Contest: What’s Your Revision Metaphor?

WARNING: MIXED METAPHORS (or possibly even analogies) AHEAD:

You know that stage in revision, when things are FINALLY coming together? When you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel (and it’s NOT a train)? I have struggled for years to come up with a good way to describe. Something concise, cohesive, and coherent that really hits the nail on the head. See? There’s already that whole nail/hammer imagery going on, and we haven’t got to the contest yet!

I’m heading off to yet another workshop where I will be talking about this moment WITHOUT a metaphor. Without one that really says it all. Oh, sure, I’ll talk about weeding out the stuff that doesn’t belong, I’ll describe sanding off the rough spots. I’ll tell them how the puzzle pieces start to fit, even fall into place on their very own. I’ll mention Michelangelo’s (or was it daVinci? Someone else altogether?) idea that the statue is already in the chunk of rock, and that if you (only he?!) chip away long enough, the complete thing will emerge. If I’m crazy enough, I might even mention the idea that it’s kind of like carving something out of soap and watching all the spare flakes fall to the ground (and hoping that the darned thing doesn’t snap into pieces).

Okay, no, I won’t talk about all these things. The workshop is only an hour, for pete’s sake. Plus, I don’t want the people who come to listen thinking I’m completely crazy.

Wouldn’t it be nice, though, to come back to the answer. A description of one or two (okay, MAYBE three) sentences that just…says it? You all know what I’m talking about–if you haven’t hit it yet, yourselves, you’ve heard other people talk about it and you’ve dreamed about it happening to you. Yes, you have. I’m not saying it’s the moment of “done.” But it’s that time when all the work you’ve done starts to feel worthwhile. When you see a glimmer of resemblance between the words on the page and the vision in your mind. When you at least start to believe that you may possibly create something that holds together, stands on its own, doesn’t–as my husband is fond of saying–roll on square wheels.

So, while I’m gone: A contest.

Normally, I am a totally random contest-winner chooser. I put all the names in the hat, and I draw one out. Not this time. This time, I will be…A JUDGE.

Here’s what I want. Post your entry in the comment section of this post. I’ll give you UP TO 3 sentences to come up with a metaphor (or an analogy or a simile or a comparison or a whatever) that gets these elements across:

  • That feeling that you’ve gotten rid of most, if not all, of those big extras you THOUGHT you’d need but that you now see have no place in the story.
  • That feeling that, when you make a change in one chapter, you (almost) instantly think of one or two more places in the book that you need to change, and you’ve got a pretty clear idea of what change is going to work.
  • That feeling that, as you revise, you’re connecting your characters at a deeper level, that everybody’s story is starting to link up with everybody else’s. In a good way.
  • And, finally, that feeling that you may still have a long way to go, but that–right now–you’re very busy turning this story into something.


Wait, what? Oh, a prize? Yes, there is a prize.

If you win, and you don’t already have it, I’ll send you a signed copy of my book, The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide. But I don’t want to cut out ideas from anybody who already has the book. SO…if you win and you do already have the book and don’t want a copy for a friend, I’ll send you, INSTEAD, a copy of Colin Cotterill’s The Coroner’s Lunch. Just because this series is my newest happy reading discovery, and I like to share. Basically, your choice!

I’m going to run the contest for a week, and I’ll announce the winner on Wednesday, May 18th. I’m going to make no claims about knowing the BEST entry; I’m just going to pick the one that feels the most right with the way I feel when I get to this point in revising. I’m still working on an early draft of my WIP, so all these entries are going to be nice reminders of what I have to look forward to–good motivation for writing along, so I get to revise.

Enter away. And have fun!


31 thoughts on “Contest: What’s Your Revision Metaphor?

  1. Lani Longshore says:

    This happens so rarely I’ve never needed a metaphor! Nevertheless, a line from Babylon 5 popped into my head – the hour of scampering, when fingers fly over the keyboard and every stroke is right and true.


    • beckylevine says:

      It’s a great line & could work. For me, it feels a bit more like those great days when the first-draft writing flows, but I’ll definitely drop it in the pot for consideration!


  2. At first I thought you had taken all the good metaphors-gardening and puzzles. But here is my first metaphor:

    Throw a gob of wet, slimy clay unto a potter’s wheel. Turn it, mold it, shape it, trim it carefully and with great precision; then bake it. Take it out of the oven, find a crack, and throw a gob of wet, slimy clay unto a potter’s wheel….


    • beckylevine says:

      I like this one, because it has a lot of steps–just like revision! And I like that you can be far enough along to bake it, then find a more specific crack that’s a problem. (Although in a manuscript, one crack won’t usually send you to start completely over!)


      • YOu’re right about that Becky! So maybe i should change it to “find lots of cracks”–but I couldn’t resist the impulse of having to start all over again! Which we have all done. THis was very fun. I just came back from a short bike ride and saw some pots sitting out on a porch and this all came to me as I was riding. Had to come home and write it down before I forgot it!


  3. And here is my second:
    When you write a book you create a tapestry, weaving in many-colored yarns, threads, ribbons, and even a button or two. From underneath you pull out misplaced threads, tie up the ends, and wonder what the finished product will look like. When you turn it over, the end product delights and stuns you.


  4. Greg Fields says:

    A few years ago I decided to have a mid life crisis before I got too old. No, it wasn’t a sports car…gas costs too much. Uh uh, not a boat…I get sea sick. I know what some of you are thinking, but it wasn’t a young blond either…my wife wouldn’t find that amusing. Instead, I planted a small backyard vineyard. I’ve found a strong similarity to establishing that vineyard and writing, so here goes my entry:

    Writing a book is a lot like establishing a vineyard.

    Year One: You take sip of wine and decide to plant a small, rooted twig that produces a dozen vibrant green shoots, of which you select one as the trunk and cut away the rest.

    Year Two: Buds push out from the trunk into another beautiful bunch of strong vines, but this time you keep two as cordons to support the promise of future fruit and then you prune the others.

    Year Three: From the spurs on the cordon, vines once again emerge and weave together up the trellis bearing succulent clusters of grapes that brings to fruition the vision you had three years ago over a sip of wine.


    • Greg Fields says:

      Thanks you, but just like with all of my writing projects, I realized that I ended this one too soon. It should have ended something like:

      “…brings to fruition the vision you had three years ago over a sip of wine until you realize that your journey has only begun; harvest and fermentation still awaits.”


  5. Revisions are like the Bathroom Makeover from Hell when you look around your very serviceable bathroom, knowing there are some things you must keep because you love them so, some things you can’t change without ruining the structure, and some things that absolutely must go because they’re just unnecessary or downright ugly. So you roll up your sleeves and get to work, and along the way, you find that everytime you make a change, it affects the whole makeover. Till at last, after a TON of blood, sweat and tears, you’ve got a pretty decent bathroom–and you vow you’ll NEVER do that again, until you walk into your very serviceable kitchen.


    • Greg Fields says:

      Having just finished a complete gut job on my bathroom, I both feel your pain and definately see the similarity to writing. The only thing you forgot is that the project takes twice as long as you planned and cost three times more than you budgeted…at least that’s how my project ended up.


  6. This metaphor comes with a warning. By day, I’m a pediatric ER nurse. This is not for the queasy. 🙂

    Revision is cleaning up the pile of word vomit created in the first draft and taking the stink out of what is left behind.


    • beckylevine says:

      Don’t worry, Lorettajo. I worked many summers in my parents’ veterinary clinic–I can handle the gross stuff! This is good, although I’d also love to see what you can do with the feeling that comes further along the revision journey. 🙂


  7. Kathleen Trail says:

    For me, it’s like an archealogical dig… Sometimes you start knowing there’s a treasure to be found, sometimes you just start sifting through it all to see what’s left in the strata of your memory.

    But when you uncover that first telltale sign that there’s something big and intact with structural integrity that will hold up, you have to be careful, approach it from all angles. Once you’ve dug deeply and dusted off enough silt to see the full form of what you have, it’s magical.


    • beckylevine says:


      I like this–I’m always thinking in terms of brushing dirt away and getting rid of the mud and seeing what comes out. 🙂


  8. Not sure if this is exactly a metaphor, but here goes!

    I pick up my daughter, right out of the brambly, muddy, slug infested thicket where she’s gleefully buried herself. She doesn’t want to go in, she’s having fun outside and the rain and the thunder don’t bother her. She wants to run and run and run. But it’s time to get her cleaned up. I strip off her dungarees, leaving them waterlogged on the floor, I check her for ticks, for scrapes, for twigs. Now that we’re working not playing, she notices the boo boos. I clean them while the bath water is running and she cries, struggles a bit. It hurts me too, but I know it will make it better. In the tub she wants me to play with her, but I can’t, I have to get her clean. I wash the mud and leaves out of her hair, the clay-dirt from beneath her finger nails. I go over every inch of her, checking for missed boo boos or interloping ticks.
    Out of the tub, I rub her hair dry with the towel until it sticks up in tufts, then comb it down against her sleek head. She’s naked and clean and beautiful.


    • beckylevine says:

      Hey, Alex,

      Thanks for stopping by. I already picked the winner, but I do love your image. I especially like the part where she wants you to play with her, but you have to get her clean. Nice!


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