J.T. Dutton: 2k9

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Introduced first in 2007, authors debuting children’s books have formed a cooperative effort to market their novels. Last year, I featured many of the stories of how the 2k8 Novels Were Revised. This is part of the ongoing stories from the Class of 2k9 authors and how they went about revising their novels.

After yesterday’s posting about when to stop revising and send in a story, J.T. Dutton’s story seemed especially appropriate. Darcy

Freaked by J.T. Dutton

Freaked: A Revision Story

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by J.T. Dutton

My first book, Freaked, lept into the world three months ago. Since then, I’ve been trying to form ideas for a short blog on revision. I’ve seized on some good thoughts for the discussion, stuff I teach in my Composition classes, ways to revise to improve sentences or arguments through better examples. I am an intense devotee of the school of write and rewrite. “Nothing is so smooth it can’t be smoother” is one of my mantras.

But when I have to talk about the revising I did on Freaked, I feel shy. I read a lot and I can think of fifty or hundred novels that I see as perfect—every sentence, word, and scene. I’d like to be a “perfect” writer too, but the fact is, I’m not. I get muddled. I have reread Freaked at least three times since it came into print, each time cringing at the number of things I would change now that I’m older and wiser. This is after revising it hundreds of times over twelve years, with the last pass conducted by some of the smartest people in the writing business—the editors and copy editors at HarperCollins.

Surgeons Don’t Get “Do Overs”

My Dad reminded me recently, when I was expressing angst about my second book, Stranded, of a quote from Albert Einstein, “perfection is the enemy of good.” My Dad is a retired surgeon. In his field, he didn’t get do-overs. He had to believe in his skills, be courageous about them. He is always stopping to offer assistance at road-side accidents. He volunteers for an ambulance service and a local fire department despite the fact that he faces liability issues as the most prepared person on the scene if something goes wrong. (This is why some doctor’s don’t stop for emergencies.)

Dad has made it a lifetime practice to do what he can, when he can. He even “vacations” every couple of years at hospital in Haiti.

Revision is a great thing, but for people like me, it can lead to obsession and excuses not to share my work. At a certain point, I have to take my dad’s advice and admit that I can’t tuck every thread, that I’m flawed, that I make mistakes, but it’s better to offer the world what skills I have than to offer it nothing at all. In this way, I guess, the writing can be interesting, individual, and courageous, rather than perfect.

A pretty worthy goal.

Thanks Dad. You are my hero.

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