Inspired to Revise: My Thoughts on Peeling Away The Layers

Whispering Pines behind me, I prepare to journey to the land of revision. My coffee cup refilled, I escape to my writing room with the dog and a cat, or two. (If I don’t extend an invitation to the pets in the beginning, I will have to endure the sound of paws traipsing up and down the hallway, after which, tapping and scratching on the door will commence.) 

Once my furry family members settle into their usual spots, I close the door to the world behind me and slip to the place where doors do not exist, where the open sky welcomes me, as do the surrounding pine trees. While this place is not in my writing room, it is in my mind, my memories. This world sits in my heart where I can tap into it, and so, I do.  Eyes shut, I drift to where I need to be, alone in my mind with my story.

I picture myself sitting on a pile of dry needles, leaning against a tree trunk, surrounded by my WIP characters. Speckles of sunlight dance in the grass as clouds roll through the sky. Two squirrels chase each other across the lawn, up a tree, and then back down again. In my mind, I yearn to pick up my camera and take pictures or go on a walk with my characters. Anything but, dissect my manuscript. Why? Fear.

It takes courage to slice and dice something we have poured out heart into. It also requires confidence and skill. And because of the recent Whispering Pines conference, I feel stronger. I fight my fear and self-doubt with the tools I’ve acquired. With Cheryl Klein’s book Second Sight at my side, I am prepared to battle. My manuscript may resemble a battlefield for a while, but in the end, I will win this war with myself. I will cut and chop. I will dice and shred. I will strip away the layers of my manuscript, like a Sycamore or Birch tree with its peeling bark.

I have always loved these types of trees. Their beautiful camouflage appearance fascinates me, especially knowing that the peeling process is the tree’s way of shedding scale insects and heavy encrustation of moss and lichens. The Sycamore tree provided much comfort for my young nieces and me when my sister was ill a few years back. As bark peeled away, it left sections of unscarred tree trunk. We saw this as a clean slate, new possibilities, and most importantly, hope. When revising, I keep a piece of Sycamore bark on my desk. Inspired by how the tree sheds unwanted insects, I work my manuscript with the goal of shedding those characters and passages that do not aid or move the story forward.

While the process of revising can feel lonely at times, I am not alone, as reminded at Whispering Pines. In the places where I get stuck or unsure, I picture the circle of Adirondack chairs by the lake. I see the smiles. Hear the laughter. Writers for children are incredibly warm and supportive of each other. I hope the remainder of my pictures represents this.


Thank you for stopping by and sharing this experience with me. I hope to see many of you at Whispering Pines next year!

This week, we have featured another of our NESCBWI members for Free Fall Friday.

10 thoughts on “Inspired to Revise: My Thoughts on Peeling Away The Layers

  1. Thanks, Kathy! I am glad you enjoyed my pictures.

    Kathryn, thank you for stopping by again. I agree with you about the pictures with shadows. When I saw those images, I had to stop to capture them.
    Your response to the prompt is so fun!! I love, love the pixie. Talk about a voice!

    1. Thanks, Betsy! I actually went through a phase in college where I made paintings very much inspired by lines of light and shadow (created by branches, windows, etc.) – so fascinating.

  2. I wonder why we are drawn to these type of images? Yesterday, I was photographing the shadows in the pond near my home. Perhaps I can see some of your paintings if you still have them.

  3. Hi Betsy,

    You know how much I love trees!! Perfect metaphor. I just won Cheryl’s book and can’t wait to read the revisions chapter. It is so hard to cut and peel back but I’m sure you will do well. Good luck.


  4. Betsy, good luck with your revision. It’s when we get our best work…when we’re ready to peel away whatever stands in the way of our best work. I’m reading Cheryl Klein’s book, too. It’s inspirational. We need to be open to anything and anyone who can help us reach our best writing potential.

    1. Thanks, Carol,
      You worded this beautifully! I am peeling away, stripping off one layer at a time. Cheryl is a master of revision. How lucky we are that she shared this book with us. Happy writing! Betsy

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