Revision Help

The Tale of the Tail in the TalysMana Revision

Last Friday, I printed out my manuscript and my revision worksheets, located my  pens, and set everything aside. Saturday was to be my first day of revision.

And Saturday with the the big table cleared for writing, I started into revising my badly wrecked fantasy novel TalysMana, written back in 2010.

The manuscript

I was planning on doing the way I always do it — manuscript loose and on the left, notebook and notes top and right.

You figure, I’ve been refining this system since 1995, and I knew I had it pretty well nailed down.

So I had everything neatly laid out — this time with more papers than usual, because instead of using my advanced streamlined system, I’m going through and treating TalysMana exactly as if it were the first revision I’d ever done. I’m using my first-time-through system from How to Revise Your Novel, and saving all my work to add to the class as a demonstration walk-through.

The Full HTRYN Layout

So here’s what that looks like…

Neat, organized, simple to get through. Time-consuming if it’s your first time, but this ISN’T My first time, and I anticipated making pretty decent progress the first day. Unlike most of my books, I pantsed this one, so the part at the beginning is the part I got closest to right, and I while knew it ran off the tracks more and more the deeper into the story I went, Saturday was supposed to be easy sailing.

I know things are going to get worse and messier the deeper in I get. But hey, I’m a professional. I got this. Right?

Turns out, not so much.

What I wasn’t prepared for was help.

Enter "help," stage left

Enter “help,” stage left.

Sheldon levitated onto the table with his usual gravity-free grace. (I’ll note that no one eats on this table, in spite of the fact that it’s in the dining room, which is why no one cringes when the cat goes there.)

He discovered an entire field of his favorite things: Stacks of paper, pens, plastic folder separators.

Sheldon spends a lot of time around office supplies, which he believes are named “No,” “No, dammit!” and, “Aargh!”

Taking the Pen I'm Using

Three quick sniffs and a joyful growl and he leapt into the middle of my work, chased my pens across the table, scattered my pages, and carried the pen I was using to the floor to eat.

I retrieved my pen, said “Office Supplies” to him a thousand times in under ten minutes, and watched him sulk off at last.

I restacked everything, got to work, and enjoyed maybe ten minutes of peace and cat-free quiet and stillness. Until the question, “Why is he being good?” flitted all paranoid-y and bug-eyed through the back of my mind.

Of course there was a reason he was being quiet.

It’s the same reason your two-year-old is being quiet.

He’d found something he knew he wasn’t allowed to touch, and because he wasn’t being supervised, he wreaked havoc upon it.

Zauberboll Crazy "Improved"

This is a skein of Zauberboll Crazy, lovely German yarn given to me by a friend also named Holly.

Sheldon, a name that I have just discovered translates as “the horns are hidden beneath the fur,” had somehow finagled this out of a bag from beneath the two folded sweaters that were supposed to make it impossible for him to reach, and was lying on the couch shoving his head as far into it as it would go and inhaling Smell O’ SheepTM from it like it was cocaine and he was some Wall Street dude from the eighties, then hanging onto it with his teeth while kicking it with his hind legs, causing the ball to both unravel and to tangle.

Thus ended Saturday revision.

Sunday I set myself the task of figuring out how to cat-proof my work. ‘Cause… still have to revise the novel, still have to revise many more to come, still going to keep Ol’ Horns-Beneath-The-Fur.

Cat-Proofed Revision

So I hole-punched the entire manuscript and put it by itself into the big D-Ring binder. Dug out one of the strap-type cardboard binders I use to hold print-outs of my shorter classes. Put all of the empty worksheets and their dividers into this. (Little-known fact: Holly translates into English as “addicted to office supplies.”)

Cut my pens down to a black one for the worksheets and a red one for the manuscript.

Today, I set out the revision, and this time, got all the way to page 48. The image at the very top of this tale of struggle and triumph is of Sheldon with TODAY’s work in front of him, stymied by my office-supply solution, and trying to take the pen I’m using, this time to have it taken away from him.

And this time… no yarn for him to wreak vengeance upon. That’s now in a zippered bag. Little bugger can fetch a ball (cat-style — he has to chase it, attack it, and pounce on it for twenty minutes before he finally brings it back to you), is trying to open doors by hanging on the doorknobs, likes to turn the touch lamp on and off, and took a flying leap at the light switch the other day. (Would have worked if it hadn’t already been down).

But he can’t (yet) work a zipper.

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18 responses to “The Tale of the Tail in the TalysMana Revision”

  1. Laura W-A Avatar
    Laura W-A

    Cats would take over the world, but then they’d have to reveal themselves and do all the dirty work their human slaves have done all these years…

    My niece’s cat can open the door. They weren’t sure for a while (my niece was blamed for not shutting her door all the way), so she finally set up a video camera and then left the room. He did it right after she left! Took a flying leap off the bed and pulled the handle down. ?

    1. Holly Lisle Avatar
      Holly Lisle

      I’ve had some pretty dumb cats. Sweet, but dumb. I’ve had some smart cats.

      Sheldon is scary smart.

  2. SheSellsSeashells Avatar

    We had a particularly chatty Maine Coon, and I was simultaneously fascinated and unnerved when I realized he had a specific and repeated noise not only for “leaving your personal space, see ya later” but related sub-noises for “leaving via floor” and “leaving via jumping up on something”. I don’t know why the distinction was important to him, but it definitely was.

    1. Holly Lisle Avatar

      😀 One is the Joy of Flying sound.

      The other means, “Damn gravity.”

  3. Hanna Avatar

    I am so glad to see Talysmana back on the table, with and without Sheldon. My small dog likes to sit next to my laptop on my desk, and has been known to try to sit on the keyboard. Cat in a dog suit, I think.

    It occurred to me that I have not been getting emails and updates, so I re-signed up on all your email lists. Hope that was the right thing to d

    1. Holly Lisle Avatar

      I didn’t have a link for the one you need. The Saturday blog emails got broken when I updated the site.

      I’ve added the sign-up for them in the column on the right.

  4. Kim Iverson Avatar

    And what a cute helper, haha. I am dealing with a Doberman pup myself who tries to steal what I work on. They are very “helpful” assistants. Let’s face it: he’s teaching you a new way to organize, that’s all.

    1. Holly Lisle Avatar

      “he’s teaching you a new way to organize, that’s all.”

      Yep. Nail it down, lock it up, or watch it fly, human!

  5. Deb Salisbury Avatar

    ROFL! You’ve made my day.

    Thank goodness my housemate, an elderly Persian, isn’t half as smart as Sheldon. As it is, I do all of my revising on-screen, with multiple files open, rather than on paper. Churchill loves pens, paper, clips… He doesn’t steal them. He just wants to help. 🙂

    1. Holly Lisle Avatar

      Sheldon loves watching the water run in the shower. After watching me, he’s tried to turn the handle to “bring the rain” but fortunately for us, he isn’t strong enough to do that.

      Today while I was showering, though, he did manage to push the shower door in its track open far enough to poke his head in.

      And a drop of water landed on his head, at which point he fled.

  6. Laura Avatar

    He’s adorable! I have three orange cats and they have laid claim to all horizontal surfaces everywhere.

    Have you seen this video? “If cats had opposable thumnbs”

    1. Holly Lisle Avatar

      I hadn’t seen them, but I spent a good half hour watching.

      I gave a cat hands in Fire in the Mist.

      You watch them studying a problem and testing solutions, and you think, “Yeah, if they had opposable thumbs, we’d be in real trouble.”

  7. Amy Avatar

    I miss having cats. I think. Can’t have them now because the husband had developed a terrible allergy to them, so dog it is. He is an annoying, needy thing at times, and will cry for an hour if I fail to take him for a walk. But at least he doesn’t jump on the table and steal pens.

    Back in our younger days we had a cat that could have The Most Fun with a wadded up ball of foil.

    1. Holly Lisle Avatar

      I crocheted Sheldon a ball out of some scrap mohair I had. It is Best Toy Ever — possibly because he can still smell the goat…

  8. Jean Avatar

    Give him time. Give him time. LOL. What a smart little bugger.

    1. Holly Avatar

      I keep telling myself, “He’s a cat, not a human. This isn’t thinking. It’s reflex.”

      And then I see him carefully (and successfully) disentangling his Bouncy String from the back of the dining-room chair where it tangled, or trying to turn on the shower after watching me do it (because he loves to watch the magic water from the sky), and watching him watching me as I zip up the yarn bag, and I remember Hrogner, the cat with hands, and I think, “All that’s standing between him and some really nice yarn is a single opposable thumb.”

      And maybe not even that.

      1. Rebecca Avatar

        Yeah, watching Batman watch me open the doors in the house and LEARN how to do it himself (as a kitten he had to jump but you’ve seen his size now, he just gets on his hind legs) as well as other things in the house… It’s disconcerting.

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