Pruning

It’s scary to talk about writing, because  . . . what if I don’t finish what I started? What if I DO finish but it sucks and no one will publish it and those who read it secretly laugh at me behind my back? What if what if what if?

I’m still at a tentative place in my creative recovery where I feel like a liar when I call myself a writer. It’s really hard to say “I’m a writer” rather than “I want to be a writer” or “I’m sort of a writer” or . . . you get the idea.

Part of my recovery is actually calling myself a writer, and talking about how the process of writing is going for me. Of course I’m not going to divulge any details of my plot to anyone but my trusted writing buddies, but that still leaves plenty of writing talk to bore you all with.

Yesterday I hit one of those “oh crap” moments in the writing process.

I’ve known for a long time that I would have to be willing to cut things out of my stories when they don’t work. I knew this in theory, but I was figuring that the whole cutting up my precious creation thing wouldn’t happen for a long time. Like, not until after I finished writing the novel. But yesterday I was sitting at my work table with a pile of little 3 by 5 note cards, chewing on the inside of my chin and tapping my pencil on the desk. Something just wasn’t right. The components of my story were NOT flowing together. It felt very wrong.

And I realized that two huge swaths of plot needed to be completely cut out. One of them is developed enough that it can be a novel in its own right some day, or at least a novella. The other was so embryonic that it wasn’t painful to remove it, and I’ve promised the characters that, when they have a story for me to tell, they can let me know. At first it was awful; you know the sinking feeling when you realize something you really don’t want to realize, but you can feel in your gut that it’s true. It was like that. I considered throwing a tantrum. But then I started thinking about the story without the extra acreage, and it became clear that I’d be making my life much easier, and my story much better, and isn’t it great that I’ve realized it fairly early on, before the change will cause massive re-writes? Who needs that kind of stress? Here’s a view of the site of the carnage:

So I pulled all the note cards belonging to the extraneous material out of my stack, and now I have something much more manageable . . . and I think, in the end, it will make the parts that are left richer and more vibrant. Not to mention I  can probably keep all of my hair, rather than pulling it out at the roots while I try to make all my little plotlets play nice.

The good news is that most of what I’ve written so far stands, and the writing that has to be pulled can all be saved as the beginning efforts on the aforementioned stand-alone story/novel/whatever. And now I know that I’ll be able to cut things that need to be cut without too much weeping and gnashing of teeth. This is a valuable ability, I think.

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