Revising a Cyclone

Cyclone was a roller coaster at Six Flags New England, in Agawam, Massachusetts. It first opened in 1983 when I was twelve and the park was called Riverside. Cyclone was the park’s main attraction. It was wooden and clanky, but always a great ride. When I grew up, I rode it with my own kids. Sure, the paint was peeling, and it was showing its age, and most park guests bypassed it for newer, slicker rides. But I still loved it.

IMG_5929Then we got the bad news. Cyclone was closing. It was going to be transformed into a hybrid coaster—steel track on wooden supports. My family enjoyed Cyclone for the last time in the summer of 2014. I reluctantly said goodbye.

My son kept tabs on the coaster’s progress throughout the winter. (He’s plugged into daily coaster news as a member of American Coaster Enthusiasts—ACE.) Pieces of the old Cyclone were dismantled. New track was delivered. The color scheme was finalized.

We didn’t have to wait long to see the progress for ourselves. On a rainy, freezing day in late March 2015, Six Flags invited ACE to the park. They gave us hard hats and let us behind the forbidden fence. We slogged through muddy puddles. We stepped over track pieces. We reached the coaster, which was still under a flurry of construction.

The Cyclone structure as I had known it was still there. But parts had been edited out. A path, with curves and dips and drops, weaved through the old and new beams. Everything looked better supported. The ride had better theming, too—a story abouIMG_9987 - Version 2t scientists chasing a storm gone awry. It wasn’t just Cyclone anymore. It was going to be called Wicked Cyclone. (“Wicked” is Massachusetts-language for awesome.)

But I still wasn’t sure if I liked this new coaster. Calling something wicked doesn’t instantly make it better. I needed proof.

And I got it in May when the coaster was introduced to the press on Wicked Cyclone’s Media Day. I was swept up in the excitement of speeches, newscasters, costumed characters, free ice cream, thumping music, and confetti cannons. I stood in the long line snaking into the station. I climbed into the coaster car, waited to be locked in, and for the attendants to give each other the thumbs-up all-clear signal. The car rumbled out.

Within seconds, I was whooping with my arms in the air. Wicked Cyclone was the best of the old coaster plus lots of banked turns, air-time hills, upside-down elements, and the smoothest of rides. It was…oh, what’s the word?…Wicked!

IMG_1065 - Version 2So what does this have to do with days at my writing desk?

Even when I love a draft, I think about how it can be better. Maybe it has all the right supports and just needs some new track. Maybe it needs more twists. Maybe I need to tear parts down completely and rebuild the story from the pieces. Maybe I need to find a unifying theme to pull the story together.

Revision is not just about slapping on some new paint or tightening a few bolts. It’s about reimagining your work as wicked. That gives you, and your readers, a more thrilling ride.

So what’s your favorite revision experience? What’s your favorite coaster experience?

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