Saturday, April 26, 2014

Rummaging in the Plotland Midden

I swore to avoid editing until I finish writing the first draft of this novel. I had good reasons, I thought.  Too much early editing and the story would lose vibrancy and a sense of immediacy.  Too light a touch and the story would remain  unfocused, lacking logic or being inconsistent in the drive to a conclusion (as opposed to THE conclusion, which probably won't be clear until the fifth or sixth revision, if then.)  The reason was also, as I've discovered over the years, that the act of editing changes the story instead of merely imposing structure and clarity.

Such is the case as I struggle onward with this damned novel.  At sixty thousand words of vignettes and encounters I suddenly found clarity of purpose, an overarching plot element that has been at the source of my unease these past weeks.  I had four or five minor arcs but nothing to coalesce the story into a unified whole.  But the halfway point is NOT where you suddenly inform the reader of what the story is really about.  Groundwork must be laid early in the book, foreshadowing must be employed, and you must also add metaphor and imagery of the objective.

But doing that means revisiting the earlier parts and inserting the necessaries. It also means cutting away some crap that no longer fits, adding more stuff to replace it, and perhaps changing the order of events.  Naturally (I am unable to resist) I HAVE to line edit as I do these things - a task I swore would wait until I finished the whole thing and reached the ending I'd only vaguely conceived as I scribbled along.

The conceptual endings for most of my stories, the endings I work toward as I set up the very first scene, inevitably changes by the time I reach them.  They change again during the rewrite when the story's flaws become apparent.  I usually put them into a Swanwick bread safe for a week or two after what I imagine might be the penultimate draft, and upon re-reading, usually fine tune the ending, only to write a completely different one right before submitting.  Don't ask why I do this because I don't know. Is it a flaw of character, of training, of lessons not learned, because every time it happens I swear I will never, ever do it again.

As I will no doubt discover when I reach the end of this piece.   I wonder if there is a malevolent muse sitting deep inside my mind who takes glee in torturing me before finally revealing what should have been apparent at the outset.  So too will it do with this.

As a result of all the foregoing I seem now to be free writing the last half of the piece while modifying and editing the first half so the two will match.  It provides an interesting dialogue as the writing informs my editing and vice versa. Perhaps this combination of focused editing and free association will work best for me.

I hope I learn more as I race to finish this on the schedule I've set up. Stay posted.


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