Snow whirls from every direction. Lady Lake Superior conducts her frozen orchestra, each note a snowflake that adds to the howling concert. Snow is going to become an issue.

On the Keweenaw Peninsula of Upper Michigan, snow removal becomes a big deal. We often get over 300 inches of the white stuff. Today was the first big dump and I was the first neighbor to start scooping. Ordinary snow shovels won’t do. We need Yooper Scoopers.

I opened the garage to find a smaller shovel and one fell into my arms. I laughed, thinking about Liz Husebye Hartmann’s rakish romance from the prompt Carry On. I was excited to grab the shovel to clear my steps. Except, it was the wrong shovel. I leaned the disappointed gardening shovel back against the wall and found the square shovel instead. I’ll dance with the digging shovel next spring.

The steel scoops and shovels clang against paved driveways and cement steps. It’s a distinct scraping sound that can be heard by neighbors. Once someone within hearing distance initiates snow removal, others want to join in. We each have our own tools and we shout to one another over the roar of wind, friendly banter that will continue all snow season.

Now, some of you better acquainted with snow might wonder why we are shoveling in the storm. Most people who live in snowy places shovel or blow driveways after a storm passes. We don’t get storms like that. We get a chugging snow machine who creates her own weather. I’ve seen months when the snow never ceases. It might lessen, but it doesn’t stop. Going into snow season, the lake effect storms putter like bad gas in a snowblower. We’ve had lots of puttering, but the system is now fully operational.

We make hills as high as we can push a Yooper Scooper. The bottom of the scoop is like a sled. You don’t lift snow with this tool, you push and scatter it, eventually building giant debris hills of white. If the accumulations are deep, we have to think about removal. One year, some neighbors hired a loader to remove snow so they could continue to scoop their driveways. We have an effective piling system, and as of yet, we have not required the services of a big tool like a loader.

The City of Hancock employs workers between 2:30-7:30 am to remove snow from streets. As a late-night writer, it’s one of my winter pleasures to watch the machinery and dump trucks parade up and down Roberts Street in the wee hours when no one else is awake. For now, they will plow and grade. By the New Year, I’ll have a front-row seat to all the snow removal tools.

And speaking of tools, it’s time to consider tools of revision.

Many writers confuse revision with editing. They are not the same thing and each requires different tools. A lot of writers skip revision because they don’t understand how to do it. Or, find the creation of a Revision Plan too difficult. It is a lot of work. Just like removing snow. But it comes with the territory of being a writer. As a reformed pantser, I discovered that I love the process of revision.

First, consider the work you are dreaming or drafting. I say dreaming in reference to pre-writing activities. Currently, I’m dreaming my next novel. I’m writing some flash fiction with a protagonist in mind, curious about her story. I’m exploring, hoping to learn more. My next novel is churning in my imagination. Pre-writing is dream-time. It’s also plotting, mapping a character arc, and planning.

You cannot jump from dreaming to revising. Revising requires that sloppy first draft. Whatever you want to call it — sloppy, shitty, ugly — be sure to respect it. Can we find a more accepting word to describe first drafts? We have to tell ourselves the story first (or let our characters or muses inform us). To me, that’s raw literature. It’s a body of writing at its freshest. It’s vulnerable. It’s lost. It’s brilliant. It’s not finished, yet.

In fact, it’s only just begun.

This is the kind of love we must have for our raw first drafts.

A Revision Plan acknowledges the hard work of dreaming and drafting coming together to produce this literary love child you proudly call your MS. Your manuscript. A Revision Plan sets out to feed, nurture, educate, and grow this bookchild to the best of our ability. Think of it as your toolbox to fix or keep the pages humming like a powerful engine.

The way I create a Revision Plan is in sections. There are four:

  1. Structure
  2. Content
  3. Research
  4. Correctness

Structure gives shape to all that draft material. Think of this — if your raw draft were kale, what is your intended dish? A hip kale salad with cherry vinaigrette? A kale frittata with lion’s mane mushrooms? Baked kale chips with curry powder? Kale stir fry with scallops and sesame seeds? Structure asks you to consider your genre, tropes, and audience as much as your plot points, paring back scenes to purpose, and changing the hair color of your character. You want to collect these sort of tools:

Content covers what goes into your structure. Be aware that content is layered. You need a variety of tools:

Research is anything you need to verify to create verisimilitude. When you invite readers into your story you want them to believe, to feel the tension, imagine the setting, and connect to the protagonist.

Correctness is part of editing, but more. It includes getting your genre right or meeting standards for manuscripts. Are your dialog tags and punctuation correct? Make a list of misspelled words, wobbly grammar rules, and any craft confusion that you need to double-check.

What goes into your Revision Plan is as unique as your style of writing, intended audience, publishing path, and the material you plan to revise. It’s multilayered and is a process that is repeated. Once you begin to make your own lists under each section, you can refine your tools.

Time to get dreaming about tools, any tools.

November 18, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write about tools. Whose tools are they and how do they fit into the story? What kind of tools? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by November 30, 2021. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Pike’s Peak or Bust by Charli Mills

Bertie packed her father’s carpentry tools along with her calico dresses. The rest of his estate she sold to buy passage on the Merry Rover, a flat-bottomed steamship of the Missouri River. Somewhere, out there, where the sun set in streaks of orange and pink was her destiny. She learned the trade of building boxes and houses from her father, although none of the locals would hire her on account that she wore a skirt. Out west, her skills were needed, and she reckoned convention of gender wouldn’t matter as much. Pike’s Peak was not a bust for Bertie.

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