Tea gowns and white linen

The Just for the Hell of It Writers leave tomorrow morning for the Texas Mountain Trail Writers 19th Annual Writing Round-up. We’ll stay two nights at Paisano Baptist Encampment near Alpine, where the retreat will be held. Then we’ll stay another night in Alpine and head home Monday morning.

I’ll save the program for a future post, except to say it includes a Cowboy Breakfast on Sunday morning. I don’t know exactly what a Cowboy Breakfast entails, but I’m hoping it involves gravy.

The 500-word optional and fun assignment that was perfect three weeks ago turned out to be not so perfect, so I’ve spent the past several days revising. I had to add some material, which meant I had to take things out, which led to taking out other things, which led to…a lot of complaining.

It also led to research. I spent five hours hopping around the Internet so I could remove dotted swiss and it, and substitute tea gowns and white linen. Or I hope I substituted tea gowns. At one point I had lingerie dresses in that spot, but I was afraid my readers might not be familiar with the term. The story is about a one-room school teacher. I didn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea.

I made other changes, too. The nameless narrator now has a name, and two other characters were rechristened. Vilbry Hollan is now Milroy Dunne. Harley Lubeck is now Harvey. I had nothing against the original names, except that I got tongue-tied every time I tried to pronounce them. Since I have to read the story aloud, I thought it wise to choose something I wouldn’t trip over. I kept saying Harvey anyway, even when Harley was staring up at me in 12-point Times New Roman.

I may also have to do something about the Imogene that appears twice in the narrative. The child pronounces her name with a long i, but I don’t always remember to.

Several times I’ve asked myself what difference it makes, long i or short i. The answer is, it just does. Imogene is a figment of my imagination, but she pronounces her name with a long i, and she wants me to say it that way too.

So that is the story of my week: wrestling with words. Of course, after all the grumbling and the shuffling, I have a better product. Characters’ motivations are clearer. The plot is improved. Dialogue is smoother.

Revision worked. My perfect story is now more perfect.

I hate it when that happens.

It’s late and I have a long day before me and the laundry is finished–that’s why I’m still awake, I had to do a load of laundry or go sockless, not what I want to do in Alpine in April–anyway, I shall end this post and go to bed.

But here’s the thing: if I saved this and then revised it tomorrow morning and posted it before I left town, it would be a much better piece of writing, and probably half as long as it is now. And it wouldn’t have sentences like the two previous.

But no. I’ve done my revision for the week. Enough is enough.

And if anyone wants to get out the red pencil–be my guest.