Just that. Sometimes writing amounts to bloodletting, with words.
Lately I’ve been scheduling my “Love Your Editor” posts, written a week or two in advance. Tonight I’m giving you a real time, in-progress confession, because that’s just where I am right now.
FACT 1: The initial draft of my current manuscript, Memento Mori, weighed in at 120,000 words. I sent it to my editor.
Long story short: I ended up cutting roughly 42,000 words worth of detours from the manuscript. (If you want the full version of that, you can search the “Love Your Editor” series in the search bar.”
FACT 2: I started draft #2 with roughly 78,000 words. Rearranged scenes. Deleted unnecessary characters. Deleted more words.
Result: I saw that my old story structure – which was very linear and mostly from one point of view – no longer worked. So I looked at other narrative structures that fit the new story arc far better.
FACT 3: Yesterday, after all this cutting and rearranging and narrative thinking, I called up an editor friend of mine in another state. (Not the one who did the initial edit in December/January.) She doesn’t have a pony in my race, so I asked if I could pitch my book from a structural point of view. She agreed.
Result: I failed miserably. Not only did I not clearly communicate the overall thrust of Memento Mori very well, but I did it in absolutely the most awkward, discombobulated way. I’m pretty sure that, by the end of the conversation, I sounded bipolar, or at least like I was reading random synopsis excerpts off Goodreads in no logical order.
FACT 4: Taking the (very gracious) advice of the editor into account, along with my other structural, narrative, and character issues, I sat down tonight and cut another 30,000 words.
Put another way: I started with a 120,000 word count, and reduced that by almost 2/3.
I did more rearranging. More narrative slicing and dicing. More deleting (obviously). Left myself lots of random notes in all caps: (i.e., EMBROIDER HERE. POV SHIFT. MORATORIUM IMPOSED. SHRED PROTAGONIST’S EMOTIONS HERE.) I highlighted and underlined, put things in bold. Wrote cryptic gobbledygook on the back of my wifi password code from the coffeeshop. Drank dangerous amounts of tea. Sucked the battery of my laptop dry.
FACT 5: I now have a NEW game plan. Before I can approach my next round of beta readers, I need to add 30,000 words back in, which amounts (for me) to about 90 additional pages – all in odd corners, in bits and pieces, and with a boatload of continuity editing to happen afterward.
The naive me in November 2013 thought I would be finished with my edits now, or at least very close. Obviously, that’s not going to happen.
At the same time, each ugly reworking of Memento Mori makes the story darker, faster, and more surprising – even for me.
That is to say – the story keeps getting stronger.
One of these days I hope I’m able to put all the different drafts of Memento Mori side by side and marvel over how his journey has snaked through the most amazing twists and turns – just to get him to the final product. And I hope the final product is not only readable, but gripping and and engaging, the sort of story that people insist their best friends read RIGHT NOW. I want to be that author.
But I’m finding that the road there is much longer and rockier than I expected – and I DID expect it to be long and rocky. But o my goodness. This process is grueling.
A bloodletting, of sorts.
But I write anyway – because even with all the trauma and drama, this tale still has me by the throat. So I keep writing. There is no other option.
So be it.