Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Blood on My Hands

By Amy

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.


Melissa Amateis said...

Oh, I know this feeling well. That niggling sense of doubt should be heeded at all times because it is always RIGHT. Well, 99% of the time it is.

Good post, Amy. :-)

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Oh, Melissa, isn't this writing stuff hard?

Therese said...

Amy, wow, what a tremendous thing to choose, and then to execute (no pun intended).

What's best for the story is exactly the thing, and I would lay money on this: the new writing that replaces what's cut will be every bit as brilliant as what you cut.

After all, you are still the one at the helm.

Best of luck on your continuing efforts.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Therese, on Saturday when I was struggling with this, I went to your blog and saw your brilliant post about POV. Every writer should read it. I'll have to thank you on the acknowledgment page if this manuscript ever becomes a book.


Therese said...

Amy, I'm just so glad it made a difference for you! No thanks necessary...but I will want you to inscribe a copy of that novel for me when it's out (and I just know it will be, eventually).

Ghost Girl (aka, Mary Ann) said...

Wow, Amy. Such fair murder takes true courage. Kudos to you and to your agent. I hope I can raise the ax when and if the time comes.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

It's a very heavy ax, Ghost Girl. I'm sue you can handle it, though.


Aprilynne Pike said...

Good for you! Revisions can be so difficult! But when they work out right, booy doesn't it just make you happy?

My agent had a few suggestions I didn't like either, but when I decided to just go for it, like you, I found that my agent knew best.

But boy it's hard sometimes.

Congrats to you for sticking in there. Hopefully your book will have that much more of a chance to sell now!


Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Thanks, Maprilynne, please keep us updated with your book. I'll keep my fingers crossed for excellent news!


Larramie said...

Aw, Amy, if only more readers knew the painful sacrifices that writers endure... Here's hoping that your future cuts will only require band-aids.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Thank you, Larramie, my HMO covers only so much. Love those daisies!