This past weekend I killed my darlings.
We’ve all heard the advice and some of us have even heeded it, now it was my turn. I gathered my knives and set upon my manuscript -- it was a blood bath. I cut and I cut and I cut until my novel told from three points-of-view was whittled down to one lone narrator.
My agent suggested it a few weeks ago and I listened, I truly did. She said the story would be better for it. I waited several days before responding to her email, contemplating the pros and cons of each. I called every published author I knew and asked their opinions. When I spoke with my agent later that week, I explained that I really wanted to keep all three points-of-view. She was kind and supportive, trusting I knew what I was doing.
I loved my other narrators! They hummed and belched, sobbed and chattered freely on the page. We had met for so many months as they shared their stories. I would sit in my chair, taking dictation as they settled in next to me. They were too real to let go. I made myself comfortable being inside their heads, while in my own, a niggling doubt pricked away. These past weeks, I’ve tried to make the multiple narrators work: I placed my characters in different settings; introduced new challenges; even tried to tweak a characters personality. All of my attempts felt forced. Still, I couldn’t let go.
Until this weekend when I deleted all of the chapters told from two of the others’ perspectives. Reading through my pages, writing new chapters to replace the hollowed out parts, I began to understand what my agent already knew: The manuscript had a better flow. The problem was some of my best writing was contained within the pages that were gutted. While the passages I adored may have bolstered my vanity, they weighed down the actual story. In a matter of minutes, what took months to create was cut away.
This is revising. It is painful and humbling, terrifying and necessary. Those pages, my favorites, are gone and I mourn them. In the end, though, I have to do what’s best for my story.
So alongside my darlings, I’ve learned to bury my ego. May we all rest in peace.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007