Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Give me a machete -- I'm cool with it. I don't mind chopping out whole chunks of my books. And I do it fast, too.
Natalie gave me some really astute notes on the pages we're planning to send to NAL. That woman has a brain for books. She's so right in all her notes. Per her suggestions, I've spent the last two hours cutting the first 20,000 words of Egypt 2.0 to bits (I might give this one a serious working title -- I'm thinking Daughter of Amun -- it goes with Bride of Amun, but maybe that's too matchy-match). Now it's time to patch it all back together. I'm also going to write an additional chapter to bring the wordcount back up to 20K, since that's what she told NAL she'd give them.
I've never been the type of writer to balk at extreme revision. Nor have I ever quailed at a critique. I'm not entirely sure why this is -- it's not as if I don't put as much sweat and blood and tears (literally on the tears part) into my writing as anybody else. Any scene for which I've had to tap into my real painful memories -- whatever they may be -- brings up fresh tears when I read it again, no matter how many times I read it. Any scene that hurt me to write hurts me to re-read.
In BoA, when Thutmose loses his cool and brutalizes Ahmose, I get a cold fist in my gut each and every time I read it. I remember when I wrote it, how hot it was in Tacoma, sitting by the window AC unit and shivering not from the cool air but from what I was doing to this character. I love my Thutmose, he is so gentle and understanding, so sweet and kind -- but I couldn't stop the story from taking him to this dark, terrible place, and turning him into a monster I never planned for him to be. It was his grief that took him there, and I had to feel his grief in myself in order to know that this was the most authentic situation I could create for him. That scene stayed in the book, but if I'd been told by a wiser, more detached voice to cut it, I would have, no matter how powerful the scene still feels to me.
And Baptism for the Dead -- forget about it. That whole book has been nothing but a cryfest for me, it's so close to my heart. Once the first draft is done, though, I know I won't hesitate to edit or change or remove anything that doesn't serve the story. As near as that story is to the core of my self, it remains in my estimation a product I'm creating, a product I want to sell, a product I want to use to hook returning customers. I am, in fact, looking forward to notes for Baptism, so I can figure out how to trim the emotional fat and streamline my very raw feelings into a useful product.
Maybe that's the thing I like to much about revisions. some writers think I'm odd or detached because I am so quick to make any cuts that are suggested by those I trust. I know it's rather unusual for a writer to feel so little hesitancy about obliterating hundreds or thousands of tens of thousands of words she's worked so hard on, chosen so carefully. But maybe I have an instinctive voice that tells me I've made too many trees to see the forest, and it's pleasant to allow somebody else to choose for me which parts of my emotional outbursts deserve to stay and which can go into the round file.
I can always scratch up some fresh pain to tap later on, after all. There's always more to come. The nice thing about writing is we never stop doing it, so what do a few machete-hacks matter in the long run?