I had a negative writing day yesterday. Which means that if I was the kind of writer who had one of those little word bar thingies going on on my blog, you’d see more white space on there today than you would have yesterday. A lot less. Four thousand words less, as a matter of fact.

This is problematic for a number of reasons. First of all, I’m not the kind of writer who tends to go around throwing out scenes, let alone several chapters. I don’t generally have a whole bunch of “cut scenes” to share with you all after I finish a draft, and if I were to cut 60,000 words of banter from my book, there’d be no book left. Well, in the SSG books, anyway. There’s a definite dearth of banter in the unicorn books, but that’s because I have to leave room for all the bloodshed. There’s a lot less bloodshed in SSG. Anyway, there’s no cutting of 60k from my books.

Except… I did that in Rampant, when I rewrote the book from being in three points of view to being in one POV. It also took about six months to do, and unfortunately, I don’t have six months to finish this book. But, it’s okay, I tell myself. I’m not the only one who has had these types of birthing pains. Look at Scott, who had to toss 16k of one of his manuscripts and start over from another POV. Except, this book isn’t going to be in a different POV book. This is not Extras. It’s more like Pretties. And I already made the choice over a year ago that this book was not going to be about a different character, it was going to be about Astrid.

Also, POV issues is not why I had to throw that 4k away. It was, rather, a plot element that wasn’t working, and every time I looked at it I thought to myself that it wasn’t working, and I tried half a dozen ways to make it work and all of them, to me, read like “this author is really trying to make this plot element work and it’s totally not working” but I didn’t want to go back and change it, because I’m not the quickest writer in the world and tossing out four thousand words and changing the plot is a very, very hard thing to do and the new words would seem insurmountable, but as time passed and my words slowed down becuase every tiem I went to write I kept thinking to myself “not working, not working, not working” and it was like a sour key on a piano that keeps wrecking your melody and all of a sudden I realized that cutting this element, like starting Rampant over from one POV, was the best thing I could possibly do for this book, even though itossing away forward motion on the word count is a very, very painful thing to do.

Why wasn’t it working? Well, I can’t go into details, because that would be too spoilery, but suffice to say that it was a relic of a time when the book was not supposed ot be about Astrid, that it was too coincidental, and that the solution to the coincidental problem not only didn’t resolve the coincidental issue, but it also took the story in a direction that was a little too off-course.

But as soon as I opened up the possibility of getting rid of it, another, far cooler and more relevant plotline popped up to take its place. It will not be 4k of plotline, btu I don’t think 4k will be needed in this case, because I will not have to go through the writerly machinations to shoehorn this one in. It’s much more natural.

And the reason I’m sharing any of this with you (and probably terrifying my editor in the process) is to illustrate that books do not pop out of our heads full formed, like Athena from Zeus. They’re actually quite a bit of hard work to put onto the page. And no matter how solid your idea is, or how fully-formed your world and premise (hey, I’ve already written a whole book about it!) there is still a lot of work to be done actually getting word on the page in a good, readable, powerful, thrilling order.

Okay, that’s aside. Today’s excerptlet from Tap & Gown:

I always confuse fencing outfits with beekeeper uniforms. Not that I’m personally familiar with either one. But if I were watching a movie about beekeepers, and a bunch of folks turned up in fencing outfits, I probably wouldn’t think it was strange. (Unlike, watching, say, a Regency-set piece where they’re all in Victorian clothing, but then again, I’m a Lit major.)

Also, must share. I got an email at 4:22 AM this morning from someone who’d been up all night reading Tap & Gown. And it wasn’t my mom (she, however, was up until 2:30 AM reading it). W00T!

Posted in other writers, Scott, SSG, unicorns, words, writing life

7 Responses to Gah

  1. Saundra says:

    The worst part about big cuts like that is that I know they’re coming. I *like* to tell myself that it will too work, once I do this, or do this, and maybe if I smooth this out and maybe plaster over this… it’s like an exercise in delusion, thus guaranteeing when I finally have to actually make the cut, it hurts like I realized that very day the amputation had to be made.

    Do people in other careers mess with their own minds like this? Do you think surgeons ever stand there going, you know, I bet if I hook this vein up there, and cut out that little bit of tissue, and maybe put a graft in on there, I can totally save this kidney…?

  2. Patrick says:

    I envy your deadline. It forces you to figure out what is driving you nuts, because you have no choice. Since I am totally on spec and writing as a side hobby/business, when it gets hard it is easy to stop and say F! it.

    I’ve got a plot line in a similar situation where it got out of control and I am trying to shoehorn it back in. It’s annoying too, because I am not even working on that plot line next, but knowing that it is screwed has held up the whole project. I tried pushing through and telling myself I could fix it when I was done, but like you I am a cycler.

    Fortunately, I have mentally found the answer, but now I need to go back in and see how much cutting I might have to do. I’m hoping none, but if that’s what I need to do to get moving again…

  3. Tiff says:

    That entire spiel is how I often end up writing my papers. I did that for the last insane paper I wrote–I cut an entire point, at least 7 pages of extra scholarly work. It was painful as hell, but I think it made the paper that much better.

    I keep Word files of most of the stuff I cut, just in case I need it again, or at least so I won’t feel so bad about cutting what was probably an entire day’s work.

    Yeah, that 4:22 e-mail was me–I was a little distraught over a turn of events that I was not expecting at that point in the book. I was up until 6am reading. I might be a zombie today, but it was worth it.

    I’m not going to say anything else, but I think I’m going to post some reviews in a few days. Suffice to say, people, that T&G more than delivers. You’re all going to love it!

  4. Alexa says:

    Until I tried writing one I kind of did think books popped out fully formed. I mean I knew people messed around with word choice etc but I never imagined that the plot and characters would change so much from when I started and are still changing. It’s fun though although a little stressful.

    I was up till the pregnant equivalent of 4am reading tap and gown. (that’s 11pm btw – which is late when your sleeping for two) and agree with Tiff people will love it.

  5. Erica Ridley says:

    Grrr on losing the words, but yay for the sparklier solution that took its place! I feel for you.

  6. Oh, how I feel your pain. But we must be strong, mustn’t we. We must kill our darlings no matter how precious they are.

  7. lenore says:

    At least you figured out how to fix it 🙂 I’ve got a PB manuscript that I still haven’t figured out how to fix *sigh*