Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Love Thy Novel as Thyself or What to Save? What to Shave?

Ah, edits. Aren't they fun? Kind of reminds me of getting a root canal or being the last to be picked for a team in school. However, without these dreaded edits, we'd have nothing more than freakish-looking first drafts, laden with poetic drivel and lacking things like "riveting plots," "intelligible dialogue," and "meaningful characterizations."

Mine the Diamonds
I'm deep into my third draft of my YA novel, and finally feel I'm hitting my stride - a stride that will take my black and white sketch to a completed masterpiece. Yes, I know that sounds a bit "puffy," but if I didn't feel I could dig deep and mine the diamonds in my story, why write it?

Love Thy Novel as Thyself
You should feel the same way, too. Love your work profoundly and passionately. No one will or should love your work more than you do. It is that love that keeps us writing, keeps us going in the middle of our first drafts when we want to hit the "delete" key, and it is that love that keeps us from giving up on our long held dreams.

So, what's a writer to do? How do we know what to save and what to shave?
I'm 1/3 of the way through my revisions, and I've cut 13 full pages out so far. That's some serious shaving. It's also some serious saving, since I've kept - in one form or another - 73 pages. My best advice is "trust yourself." If you're questioning a word, sentence, paragraph, scene, or even a whole chapter, delete it and see if the story becomes weaker or stronger. That's why God created the Control X keys; you can take things out, and if you decide otherwise, put them back in again.

For my first two novels, I was so reluctant to eliminate any of my brilliant words, that I had "Outtakes" documents which held onto every, single, precious word I wrote and removed. Now, I save only completed drafts. The thoughts and ideas that come and go in between those drafts are lost in the ether, and I say, "good riddance!" As a writer, and as a healthy human being, you have to be able to let things go.

What are your stories about what to save and what to shave? Do you have trouble killing your darlings, or are you a literary Jack the Ripper? What have you learned from the process?

Vlog update: Found a better deal on Amazon (saved $65!), so I returned my Flip and am waiting for a different one. So, video blogging is briefly postponed.

44 comments:

mo.stoneskin said...

I don't have any stories but as all my words are brilliant I doubt I would cut any out...

;)

Seriously, I reckon I would hoard edited bits in a separate file because I didn't want to lose them.

Jemi Fraser said...

My previous ms was written originally just for me. When I decided I'd look into it a bit more seriously, I cut & cut & cut... and saved every incarnation in its own little file.

This ms is much tighter from the get go, so I don't have as much to cut. And it hasn't even crossed my mind to save the excess. I know its stronger with my edits & revisions, so I haven't saved anything else :)

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Great topic....I've tweeted it. :)

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder
Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen

Kelly said...

Where in the world did you find that awesome first picture????
Editing is tough, but you gotta do what you gotta do!

Jonathon Arntson said...

Ditto on kelly's comment.

DebraLSchubert said...

mo, I'm sure all of your words are infinitely brilliant and you're right not to cut a single one. ;-)

DebraLSchubert said...

Jemi, What I find fascinating about being a serious writer is how fast we grow from one novel to the next. It's like watching little kids mature from one level to the next at warped speed.

DebraLSchubert said...

Elizabeth, As always, you're a doll. Thank you. ;-)

DebraLSchubert said...

Kelly, Believe me, I take time finding the pics for my posts. When I saw that one I thanked the cosmos.

DebraLSchubert said...

Jonathon, Ditto on my comment to Kelly. ;-))

Morgan Baden said...

Ah, there's so much of this that rings true! I teach writing workshops to high school girls, and each year at our editing workshop, the girls are near tears when they realize how much of writing is made up of revising. One year we did an exercise with them where they free-wrote for 2 minutes and then we made them rip up their free-writes and try to re-write them from memory.

The shouts and cries from the room could be heard from miles away, but the lesson was learned: as writers, you have to trust in the words you're writing down, and trust that you'll be able to produce more (and better) when you need to.

I'm a big fan of your blog and tweets, btw!

Ann Marie Gamble said...

I have a phase in (? before?) the first draft where the bits that come to me aren't in full scenes or in chronological order. I type these in a file called "bits to incorporate" and probably half of them don't even make it into the draft. I've had to work to stop worrying about this; apparently this is just one step in My Process, and how I figure out who these characters are and what's going on.

Indigo said...

Oh I remember the first time something I had written got edited. I swore up and down, stomped around the house for days. When I stopped and reread, rethought and redid those pages - It made sense.

I was told recently a first draft is clay to be molded, don't let it harden and fall in love with it. Right along with don't marry a draft, it's the book you want to love. (Hugs)Indigo

DebraLSchubert said...

Morgan, First of all, let me just say that I love your name. Secondly, thanks so much for your wonderful comments, and a big "thank you" for teaching writing to teens. What a gift you're teaching them to give themselves.

"I'm a big fan of your blog and tweets, btw!" Brings deep down smiles to my soul. Thank you for that.

DebraLSchubert said...

Ann Marie, Fascinating about your "bits to incorporate!" It's so interesting to hear about people's individual processes. Thank you so much for sharing it. I'm going to think about this as I move on to my next novel.

DebraLSchubert said...

Indigo, I love what you said about the first draft being clay to mold. Brilliant! In the end, your story can take on any number of different forms, as long as you've got good, solid clay to work with. ;-)

WendyCinNYC said...

I used to keep my outtakes, too, but I've since stopped doing that. Too much trouble!

Nancy J. Parra said...

Great blog post. I tweeted it, too. :)

Elspeth Antonelli said...

When editing, I think you need to love your novel, but from a safe distance. When you're first writing it, you need to immerse yourself and breathe through its lungs. Editing is surgery. You can't be both the doctor and the patient.

Nate said...

With my draft threatening to devastate New York with its 16.6x10⁴ words, I've finally realized that nothing short of a literary Sherman's March will see it published.
Blogging, commenting, and trying prompts and contests, however, have taught me the profound wisdom of Chee-tos' Chester Cheetah: crunch all you want; they'll make more.

Kimberly Franklin said...

Your YA novel is going to be so great! I can't wait to read it one day. : )

Also, I left you a little surprise on my blog today. : ) Because you're just that cool!

www.kim-franklin.blogspot.com

DebraLSchubert said...

Wendy, Exactly - very cumbersome!

DebraLSchubert said...

Nancy, Thanks - much appreciated!

Mollie said...

Sigh.

DebraLSchubert said...

Elspeth, Interesting point re: not being patient and doctor. I agree, but think you need the "lover" watching over the "doctor's" shoulder.

DebraLSchubert said...

Nate, Yup, editing is what separates the men from the boys, so to speak. Slimming down your prose to its most meaningful and economical form is the real task.

DebraLSchubert said...

Kimberly, I have a feeling you're going to be one of my biggest proponents, and I appreciate that in advance. And, thank you - I'll pop on over to your place today. I love surprises! ;-)

DebraLSchubert said...

Mollie, What's the sigh for? Having a hard day? I'm sending you a virtual hug. Email me if you'd like. ;-)

Ann Elle Altman said...

Great blog. My first book, I edited so much that I began to hate reading it. I think it's important to give it space between edits so you have fresh eyes again.

ann

Voidwalker said...

In my former novel, I'd find myself getting pretty far, then finding my story dramatically changing for the better to fill in some plot loop holes, then I'd have to go back and tear out entire chapters. I pring and save those chapters for future reference, in case I need to retrieve something, or if I want to adapt it into a different story or just have something to show for my time spent.

Fragrant Liar said...

I wrote about this exact same thing yesterday; however an interesting thing happened. I assumed that most bloggers are writers, and that's not the case. Most people who read my piece didn't know what the hell I was talking about (it was cryptic, but that was the schtick) and that's because they're not "practicing" writers. I discovered they came over expecting to see my FL persona, and it wasn't quite there, so they didn't know what to make of it. Totally taught me a lesson about bloggers and personas.

And still, killing those darlings.

DebraLSchubert said...

Ann, Welcome - I'm glad you're enjoying my humble blog. I'm taking this rewrite much more slowly than usual, and I think that's paying off. Not feeling like I have to finish the whole thing yesterday (like I usually do!) is helpful. My agent reminds me to "slow down." I don't know why I often feel like it's a race. ;-)

DebraLSchubert said...

VW, I totally relate about moving forward, tightening the plot, and then going back to do what's necessary to have the revised draft work. This writing stuff is a lot of work, but it's always [okay, ALMOST always!] a labor of love. ;-)

DebraLSchubert said...

FL, I'm going to visit your blog to see what you wrote. Most of my readers are also writers, so they're used to my posts on writing.

People love you for your honesty and humor. If you write about writing more often, your followers will "get it."

Birgitte Necessary said...

I loved your editing article. I know just what you mean about those lovely words. Now I've gotten brazen and I delete, delete, delete. Occasionally that results in regret, regret. On the other hand, I tell myself that, "Hey, Self, you wrote those words. You can write more. Unless you think you are a fluke?" That usually kicks my butt into high gear. :) Thanks for a great read!

DebraLSchubert said...

BN, Yup, if you take them out, you can put them back in! So glad you enjoyed the post. Sometimes we just need to hear the same thing a few million times before we "get it." ;-)

Not The Rockefellers said...

Thank You!
For me "my darlings" are the sentences that often times get me started on a particular piece.
They're kind of like "the parents"...and so as the piece evolves ( and starts walking upright on its own, etc) they wave goodbye.

It think they're OK with it :)
Though they wish I'd write more often.

Peace ~ Rene

DebraLSchubert said...

Rene, So good to see you again! The little darlings are scattered throughout the book. Some we get to keep, and others need to hit the road. Determining which is which is the challenge. ;-)

Shelli said...

this is so hard. My agent made me cut 15000 words and my fear was - how do i know which ones are the RIGHT 15000 - i went with my gut!

DebraLSchubert said...

Shelli, Good for you and for your agent for trusting you to do the right thing. Doesn't it feel great when you're done? ;-)

Jen said...

Ahh editing, not exactly my favorite thing to do... but it must be done, for not all my words are necessary!

Love the blog, and all the pictures along side the post is super cute!

DebraLSchubert said...

Jen, Welcome and glad you found me! Yup, editing - hate it and love it all at once. The more you write, the more you know what to keep and what not to keep during rewrites.

Have a great weekend!

Daisy Whitney said...

I do tend to keep certain deleted scenes, but only because I save nearly all drafts of a story. I do this because I have found later on that I almost always want to find one small element from a deleted scene or earlier draft -- something I wrote that sparked an idea for something else. And sometimes I find that with editors they may chop a certain scene and you want to retrieve at least part of it.

I do agree that hitting the delete key in general is much easier now. That's because I date words; I don't marry them!

DebraLSchubert said...

Daisy, "I date words; I don't marry them!" That says it all. Brilliant!

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