Thursday, June 18, 2009

Keep Bleeding

"If you cut me, do I not bleed?" So asks my manuscript as I hack and chop more than 20% of my hard work and inspiration to make the story tighter and more printable.

A word to the wise...If you invite a professional editor to join your writing group: BE PREPARED. Your rough drafts will bleed and scream, but then again you will also get very humbling and valuable advice on how to make your genius idea more marketable.
Yes, I have learned this very difficult lesson and was reminded again this week when I mentioned that I had only cut 12,000 of the 20,000 words an editor (who may or may not be interested in buying my book) asked me to cut and then send it.
It was an impossible task. How could I possibly send to oblivion 20,000 words that had been born of blood, sweat, and sleep deprivation, over months of my life? How could anyone ask me to do such a thing with no guarantee that it would pay off?

And yet...
It it finished. Well, at least 18,000 words anyway. I'm still searching out the lingering 2,000. The first shavings were not all that hard. In 100,000 words their is bound to be several superfluous passages. They were not hard to dump because they neither moved the story or the reader. But that only accounted for 8,000 words or so. Then I chopped out the extra dialogue. Places where my story crafting lens had zoomed in close for too long on a particular scene. There were chunks of dialogue that could be summed up in just a few sentences.

And then I went to my writing group meeting and over spinach dip and chocolate chip cookies, my trusted critics and friends said it was time to cut entire scenes and subplots. Complete threads of the tapestry had to be removed. That is when my manuscript began to truly bleed and my inexperienced, trepidation red pen became a surgeons scalpel to careful remove the less important organs without killing the entire story.

How do I feel about being asked to perform surgery on my own creation? Scared to death and a little sad. I hope that readers will never recognize the scars that I see in the manuscript. Like the airbrushed version of a photograph I hope they enjoy the more perfected version and that only the few initiated support personnel can look at it and say, "Oh yes I remember that detail, but you can hardly see the stitches. If I hadn't seen it before I would never have even noticed."
So I will swab the blood and present the supermodel version of my story, lean and airbrushed.


  1. You are a masterful surgeon. No one will see the scars. You are like the nuerology resident who sewed up my head. He kept coming to my hospital room in the middle of the night to admire his work on my head. (He even recognized me a year later at a different hospital)

    You will keep rereading your story and admire what a fine job you did in carving and slicing and stitching up your amazing story.

  2. Think of the large, unwieldy block of marble that, somehow, inherently trapped David, just waiting for Michelangelo to hack off all the excess before he could finely sculpt a masterpiece that would last centuries. I don't think we've gotten close to the airbrush point yet. We're just getting it down to workable size first. :) But you'll get there, and that's the important part.

  3. The airbrushing was just an analogy I get that I'm still hacking. How about a little credit for the present bloodbath? The airbrushing is less painful. I'm pretty sure that by then someone will be paying me to fix the manuscript which somehow makes it sound like more fun.

  4. Does anybody hear some noise? I think I hear...wait...yep, it's a waaaahmbulance driving this way. ;)

    It's fun teasing you, Donna, because I know I can get away with it under my editor persona.

  5. Kirk--

    It's also not a bad idea to tease over the computer, where you're safely out of swinging distance ;-D

  6. Good advice, Graham.

    So, Kirk, I've been thinking about Michelangelo and David. God made the block of marble right?
    Michelangelo's job was to chop at it until the David emerged.
    Since I started with the mere idea of a what the unwieldy block of marble would look like and feel like, and then I not only created the swirling color but also the sparkly parts.

    Doesn't that make me God in this scenario?

    Isn't the job of the professional and talented editors to take my colorful marble and help the David emerge? Think about it.

  7. Typical writer's complex: we all think we're God. Chomping at the bit to create worlds, but since our power is limited to pen and paper, we seek publication in lieu of creation.

    Who am I smitin' first?

  8. Wow! Chopping, cutting, slicing, bloodbath, smiting.. I didn't realize our writing blog would be so violent. I feel like I stumbled into an extreme fighting fansite. ;)

    Good job Donna. Self-editing is a gentle torture and you've almost met your goal. Keep hacking without mercy.

    I'm looking forward to reading it!

  9. Cutting, slicing, bloodbath and smiting are pretty universal, Linda...but there can only be one with the power to Chop...

  10. I love a good bloodbath. Good for the skin.