Deeply immersed over the past two months in a new edit of my young adult novel, "We Are the Warriors," I found myself burning the midnight oil as I plunged somewhat bravely forward. I often find the task of trimming and cutting well-chosen words, scenes and even characters particularly challenging. A short poem I wrote three years ago during an edit (of yes, the same novel) probably describes my experience better.
Daring to Edit
The murderous blade,
That unholy instrument in the writer's hand,
Who dares to take that first cut?
Will it hurt
as carefully chosen words fall
to the floor, rejected?
Where to begin this bloody carnage?
It must start.
We resist, hoping it is not true.
Hoping the diagnosis is wrong.
Will these trimmed limbs
ever be useful again?
Or will they be lost forever?
Such intimate extensions,
Gone, lost, forgotten.
Honestly, my feelings about editing have changed a bit over the past three years. It is still difficult to cut carefully crafted scenes and characters that have been part of a novel for nearly five years, but having a novel that flows and is clear is more valuable than the pain of losing meticulously selected prose. I found the editing this time around rather interesting as I took out unnecessary characters, then inserted a familiar character into a scene.
It was fascinating how the characters had such developed personalities that the dialogue, comments and exchanges became transformed to reflect how differently these people would interact with others. It was a delight to see how the shape of the story shifted and the richness of the individual personalities grew.
I'm not much of a coffee drinker, but occasionally a nicely ground, beautifully aromatic, enticing cup of coffee can help initiate the editing process. During this reflective endeavor I have come to appreciate the gift of editing as an integral part of writing.
Oh, my little foray into the social magazines/tabloids was rather interesting. I found I enjoyed the articles about women, especially strong women, articles about movies and books and the pieces about hot psychological drama. I also found myself attracted to the odd fashion photos, even though I'm not very "fashionable." Just seeing what some celebrities would wear was a kick.
As I thought about writing my own "society article," I realized how little is truly new in human nature and the world. I guess the names, faces and places change. The creative challenge with writing is to have it sound new, exciting and enticing. Maybe letting the unique personalities speak in their voice and also in the "common" voice we all share is the gift of our writing the words down.
The short story I invented was about a strong woman who spray painted the street in front of a church, picketed outside the church on Sunday and took out ads. Needless to say she received threats in response to her activities to fight oppression and injustice and warnings about losing her ultimate salvation. Sounds too true to be made up.
How do strong, intelligent women live in the world? Our lives are a true story.