How to Tackle Your Basement and Water Proof Your Revisions…or the Other Way Around

By Kimberly J. Sabatini

I’m going to talk to you about my basement. (Don’t role your eyes at me–even my kids will tell you that’s not a good idea.)  Yes, I know I’m supposed to be writing a guest blog post, but all I can do is obsess about being dab-smack in the middle of water proofing the basement.  It’s all I can think about.  I’ve spent endless hours hauling musty, dusty, nasty things that I’ve stock piled over the years, to other locations around the house and yard.  I’ve tried to decide what to clean up and what to toss.  I’ve found treasures packed away that I’d forgotten I had and I’ve found more than a few unpleasant damp and moldy surprises.  In fact, as I’m writing this, there are guys in my basement ripping out flooring and walls and ceiling.  Very soon, there will be four ungodly days of jackhammering and pump installation.  To survive it all, I’m dreaming about how awesome the basement will be when it’s finished, dry, clean, organized, up-to-date and loved by all.

I know that talking about my basement means I run the risk of losing you to another blog post–DON’T LEAVE!  I have important information for you. I’ve discovered that revising your manuscript and water proofing your basement are almost interchangeable activities—accept that you can’t store things in your manuscript—like real life things in giant plastic tubs.  But, aside from that, the similarities are astounding.  Let me prove it to you.

After you write the first draft of a story, unless you have a freaking magic wand, (and if you do I want to know where you got it) you novel probably looks something like this.

The “cute” thing about that first draft is the bliss you feel when you’re done. You’re just so happy to have the whole darn thing piled in one place.  You can’t believe you’ve gotten the whole thing in the basement down on paper.  When I typed the last word of my first draft, I laid my head down and cried with joy and relief.  I was a winner.  I was also exhausted.  I had blown every last ounce of energy I had on that draft.  Putting it away was not only advisable, but also necessary.  I was more than happy to do it and it sat there for a couple weeks collecting spiders and dust bunnies until I felt ready to revise.  Unfortunately, I had a problem.   I knew revision was something I had to do, but I really didn’t know exactly how to go about doing it.  But the professionals in the biz seem to advocate the practice, so I shooed a couple spiders and did a little rearranging.  Revision done!  Now my manuscript looked something like this.

Familiar, huh?  Sadly, I didn’t find this problematic.  Instead, I declared it READY.  To my credit, I think I had a niggling feeling that this wasn’t the best my manuscript or my basement could look.  So I hired a professional to edit it for me.  She gave me incredible insight into the changes I might need to make.  Unfortunately for me, I was not developmentally ready to implement that advice.  I tried.  I took everything I’d unpacked, dusted it off and laid it out the best I could.  My manuscript now looked a little bit like this.

Not bad–absolutely a significant improvement.  I used the tools I already had in my box, the floor plan I was comfortable with, I painted (until I got bored, tired, ran out of time) and now I was ready to invite agents into my average, partially painted, slightly damp and musty basement.


They didn’t want to come.  Can you believe that thirty-two different agents didn’t want to hang out there?  Truth be told,  I wasn’t focused on what my basement lacked, rather, crazy thoughts were running through my head.  I wasn’t happy they declined my invitation to be a best-selling novelist (with a mediocre, sub-terra, living space.)  But we all know the rules…

Instead, I started to read about revising.  I devoured everything I could get my hands on.  I was even watching tutorials on YouTube.  Then, something unexpected happened.  The Greek Gods had mercy and an agent ask for a full.  She passed, but my battery was recharged.  She also gave me some editorial advice.  I read her suggestions and it was like fireworks going off inside my head.  I knew what to do.  I had a vision at last.  Ironically, the agent’s advice was eerily similar to what had been suggested in my critique.  The difference?  I’d learned a lot in a year.

Now I understood that this is what a real revision looks like.

And when I did that—this happened…

My name was in Writer’s Digest!!!  Can you find it?  SQUEE!!!!

But don’t get too excited, because the renovations revisions never end.  Guess what happened when I got an editor?  I had to do this.  It’s hard, dirty work.

I’m still doing edits, although I’m beginning to see the finished product a little more clearly.  I’m not 100% certain what it will look like when it’s ready for the shelves, but I have a good idea.  And I’m excited.  I believe that people will want to come to my basement and read my book.  And although it’s been a long road, I’m absolutely sure it’s been worth the effort.

So what am I working on now–besides the last of those edits?  I’ve got a work-in-progress that needs my attention.  Have I also mentioned that the garage could use a makeover?

Kimberly Sabatini

Kim is a former Special Education Teacher who is now a stay-at-home mom and a part-time dance instructor for 3, 4 and 5 year olds. After her dad passed away in 2005, she used writing as a way to make sense of the experience and discovered that she’s full of questions that need to be answered. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband and three boys. Kim writes Young Adult fiction and is represented by Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary Agency. She is thrilled to be part of the “Wolf Pack.” TOUCHING THE SURFACE is her debut novel. (Simon Pulse – Simon & Schuster, Fall 2012)