This is not a post about NaNoWriMo, though from the title it could very well be. This is a post about the love hate relationship we have with our words. Especially during the redrafting process.
I have just sent a second draft out for beta reading. It will be my submission to Ticonderoga’s Dead Red Heart anthology. Yes… I’ve written a vampire story complete with references to amphetamine chicks in Fortitude Valley, schoolies on the Gold Coast and World Expo 88 on Southbank Brisbane. Thumbs up to local anthologies is all I can say.
I occured to me as I was tidying it up ready to be sent out – how much it is a process of… I love you/I love you not. Just like pulling petals on a daisy.
In the first draft I love everything. In the second draft I love everything still, but know better… a bit of once bitten twice shy, everything on the page isn’t pure gold and some of it does have to go (I employ Stephen King’s -10% rule where I can). In the third draft (especially after I’ve had beta reader input) I have a fair idea of what is crap, what is OK and what shines. Then there’s the fourth and subsequent drafts.
As we were walking up the beach on Tuesday, Jason asked me what to do about advice to ditch something from your writing you really love. (He has a lovely habit of stock-piling questions for me, until we meet up in person to debate them at length and the beach was a particularly lovely setting for a discussion)
How do you know it its good advice or bad advice? How do you decide what to ditch… especially in light of the drafting process and the need to feel precious about our work at some point in the process and to completely let go as well.
My answer was… if it doesn’t further the story or add something to the story/enhance it, it’s not something the story is in love with… it is something you are in love with. And it can go… as hard as it may be.
I used the example of Rob Diaz’s suggestion to me last year, during the rewrite of Bondi, to discard the references to Pearl Jam. It’s an outrage I cried inside, in my best Tony Robinson voice. This story must absolutely have a reference to Pearl Jam’s ‘Alive’... abashed he would suggest getting rid of them. I can still feel the physical reaction I had to his few lines in an email telling me to ditch them.
A day later I came back and looked at Rob’s critique with impassionate eyes. I was in love with the Pearl Jam references. It was all about me. Not about the story. So Pearl Jam went (and now when I hear ‘Alive’ I think about how it almost made it into one of my stories) The story didn’t suffer… if anything, it helped to pick up and maintain the pace.
And this is what it’s like in the second draft… what am I in love with? What do I have to choose not to be in love with?
In terms of ‘Sun Kissed’ I jettisoned close to 3000 words in total. The first two installments I wrote didn’t zing… they started the story too far away from where it had to start – it was a no brainer to give them notice. Then in the middle two scenes (with great dialogue) didn’t add anything to the story over all… so they went too.
It hurts to highlight and delete (even when those words are entombed in an earlier draft so never entirely deleted.)
When it comes to your second draft, let yourself be in love, and then let yourself fall out of love. Your story will be thankful for it. After all, what you’re often enamoured with is actually superfilious to the good functioning of the story. And if it’s in regards to a critique you’ve got, and you still don’t feel right about it – get a second opinion from some you trust.