2 steps forward, 1 step back, 2 steps forward…
“it was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
well, perhaps not so dramatic as that, but the last several days have been busy. sometimes good-busy, sometimes bad-busy. it’s all coming out in the wash, though, as i managed to revise 125 pages in 2 of the last 4 days, bringing me to within almost a hundred pages of the end!*
it started with a marathon day of 86 pages, which felt awesome. a whole day devoted to the book, first thing in the morning to almost the last thing at night. i even got a bit of a head start since i was awake at 3 am (thanks to my stomach, but anyway). the day felt really good, and i was making some tremendous progress.
i even managed to chop out nearly fifteen pages of unnecessary exposition. i’ve written before about the need to drop things i might personally really like in a story because they simply don’t fit. it’s something i’ve trained myself to accept and keep an eye out for, to avoid playing a turn of phrase purely for the turn of phrase, and i’ve been pretty good at it, i think, all thing considered.
however, when i hit the end of the day that day, i was in a section that had to go, but i had no such reservations. in fact, it was just the opposite. i was embarrassed i ever wrote the material i was looking at in the first place. it felt pedantic, heavy-handed, awkward, and ultimately unnecessary. so i chopped it. the chopping was easy. accepting that i had written such drivel was not.
however, i did it. i was having a banner day and this wasn’t going to stop me. i’d hardly looked out the windows all day, but i was making progress!
until the next morning.
up again well before dawn, i found myself slipping backward through the pages. i was discovering oversights and gaps and poor revisions from the last burst of ‘progress’ the night before. what i had considered drivel turned out to be necessary. let me clarify that point: while i was still very unsatisfied with how i’d written it, i felt the core content was strong and, it turns out, necessary for certain other elements.
so, i tried to wrestle with those revisions of revisions, but my brain wasn’t functioning from lack of sleep. after a couple hours, i napped until breakfast, but yet another hour of fruitless, hair-pulling, and infuriating effort, i gave it up. i was useless, and needed to let go.
that was the single smartest and most productive thing i did that day, which is a bit depressing. a good night’s sleep is a wondrous thing, however, and the next morning found me much clearer and excited to figure this thing out.
which i did.
the root of my initial chop, it turns out, was my dissatisfaction with the pace in that section. it was going too slowly. i was dragging out exposition and conversation where it wasn’t necessary, and i had spread events across a longer timeline than i needed to. i can actually recall the initial writing process when i got to this section and thinking to myself that i needed to fill a section of time, so i shuffled some events across a longer period and had the characters start talking. a lot.
big red flag. ‘i needed to fill a section of time’? why? what on earth for? why spread something out when it was working fine as it was? because i wanted it to last a certain amount of time. no other reason. and that, of course, is a bad reason. i’d gotten the timeline into my head and forced the events to it, rather than letting them play out as they should. as i said, i can recall the writing of it, and my subconscious was perfectly aware, but my conscious continued to beat down the obvious barriers i kept running into, in order to ‘make it work’.
ah, hindsight. well, there’s a lesson i don’t expect to have to relearn, anyway.
with that realization, i made my way through the mid-level plot re-shuffling**, cutting and slicing unnecessary chunks, and realigning the scattered pieces into a solid, unified, coherent whole. the rearrangement brought the energy back into what had become a leaden and sluggish section, and i was jazzed again, sending me on to complete another 40+ pages that day, and bringing me to my present state, at page 347.
i really love this stuff.
now, according to my personal deadline, i have 5 days left to finish the last 130 pages, in pencil, and then type them all in. previous to this last burst, i was beginning to give up, but now, with the progress and the recent success, i think it’s better than 50/50.
of course, it also means i have to get to sleep!
*or to within almost a hundred pages of typing the bulk of the revisions in, but one thing at a time…
** if woody had gone straight to the police, none of this would ever have happened…