PSA to Authors: Why Writing Is Hard
In the past week the book I’ve been wrestling with like Jacob and his angel has decided to gel, organize, and come out of the chute so fast and clean it’s all I can do to keep up. It’s a wave and I intend to ride it to the end, which hopefully is middle of next week at the latest. It’s what I’ve been doing and why there have been no blog posts, limited social media, and limited everything.
Today, however, as I prepped the next sequence and realized I was ghosting a scene I’d cut, I peeked into the “old stuff” folder to see if I could use the first version or if I should rewrite it. I ended up deciding the latter, though I pasted in the opening for a prompt. While I was there, I looked at the pile of cut material and thought, “I wonder how much I’ve cut from this novel?”
Answer: 35,000 words.
I knew it was a lot, but holy shit, that’s a lot of words. That’s a fucking novella. This too is only the stuff I kept when I cut it. Usually if it’s a whole scene, I drag it to an “old stuff” folder in case I need to use or reference it later, but I axe plenty in media res, and that just goes in the bin. This section was so big because I’d cut 16k in one go, because I knew I’d gone down the wrong road. (It turns out it wasn’t, actually, just that I tried to write the third act opening at the midpoint. I’ll have to rewrite it, but it’s odd how similar they’re going to be.) I had no notion, though, that I’d cut that much again in bite-sized chunks.
Why am I posting this? Well, one, because holy shit, that’s a fucking lot of words, and I’m kind of stunned. Mostly, though, I’m posting this because I can feel that this one has the big sparkle, and someday some of you reading this are going to read this book and think, I love this book! Some of you doing that are authors too, or want to be. Some of you will find this after a bad, bad writing day and be ready to hang up. Some of you might have a pile of novels under your belt like me and maybe you won’t even read this book because you don’t have that kind of time, and right now your writing has you feeling like raw exposed neck tendons and you don’t know how you’re going to live through your next contract.
To all this, I submit the 35k of cut words, and I do it right now like a bet I’m laying down that someday Love Lessons will do very well and be loved, and we can all remember this St. Crispin’s Day moment when it wasn’t done and it had tried to kill me and that I’d had to cut a novella out of it to make it work. And I bet I cut more before I’m done. If you’re a reader, you can relax and think, “golly, glad I don’t write.” If you’re a writer, take up your banner and get back in your trench, because if I can cut that much and more and emerge with a book, then by god, you can do it too.
I’m not kidding, either. Walter and Kelly. You’re going to love them. I’ll go back now and finish so you can share the joy by the end of summer or so.