Friday, March 2, 2012

Editing drama or a God complex?

You've poured your heart and soul onto the page. You've agonized over word choices. You've carefully crafted descriptions and dialogue. Now comes the dreaded red pen and that nasty delete button.

No matter how hard we try to craft the perfect mix of characters, storyline, dialogue and description, there will be portions of our newly finished work in progress that has to go. Sure taking out a word here or there is easy. Fine tuning a sentence or changing what you describe in a particular scene is no problem.

Then you come to a point when you realize you have to make the big changes. Deleting chunks of your work and even removing entire characters. It's like severing a limb when you have to lose one of those characters. They are our friends. They have been our companions through the wee hours of the night as we've sat huddled over our keyboards pouring our passion onto the page, but there comes a time when you have to say goodbye.

The first time I had to face the fact that I needed to remove a character I was heartbroken. Don't get me wrong, I liked the story much better without the character, but I didn't want to say goodbye to him. I felt like I was killing a friend. It was like a betrayal.

You never really understand how entangled a character is in a story until you have to cut one out. Dialogue, scenes and sometimes whole plot lines have to be removed. When I eliminated my first character, I had to rewrite the whole second half of the book. I felt so bad each time a reference had to be removed.

I do have to admit there are some characters that just beg to be eliminated. I've cringed when writing sometimes thinking about how much I want to get rid of a particular character, but instead I continue the plot. It gets easier the more characters you cut. Sometimes, it's better to delete a character than kill one. I mean sure you can relieve some stress by writing a death scene, but erase them from existence -- talk about power! I have to watch that head rush. I think I might develop a God complex from it all.

12 comments:

  1. Ouch. Been there, done that.
    ;)

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    1. I think we all have at one time or another. It's a funny feeling.

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  2. Seems like a lot of us are going through the chopping stage right now.
    Wagging Tales

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    1. I guess winter was a productive writing season for a lot of us, leaving the upcoming spring as the time to get all that work edited and out the door.

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  3. *grimaces* I hope you don't know something that I don't know, Bridget. My edits should be hitting my inbox any day now. We'll have to see whether I get to hit that delete button and alter a descriptor, or whether I have to go to the garage and pull out that rusty old ax...

    -Jimmy
    http://jamesgarciajr.blogspot.com/

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    1. Hey, Jimmy.

      I hope there isn't too much delete button or axing in your future. Edits are always tricky. Good luck with yours.

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  4. A very early book was so bad I just abandoned it. But I liked how the characters had developed so I tok some of the primary characters and used them as secondary ones in the next book.

    While writing the second one I realised what was wrong with the first one - mostly structure problems requiring a complete tear down and renovation - and returned to it a year later, resurrecting it from the ashes.

    If you have to cut characters, just cut them. Don't kill them. You can, maybe, use them somewhere else.

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    1. I think that is a great way to look at it. Whatever we write might not fit in that book, but you never know if it might be just the missing piece of a different one. Very cool.

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  5. I had a character that wouldn't fit into a novel, no matter how I tried to envision her. Twenty-five pages were written just for her then and never included in the book. She's as real as the other characters, and still lives, but apart.

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    1. I can totally understand that, Joel. Our characters often take on a life of their own. Just because their story doesn't always make it to the page doesn't mean it's not still out there waiting. Never know when they could pop up again sometime.

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  6. I cut about 150 pages of the first 175..... It was painful but the pacing was off..... a rookie mistake I guess. Characters and events near and dear to my heart....gone! That is in the rear view mirror now but the process was painful

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    1. It is tough when you first realize that all that hard work has to be reworked, rewritten and rearranged. The best part is when you've done all that you do have a better book than when you started. It is worth it.

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