“What do you call that thing?” A revision story…

The Tiny Glass Tub Vial Jar : Why Revision Takes So Long

Picture the scene: I’m sitting in my writing room one recent afternoon, on deadline with the final revision for my 2012 Walker/Bloomsbury dystopian novel, EYE OF THE STORM.  And I’m staring at this line:

She pulls out a tiny round tub filled with some kind of fluid.

Next to the word “tub,” my editor has scribbled, “Tube?”

My editor obviously isn’t there with me, but that does not stop me from talking to her.  “No, Mary Kate…it’s not a tube, really. If I say that, people are going to picture a test tube, especially because they’re in a lab, and that’s not what this is. Know what I mean?”

Invisible Mary Kate does not answer.  So I keep talking.

“I said tub because this is like one of those little tubs of lip balm…the kind you use when Chapstick isn’t strong enough because your lips are really, super-chapped and you need something, like, medicinal. And it comes in this little blue tub. At least, mine does. That’s the kind of tub I mean here, only this one’s glass and you can see through it.  Okay?”

Again, there is no answer. But I know it’s not okay.  Because if Mary Kate saw the word “tub” and immediately thought I meant “tube,” then at least some readers are going to make that leap, too.  So what do I call that darn container?

Does it really matter that much? Yes.  It does.  Because this little tub/tube/vessel contains something that’s going to be the key to my main character’s success in getting what she needs. It’s a sneaky thing. And she needs to conceal the vial/jar/container/thing in her pocket through some tense situations during which she will fear discovery and feel it poking into her hip bone. It needs to be this exact size and shape that I am thinking of.

I turn to Twitter for help.

“You know the shallow little round type of container for lip balm or maybe contact lenses? What would you call that?”

A flood of friends reply. Tube? Vial? Carrying case? Compact? Pot?

Lip balm comes in jars or tins, depending on what the container is made of, says one Twitter friend.

I consider all of this.  Then I write:

She pulls out a shallow glass jar filled with some kind of fluid. It’s shaped like the tiny container where Mom used to keep her contact lenses before she got her eyes fixed. 

Risha lowers the tissue into it.  “Don’t take it out until you need it.”


One page down.  232 to go…


In other EYE OF THE STORM news, I got to see a very early cover sketch this week, and it’s pretty amazing.  I adored both of my covers for THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. and SUGAR AND ICE, but because this book is so different and darker, the team at Walker/Bloomsbury wanted a different look for the cover, and they found an artist I think is a perfect match for this story — Vincent Chong, who has done some cover art for Ray Bradbury and Stephen King books. I can’t share the cover sketch because it’s a long way from finished, but you can peek at Chong’s online portfolio here.