Pulling Out the Stitches

Dear Readers:
Years ago I learned to knit. I attended classes, bought the basic supplies, and started casting on. After rows and rows of consistent knits and pearls, I’d pause to get the big picture. That usually was the point where I started back-tracking, pulling out the stitches to get to the mistakes and fix them, so I could move on. Now I am on my fifth pass at my first novel and I am in the same process un-writing many of my written words. People ask me how is it coming? My usual answer is “slow, very slow.” My story started with inspiration from my true life heroine, Patsy Schwartz, my mother-in-law. It was a tale of her 1939 adventures. Then I had to adapt her real life journey to the established rules of creative writing, adding fictional characters and scenes that spiced up the action or fit into plot elements: the resting point, the black moment, and denouement, etc. The first draft was a mad dash peppered with wordy descriptions, numerous redundancies, and several points where my readers scratched their heads and observed “Huh? I don’t get it.” Many dropped stitches here. What I have found during this editing process is there’s hope for this writer to achieve conciseness while still getting her point across. But it is a painful process – like teasing rather than ripping off a band-aid. I have plowed through my story, one chapter per day, for the past month. There have been mostly cuts with some pastes sprinkled in. I have sentenced thousands of words I thought were unique, clever, or required to the slag heap called my archive folder. Words that sparkled like fine jewels are now mere window glass. Some ideas came from research, others from interviews, and a few were even childhood memories. But many of these things either don’t fit my story or can be condensed to several sentences, and a short ones, at that. But not all ended on the cutting room floor;  a few additions were required – a more sinister antagonist – an embellished sympathetic friendship – a smarter hero. So the freedom of that first draft mad dash is over. What seemed like an immense amount of work at the time is now dwarfed by the need to edit. I have the task of strengthening weaknesses, filling in gaps, clarifying actions. So if you ask me how’s it going I would say “slow, still very slow.” The plot thickens.


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