This week I started something that I never thought I’d do: completely re-writing a chapter that I loved as it was.
It is a crucial chapter of the book, so I won’t spoil things too much by sharing it, but I’d drafted it almost like a poem: short lines and sentences, all present tense and laid out differently from the novel standard. The feedback I’d had was that it jarred with the rest of my writing. In my head, that was the point: it was supposed to stand out as different, as a complete emotional change.
So I have resisted.
And, this week, I gave in.
I took a deep breath, copied the existing text into a new document, and set about annihilating it. I put the speech into quotation marks. I changed it into the past tense. I made paragraphs, and smoothed the story out.
I have not enjoyed this process. Every piece of writing advice tells you that you must be dispassionate about the work you have created; that you must step back and view it as the first-time reader would. And – if necessary – you must cut and chop and change.
But it is the most painful thing to do. It is agonising to remove words and phrases that you love, that you carefully carved out of the English language. I have not enjoyed this process. It isn’t finished, and when I reach the end I will have to go back and re-edit it, as some of the ordering of events now sounds wrong.
Is it better? Perhaps. Probably.
You see: I am still struggling to let my arty first draft go, to set that creative genius (I flatter myself!) free and allow the book to flow with one style of writing throughout. I suspect that it will be better, but the anguish of the process is so unpleasant.
Killing my baby? Yes, but she’s currently drowning, struggling for air and I’m not sure whether to hold her under or lift her out. Time will tell.
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