Friday, December 2, 2011

everything INTERN needs to know about revision, she learned from her phlebotomist

A few days ago, INTERN wandered into a blood drive and signed up on a whim. The day was young; the cookies looked good; INTERN had nothing better to do.

The phlebotomist was a sandy-haired Viking in a long white coat who entertained INTERN with phlebotomy fun facts as he set her up on a rolling table and installed the needle. However, things got less fun from there.

Once the needle was in, INTERN lay on the table for what seemed like forever. Her arm ached like hell. Her blood dawdled out sluggishly. The lights on the ceiling buzzed. The phlebotomist wandered away to gossip with the Red Cross volunteer at the sign-in table. But INTERN's spirits were held aloft by the idea that all this discomfort was for the greater good.

When the phlebotomist came back from chatting up the sign-in volunteer, he unceremoniously yanked the needle out of INTERN's arm.

"What happens now?" said INTERN. "Is my blood going into the blood bank?"

"Nope," said the Viking, tossing INTERN's bag of blood aside like a loaf of moldy bread.

"What do you mean 'nope'?"

"We can't use it. Too thick. Next time, drink more water before you come in."

INTERN couldn't believe her ears. After all this waiting...all this aching...

"So what happens to blood you can't use?"

"We throw it out."

"YOU'RE THROWING OUT MY BLOOD???"

This was an outrage! This was unbelievable! Nobody throws out INTERN's blood! Especially not after making her lie on some table for an hour and a half!

INTERN's facial expression communicated as much, whereupon the Viking handed her a Star Wars band-aid and let her in on a little secret.

"Don't worry, lady. You'll make more."

**

Editors have been saying the same thing to writers from time immemorial.

When INTERN feels reluctant, indignant, rageful or wistful about cutting yet another scene from yet another draft of a WIP, she tries to remember that words are to writers as blood is to...well, everyone: We make more. That's just what we do.

Even though it's hard to see your blood thrown on the stink barge, it's good to know there's more where that came from. And if you drink more water this time, it might even end up in the bank.

22 comments:

  1. Excellent, if not extremely vivid metaphor.

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  2. I'm usually not a big fan of "How Life is Like Writing..." stories, but this one was just perfect.

    (Somehow I think bleeding all over a ream of paper would be easier than writing/editing/rewriting my book. However, I think my hopefully-soon-to-be-agent would likely freak out if I sent her a package of bloody 8 1/2" x 11" pages.)


    -- Tom

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  3. I was already chuckling by the end. As soon as the phlebotomist walked over to the sign-up sheet person I knew the blood wasn't going to be usable because he just found out you had lived in London during the mad cow disease outbreak or something of that nature. The analogy made it all the better. Having just cut the manuscript down from 100k words to 63k, it resonated well.

    Thank you for sharing,
    Eliabeth Hawthorne

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  4. Tom: Haha! INTERN has been trying to rein in her tendency towards extended writing metaphors...but somehow this one weaseled its way out. INTERN is back on the wagon starting today...

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  5. @Elizabeth - that whole throw our the blood because of mad cow disease actually happened to me. *rage*

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  6. One time when I gave blood, I sprang off the table right afterward, walked over to a desk, promptly fainted on it and slid off to the floor dragging all the detritus with me. Oh the shocked faces when I woke up! Ever after when I came in, the room tension would spike. Folks practically sat on my chest to make me stay awhile. Perhaps the stretched and mixed metaphors here are to not launch a draft you just bled out lest it crash and burn.

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  7. Hmm, my first (and last) attempt to give blood went a little worse than this. Turns out I have a blood/injury phobia! Which is not something you can argue with. Fainted (and started fitting) after a few minutes. They didn't want me to take a biscuit, meanies. I also maintain the phantom of the opera soundtrack that was playing added something sinister to the ambiance.

    I don't know how this works into the writing theme...except once I had the same reaction while reading a book. Hello grey tunnel, hello breathless panting, hello darkness. Yep, that much of a wuss over words...but I managed to write a novel, in between bouts of swooning (I'm sure all the Victorian ladies were carrying on the same way).

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  8. Gruesome metaphor but you hit the nail on the head.
    Personally, I never give blood (needles scare me). But then again, I'm also not a writer.

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  9. Allegories can't get better than that!

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  10. Well said. I'm not able to give blood, as I have low blood pressure... I wonder if my writing productivity suffers as a result?

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  11. Okay, fine, I'll go make more words.

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  12. This is such a great metaphor. I used to hate cutting scenes (and sometimes scrapping entire stories), but lately I've learned that I can always write a new (and better) one! Sorry about the blood, though. I would've been so mad! :/

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  13. Sometimes, it's actually Techie Boyfriend who gets freaked out when INTERN cuts scenes..."you cut THAT PART? that was my favorite part!" then when he sees the new draft, he doesn't even notice those parts are gone...

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  14. PS. Lots of writers scared of needles! What's up with that?

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  15. Hysterical! So true. Whenever I have the selfish desire to hold back some gem from the manuscript, I remember that Anne Lamotte says to give freely. There will always be more.

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  16. I think we must have dallied with the same phlebotomist. The last and only time I engaged that one, I was left with heart palpitations, and not the romantic kind! I now give blood only with sweat and tears, at my keyboard or drawing board. All's well?

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  17. talk about blood on the page... dig it!

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  18. Love this! I would have been equally outraged and the truth would have deflated it all like a balloon.

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