Who are they, some of you may ask? The boys in the basement stand for our intuitive, deep hidden wisdom. They came to light by the pen of Stephen King who talked about his muse:
“There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement kind of guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you. Do you think it’s fair? I think it’s fair. He may not be much to look at, that muse-guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist, but he’s got inspiration. It’s right that you should do all the work and burn all the mid-night oil, because the guy with the cigar and the little wings has got a bag of magic. There’s stuff in there that can change your life. Believe me, I know.”So? Don't we just need the boys in the basement (or in my case the scary woman in the lamé dress - more on her later on this month) during the writing of our first dirty draft? I don't think so. I think we need those boys all the way through. They must be controlled, just as the editor needed to be controlled when you were writing the quick and dirty draft (or the clean slow one if that is how you roll). Occasionally however, you must take your revised text down to the basement where the boys will tell you if you are being true to the vision or if, just perhaps, you've gone too far in pleasing perfect mode and forgotten what you do this writing thing for. Just saying - they know.
Books - and that brings me to the list of books I keep by my desk for the revising period.
- The Artful Edit - Susan Bell - this is the hands down best book on revising I've ever come across. It is brilliant
- Revision & Self-Editing - James Scott Bell - a workhorse of a book and very helpful
- Self-Editing for Fiction Writers - Renni Browne & Dave King - another hard-working book
- The Modern Library Writer's Workshop - Stephen Koch - excellent chapters on Working and Reworking and Finishing
- On Writing - Stephen King - not that there is lots on revising but he keeps you inspired and he surely knows his craft
- Bird by Bird - Anne Lamott - again for flagging inspiration cannot be beat
- Maps of the Imagination - Peter Turchi - weird and wonderful - not for everybody.
And here is a gratuitous photo I took from the bridge on the way to work the other day - it is snowing again today. Yes, it is! April 2nd....