat. As soon as we want that table for some other use, we’ll throw the puzzle back into its box and may never look at it again. Meanwhile, my manuscript sits besides me, waiting for me to make it into the best book I’ve written yet. (I think that about every one of them. Grandiose dreams keep a writer going.) This monster puzzle will give me a gargantuan headache, curable only by weeks of work.

Why do I do this to myself? Because I can’t wait to see the finished picture. I can’t wait to read the story my characters want to tell me.

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