Sunday, April 21, 2019

Revising the snot-green couch

If you've been reading the blog awhile, you may have picked up on how I love love love to move furniture.  It's genetic: mum loved to whisk the sofa around the sitting room; grandmama was known to shift the piano from time to time.

"Where do you want the piano this time, lady?" was a phrase we adopted to signal the other that this was the VERY last time something was getting relocated. It came about, as you might guess, from the workmen who were called in to help grandmama when the piano needed to move up or down the stairs, not just across the room.

My dad, gent that he was, moved a lot of furniture but even he had a limit to his patience. Dad would say "you get one free move" when Mum decided the book cases would look better on the south wall. After that, we were on our own.

Which was ok with us. We moved furniture in the middle of the night more often than not.  My sisters and dad would wake to find a sofa had mysteriously appeared from another room and now blocked their usual path to the coffee pot.

Ah yes, the good old days.

Now that I live in NYC in a sub 500 square foot apartment, there's not only less furniture to move, the floor plan presents some challenges.

Thus, the story of the snot-green couch. (I did not name this couch, but sadly, it's too on the nose to give up.)

I'd always wanted a couch with a chaise.

I fell in love with this thing the instant I saw it. That it was on sale was just a bonus. I loved it so much I didn't even sit on it before I bought it.

But that chaise element added not just length to the required area, it took up more volume than it actually occupied.  There were only two places it fit in the apartment that did not block the path to other rooms.  The day I thought "well, I'll just go OVER it to get to the kitchen" was the day I realized something had to change.

I had three choices:

1. Live with the sofa even though it wasn't quite right for the apartment.

2. Revise the sofa in some major way

3. Move

I don't have to explain about rent control in NYC for you to intuit that Number 3 was not an option.

And you don't have to know me very well to know that Number 1 was also not an option.

Thus: Number 2, revise the sofa.
Which I did.
With scissors.

I think the Lesson of the Snot-Green Couch (revise what doesn't work) applies to your manuscripts as well. 

Sometimes you have a project you LOVE!
Only it doesn't work. Either as a story, or in the marketplace.

Love zombies? Zombies aren't doing well right now.
Love old-fashioned gunslinger westerns? Not much call for that. 

Zombie cowboys? No. Some things should not be written.

Unless you trash it (ie #3 Move) or self-publish it (#1 live with it) you're going to need to be willing to do some drastic revisions.

That you love the manuscript isn't part of the equation. I loved that damn chaise but love didn't make it fit where it needed to live.

Be willing to consider a major overhaul.

Be willing to cut things, revise things, sew a seam (out of sight of course). 

Be willing to sacrifice what you love for something that actually does the job you need.

Sadly, the snot-green couch has now sprung a coil or four.
I think I need to buy a new one.

This time, I'm sitting on it first.
And I'm not buying one with a chaise.

Cause what I really need is a comfy spot to read your amazing novel about zombie gunslingers.


Michael Seese said...

We have the same couch. Though ours is more snot-grey.

Mister Furkles said...

There have been several Zombie-Cowboy movies. While they may have all be bad D movies, some folks were paid to write the scripts.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Our red couch (now with brown slipcovers) is a two section L shaped monster with, you guessed it, a chaise. A longish one, though, so another 2-3 people who are comfortable with each other could sit on that length. Our house is large-ish, and the entry room is the whole front of the house, but with a dividing wall as though we would like to have pocket doors between them (we do not, nor have pocket doors probably ever entered the architecture here. The library had them once, though! In its original 1893 construction)

hmmm, I don't have zombie gunslingers, but I do have a novella with trains and dragons and Old Growth Trees in just-past the gold rush era. A novella, though....guess I'll just have to send you a copy after it gets picked up somewhere!

Dena Pawling said...

At my house, if you move any furniture while I'm asleep you'll find all of your personal belongings outside at the curb and the locks changed. I'm legally blind without my glasses, and if I fall over something you moved [or failed to put away] during the night because I woke up and needed the bathroom or a drink of water, I won't be the only one who ends up with an injury................

When I was younger, I'd draw all the rooms and furniture to scale, cut them out, then rearrange everything until everyone in the family was satisfied. We'd move the furniture in the morning the following day, which gave everyone [read: me] time to adjust to it, and there it would remain until we did it all over again.

>>I don't have to explain about rent control in NYC for you to intuit that Number 3 was not an option.

But this would have given you a good reason to (1) increase your client base, to be able to afford the $5000+ in increased monthly rent you'd end up paying in your new digs, (2) buy all new furniture, and (3) paint again!

>>But that chaise element added not just length to the required area, it took up more volume than it actually occupied.

OMG this! Furniture ALWAYS takes up more volume than it actually occupies. I've broken my toes too many times for this to be a coincidence. In fact, I now never walk around without socks [or something sturdier] on my feet, to keep my toes confined and reduce the likelihood of breakage.

>>Be willing to sacrifice what you love for something that actually does the job you need.

Here's what I've done: I re-saved the WIP under a new document name. That way I kept what I loved [and I still love it], in case it becomes a hot commodity in the future. I changed the character names, then did the drastic overhaul. No, it's not zombie gunslingers, unfortunately. But now I have two WIPs. Hopefully both will eventually find a home.

Good luck finding just the right couch for your needs and your space.

julie.weathers said...

Dear heavens. That poor couch.

I needed a couch once and good couches are expensive. My dad sent me $500 for Christmas one year and I decided to go couch shopping. I spotted a couch just inside the door and fell in love. It was solid leather, russet, long enough for me to sleep comfortably when I was having trouble breathing, gorgeous, and $2,500.

Will and I walked around the store sitting on various couches, but I am short and most are insanely uncomfortable. I'd either have to sit with my legs straight out our scrunch down so my knees would hit the edge of the cushions. One salesman suggested I buy extra pillows to line the couch with. I'm not a fan of those floating pillows that never stay where they're supposed to anyway. Kids love them to build forts with, but Will was a bit beyond fort building.

I went back to the front of the store and sat down on my couch. It even fit short-legged me perfectly. Another salesman came up. The previous one had given up on a lost cause.

"That's a nice couch."

"Yes, it is."

"You need that couch."

"Yes, I do, but I can't afford it. I'm not spending $2,500 on a couch. I only have $500."

The salesman grinned and flipped the tag over. "It's a display model we used in a model home and because it's got a few minor scratches on's been marked down to $500."

"What?" I leaned over the couch to look. Sure enough. In big red numbers. $500.

It came home with me. It looks something like this. It's big. And heavy. I may be buried in it.

When I moved to Wisconsin, we had to take out two windows in my new house to get it in. I replaced the windows with new ones and Will did a very good job of building a strong support system around the new windows. We had to take all that back out when I moved out.

The couch wouldn't go in the front door of the new house, but they crammed it in anyway and skinned it up badly. It will need to be reupholstered at some point. It will probably cost as much as a new couch. I will replace the front door with a new, wider door for my couch, because good couches that fit are hard to find.

They're also hard to move around because...heavy.

I don't move furniture much. We lived in our first real house for ten years and I moved the furniture once. Don, bless his soul, complained he was going to come in one night and break his neck because I changed things so often.

Once I get things like I want them, I don't change.

Perhaps this type of personality makes revisions particularly hard for me. I've cut several thousand words already. I've cut arcs, and characters that have a place in the story, but will have to appear later. I keep everything I cut in a rag bag as Diana Gabaldon calls the place you keep all the things you cut from a story.

In reading, I realize some lines, a lot can disappear entirely and the story won't change. Some lines I am quite sure I didn't write, but I like so I run them through the plagiarizer checker. Nope, it's original. I guess the boys in the back wrote it. Some scenes I dearly love, but they don't really move the story forward and...word count.

And, frankly, at this point it's gone from a love hate relationship to pure hatred. I'm sure we'll reconcile at some point.

Karen McCoy said...

Great post. And as much as I love the possibility of zombie gunslingers (even though they don't have a space in the market), this kind of rethinking can also apply to structural changes in a novel.

Case in point: Sometimes even if you revise a sofa, it will always be a chaise. That happened with the novel I'd been editing on and off for six years--structurally, it still had the same flaws, no matter how much rearranging, revising or feng shui I tried.

Sometimes it's okay (though it might be painful) to put the chaise in storage and remodel another project in the apartment. Hence why I brought out my talking vole. He fits much better in the current space. And someday, I might find the right platform to revise the structural flaws on the six-year-old novel.

nightsmusic said...

Let me preface this by saying I hate my house. When we sold my beautiful, fairly open floor plan, I pounded the nails when that house was built, house, I cried. I loved it. But a job location change for hubs precipitated a move 40 miles from my beautiful house. I had an idea of what I wanted and got...none of it. So now, the rooms are small and there are too many obstacles and...never mind. You get the idea. Anyway, I have a smallish living room now and to compensate for the size, bought two loveseats rather than a couch. Hubs insists he get to keep a recliner so I have one of those as well. The smaller sizes allow me to rearrange easier and that satisfies my need for change. I bought them from PB (you know...that store) and can also change the look for a lot less by buying their slipcovers which fit perfectly. Much better than buying new furniture. They also sell replacement cushions, etc and there's a lifetime warranty on it all.

What I did do was buy a matching ottoman! So depending on where I'm sitting, I still have my chaise, but I'm not stuck with one configuration. Plus, it serves as extra seating, so there's that.

Kind of like getting rid of the couch (your darlings) in the story you're working on and making it into a loveseat instead. The ottoman gives you the chance to arrange the story to make it the best possible.

And that example was a stretch! lol...

The Noise In Space said...

How funny that this should be the post today--I've just spent the last two hours assembling an Ikea bookcase by myself, and while I will never admit that this was in fact too big and too heavy for me to attempt alone, my bleeding toes will gladly testify for the opposition. I'm taking a break now before attempting to stand it up. But I'm convinced it will be worth it. My room was in desperate need of a re-do (and as someone also living in an NYC shoebox, options were limited).

CynthiaMc said...

When we were first married I used to amuse myself by rearranging furniture at night while hubby was at work. He came in early one night and did a triple back flip over an ottoman. I thought he was a burglar. I flipped on the light and there he was all sprawled out. He said "Are you trying to kill me already?"

I don't think it's an accident that everywhere we've lived since has one wall the couch will fit on, etc.

I've had a couch fund for several years now. It keeps turning into the car repair fund, but hope springs eternal. Maybe my zombie cowboy novel will do the trick...

julie.weathers said...


I tore out all the kitchen cabinets in my new house because they were falling apart and ratty and the sink cabinets had been flooded os much it was rotted out completely. When I tore them out, I found the floor was also rotted out.

I kept an eye on Craig's list and found some beautiful hickory cabinets a woman was taking out of her house. They were custom cabinets. Nineteen for $700, but I needed to pick them up New Year's Eve.

I had a crew who could do that. No problem. They had to wait until they could get their kids from school and then go pick up the trailer. Nineteen cabinets will not fit in a pickup.

A blizzard started. It took a little longer getting the trailer. They were supposed to be there at 5:00. They weren't there. She had another buyer. Where were they?

Panicked calls all around.

Has my crew gotten into another fight? They've been having some problems lately and she's threatened to kill him, with just cause, and I think she might.

More panicked calls.

"Tell her to chill. We're on our way."

They arrive at 5:15 and load the cabinets.

"Why are they just sitting in my driveway?"

"I don't know, did you ask them?"

"Are you still at her house?"

Krys. "Yes, we're tying the cabinets down. Between her and him, I'm going to kill someone."

Dear God, please get my cabinets here first.

A cop is waiting at the stop sign and follows them out to the highway even though two obvious drunks go by that he totally ignores. Nope, gotta keep an eye on the suspicious pickup with a trailer load of cabinets. They stop on the highway to tarp the cabinets. Blizzard is in full force now. I'm envisioning the 6:00 news with a story about two people beside the highway throwing cabinets at each other.

They arrive without incident and unload the cabinets. You'll note that was New Year's Eve. My crew installed most of them two days ago. I am missing a 12" cabinet to make the run perfect, but I have extra cabinets. I may tear one apart and build a new one from the carcass. This is a light hickory without a lot of grain. It would be almost impossible to match.

I have enough to tear out the imitation china cabinet in the dining room and install cabinets there. I have enough to replace cabinets in the laundry room.

I may have to buy a new table saw to build some book cases and shelves for filler space, but, hey, everyone needs a hobby.

I say all that to say this, I would never in life attempt to assemble Ikea furniture. Hooray for you.

Megan V said...

I've moved plenty of furniture, but not for rearranging purposes. I found that had trouble settling in one spot.

But I got my first house this past December and since then have slowly been filling it with furniture and decorations. I have a similar couch with chaise in gray. I love the chaise bit because I can use it to lay back and read. It's not moved since I got it in this house. Nor has any of the other furniture. Except for the kitchen chairs. Those have become an impromptu stepstool when my portable stepstool magically hides itself.

Like today.

--happy side story, sorry for the ramble--

As some of you may know, I live in Arizona. My family lives in the Midwest.
I got a call from my parents this morning that I missed because it was 7 am and I'd decided to sleep in for once. I called back.
Dad was the one to answer the phone, but he quickly called Mom over.
"Megan's on the phone!"

I was prepared for the traditional family onslaught, where the phone would get passed from person to person, all the way down to the littlest littles who are more interested in holding the phone than talking into it. Instead, my parents held onto the phone and asked me if the Easter Bunny had come.

Now, I don't have kids. I live by myself. My house and my time is my own. So I replied as I usually do, letting them know that the Easter Bunny hadn't come yet since I hadn't been to the store—I usually wait for the candy sales to snag myself a treat for the holiday.

Their response? "You might want to look around your house."
Enter the confusion. "What?" I said.
"The Easter Bunny wouldn't miss you. Look," they said.

So I start looking. I rove through the closets and the living space. And in the meantime, I'm narrating my journey because my parents are on the other end going "where are you now? Colder. Warmer." And so on.

Eventually, I grab a chair (because I can't locate the stepstool) and find an Easter basket in the very top kitchen cupboard, top shelf.
That's right. My parents HID A BASKET in my house.

They had visited my home in March and had smuggled it into my home in advance. And when I expressed my delight and amazement that they managed to pull this off, they said, "Yeah, well, we put it up on that top shelf because you're short and we figured you never use those cabinets."

Now I have a bunch of sugar to help me whilst I rearrange pieces of my WIP (something I'm more apt to do then rearranging furniture)

Lennon Faris said...

Oh this amused me to no end. After the three choices were given, my brain was beside itself hoping that this poor couch was about to be (literally? physically?) axed. Given that the speaker was Janet I thought, maybe! and was not disappointed.

Of course, buying a couch without sitting on it is as unthinkable to me as marrying someone from a photo. But I still admire that certainty.

Theresa said...

Megan V, that's a great story.

Janet's couch saga made me think of subjectivity. If I'd had to take the big scissors to that piece of furniture, I would've gotten rid of everything BUT the chaise.

Elissa M said...

I have never in my life had the slightest desire to move furniture around. This may well be because moving--as in physical relocation--has been a part of my life for nearly its entirety. Rarely, did I attend the same school two years in a row. Some years I attended multiple schools in the same year.

Things slowed down a bit when my father retired from the military, but then I went off to college and the moving continued. Of course, in the end, I just had to marry a Soldier. He also eventually retired. We settled on the edge of nowhere and haven't moved in ten years now. Yet I still can't get over the idea that this home, too, is only temporary.

I don't think this is any sort of metaphor related to my writing, because I've got little problem doing a slash and burn once I know exactly how I can make it all work. Or maybe it is. Maybe my gypsy life taught me that everything is temporary, and stuff always gets lost in a move.

Craig F said...

Long ago, in a galaxy far away I had a great couch. I think it was originally from Ethan Allen. It had three hundred pounds of white oak lumber, with spectacular joinery, as a frame. Recovered it three times. The last time I did it myself.

The first wife got rid of it when I was working on a Superfund site in Jersey. She replaced it with a cheap shit Rooms to Go unit that had a snap together plastic frame under it. That was one of her last straws.

When I bought another couch I found a neat bent wood set, for not quite an arm and a leg. Had three sets of cushions for it, for when I wanted a different look. It started to come unglued after about ten years.

Now I have a horse in a gray flannel suit looking thing with electric recliners on both ends. I bought it with those recliners because it has a steel frame under it, to support them.

Bunny said...

My chaise couch is designed so that you can position the chaise part on either end of the couch. If you can find one of those, that might solve your problem in the future.

Lennon Faris said...

Megan V, sounds like something my folks would do. Kind of corny in a way but also perfect.

Brenda said...

I’m rearranging, renovating, gutting a cozy mystery I wrote a few years back. It’s hard work but the bones are good so I’m hoping all this effort is worth my while.

Jennifer Mugrage said...

This is so serendipitous. I found out just over a week ago that we are going to have to move out of a house we've occupied for 6 years ... Which is the longest we've ever been in one place. My first thoughts were for the little things: "my son's goldfish!" "My houseplants!"

About WIPs, I am in the midst of drafting #3. My thoughts are not yet about revision, but more along these lines: "I love this! It's so poignant! But what if i'm the only one who finds it interesting? What am I leaving out? Am I doing enough research?" Etc.

Morgan Hazelwood said...

Ha! I have that sofa. When I moved into my house last spring, it L-ed the WRONG WAY. So, my tv stand had to be too far right, just so people could pass between them.

For the holidays, I had to buy a new sofa that L-ed the RIGHT way. Because that spot to the right of where the tv stand went was next to the fireplace. Where my tree HAD to go.

@nightsmusic - The ottoman is brilliant!

@Megan V - Clever parents!

I was just bemoaning with friends that her tall husband never notices when people leave plates on the fridge after a party. What's the point of HAVING a tall partner if they're not going to look for these things?

Panda in Chief said...

I'm glad to know that I'm not the only person who gets a thrill out of moving furniture around (and yes, I have done it in the middle of the night.) I don't do it as much as I used to, maybe because there are more consequences afterward (oh, my aching back) or in my current abode, there are far fewer arrangement possibilities.

What I do know, is that moving furniture seems to be the only time that the place got a thorough cleaning. Incidentally, I had to do that when I needed to get a new washing machine. I opted for one of those little European ones that are both washer and drier in the same unit. They are not for people who have tons of laundry, but great for someone who works at home and has limited space for a washer and drier. When they moved the old double stack out, it was kind of embarrassing to see what was behind/under the old stack.

Sigh...I can't be an impeccable housekeeper AND run an art empire at the same time, can I?

Allison Newchurch said...

Janet, you need a recliner.

AJ Blythe said...

Oh wow, this has been such a fun read. You guys all tell such great stories. Funny that, lol.

Janet, SUB 500 square feet! Is that a real figure? The city I live in has the smallest average apartments in Australia apparently and they are on average 1055 square feet (98 square metres). So does your lounge also double as your bed? And sadly my colour-blind eyes see snot-covered lounge as pretty coffee brown.

Our lounge chairs are over 50 years old (they were my parents' chairs) and have been recovered many times. I don't need to rearrange because The Hub and Barbarians are constantly moving them for various reasons...board game space on the floor (because the table would never do), space to work on various machinery parts (because the garage doesn't make sense, right?), indoor camping (it's warmer than outside) and so on. No, instead I spend my time putting everything back.

Wry Girl said...

Zombie Gunslingers?

It may not have a space in publishing, but there's a web comic called Zombie Ranch that involves both zombies and gunslingers. And zombie horses. :)

T.M. Burnstad said...

I love this post for so many reasons, but I'll keep it to two.

1) I, too, love to move furniture. I usually get the urge to do a massive spring cleaning about 2x per year and it always includes moving furniture and my husband always finds a reason to hate what I did (because I always do it when he's at work).

2) My novel isn't about zombie gunslingers (though that sounds like it would be fun to write), but it doesn't have a place in the market right now. It hasn't since I finished it the first time. The idea of a total revision seemed too daunting, so I gave up on it and tucked it away and told myself that I could move on to something different. Well, I tried but it didn't really work. I still think about the characters in that novel as much as I think about the real people in my life. My summer project is to sit down and work on a major overhaul. Essentially, I'm going to take the characters and tell a different story that could actually go somewhere.

One last thing, I firmly believe that you should always sit on a couch that you might consider purchasing. It saved me from spending a few thousand dollars on something that looked awesome but wasn't something that I'd want to curl up on while reading a good book.