Thursday, July 28, 2011

When the Story Just Doesn't

Last night, all my kids were out of the house at the same time. This almost never happens. It felt rare and eerie, the sort of things are slightly off here sense you get when watching a total eclipe. No plates of snacks, no teens lolling on sofas, no small mountain of fragrantly wet boy-socks on the rug, no Lady Gaga pulsing from Emma's room. No noise.

No noise. Astonishing. My house like a Zen monastery.

Understanding this time would be very, very finite, I sat down to confront my WIP. Recently, I had been avoiding its chapters and it was time to come clean. I didn't like the last three chapters and I had to figure out why. I kept attempting to wrangle them; they responded by wrangling right back.

I've reached this stage with other work, so it wasn't unfamiliar. I kept staring at the sentences. They were fine, really. All grammatically correct, the story went along at a good pace, but there was something I just didn't...I couldn't find the word. The story just didn't. It was sort of like this ~

When I wanted this ~

So I took Mazy for a walk, played with the cats, and folded laundry all the while trying to think of ways to fix it. Only I couldn't name what was wrong with it. It was a perfectly respectable story yet I didn't respect it.

Then Christopher texted me. He was worried that I might be lonesome so he came home with friend in tow and towed friend had a pile of books she gave me. I had just donated half a carload of books in an attempt to renovate my writing space. I am removing the desk, most of the books, and just about everything in the space since I am going to be spending more time writing.

I started one of the new books that night. It was wonderfully written, lyrical and inspiring, and I respected it. I stayed up way too late, in love with the author's imagery. At that moment, I understood that sometimes, just like the space I was writing in, instead of a little revision, you need to take the plunge and chop. Those last three chapters, all those hours of work, the entire direction of the novel, was off.

It was painful to press that delete button. I thought of all the time I had spent getting the dialogue just right, the atmosphere, the language - all gone. But now there is space, and with space comes possibility.  Instead of revision,  sometimes you have to raze.

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