Killing your sweethearts
One of the drawbacks of writing without an outline is that I think my way as I go. Which is fine if that place in the back of my head is keeping track of things, but this past year, the back of my head was busy with sick husbands, so that although I managed to write a book, it is a book that meanders rather more than one would want of a story intended to be tight and suspenseful.
In other words: Oh god, I thought YOU were driving.
So this rewrite is different from others. Mostly my rewrites aim at taking a bony 300 page first draft and putting flesh on it, so that itâ€™s a balanced and comfortable 400 or so pages.
Not TOUCHSTONE. Going through it for the first time in months, I find six chapters made up of one conversation after anotherâ€”great conversations, you understand, witty and revealing of character, but in the middle part of a sort-of thriller you donâ€™t really want to be working on character, you want to have your already-well-established characters taking the bit between their teeth and pulling the reader along at a brisk pace.
Which means Iâ€™m busily killing my little sweethearts, shifting small portions and heartlessly mowing down page after page.
And because itâ€™s such a painful process, I depend on two forms of analgesic. One, I copy the file and work on the copy, so if I change my mind, I can just dump the copy and be back where I started. Two, I donâ€™t just delete the parts Iâ€™m chopping, I shift them into a file called Cuts, in the theory that when Iâ€™ve finished, I can go through the Cuts file and retrieve any true and priceless gems that really need to be placed back in the manuscript.
In practice, of course, I never go back to the original file, and I never find anything in Cuts that the book isnâ€™t stronger without. However, itâ€™s like a chess move that isnâ€™t final until the fingers come off the piece: Itâ€™s reassuring to know that I can change my mind.