And I said to myself, hmmm. My friend is not stupid. Possibly there are advantages to this system that might apply to my very own situation. Possibly I could make use of some aspect of it without having the complete crazy-making of trying to draft that way. Possibly?
And so I printed out the chapters of What We Did to Save the Kingdom with -- and you will probably find this completely radical -- page breaks between each chapter. (I know! The creativity just never stops around here.) And I paperclipped each chapter together. And then I went through the list of things that Really Truly Must Be Done Before Another Soul Can See This Book. (Filename: What We Did to Sort the Revisions. Other filenames in the same folder: What We Did to Sum It Up, What We Did to Write the Sequel, What We Did to Excise the Flashbacks, What We Did to Keep Track of the Details, and What We Did to Annoy the Readers. The last is a preemptive file. For later.) And I wrote each thing on a Post-It note, and I put it on the chapter it goes with, and if it goes in more than one chapter, I put it on more than one Post-It note.
And now when I want to work on the revisions, and I know I won't have much time before the vertigo starts to eat my brain, I can pick up a chapter and see discrete chunks of work that need doing in that chapter. So I don't have to look at what needs doing and think, "Does that go in Chapter 7? What if it's in Chapter 12? Did I check that it can happen that early? Or that late? What's going on here?" Also I could weigh the chapters in my hands and think thinky thoughts about them. How they flow and how it all balances.
(Also, the last quarter to a third of the book -- the bit that is Ending in my head -- is on bright blue paper instead of white. I would love to say that this is because I am brilliant about structure, but it's actually because we ran out of white paper. It is nevertheless extremely useful for pacing purposes. Go serendipity.)
And in fact I tried this tonight, and I got rid of all the notes on Chapter 6 and all the notes on Chapter 7. They are okay. They are ready to be seen by mortal eyes. I'm not going to subject some poor mortal to the book in this form ("Here you go! Here are Chapters 1-3, 6, 7, 19, 23, and 34, which is the last chapter!"), but still, concrete, verifiable progress was made. Even if this system comes to a screeching halt in a flurry of Post-Its and paper-clips tomorrow, there were things that needed doing to Chapters 6 and 7, and now they are done.
Eeeee. There is light after all, and it's not just that I've decided that there must be something bigger and better than a lamp and called it a sun. I've been spending the last few weeks as a Puddleglum Novelist*, and it's sort of nice to think that at least some of it is back to being Under Me.
*Puddleglum paraphrased for novelists: "That's why I'm going to stand by the play world...I'm going to live as like a novelist as I can even if there isn't any novel." Also: "Reshpectomrissale." All right, it's late, I'm ridiculous.