I was performing one of my least favorite household chores recently, known as the Seasonal Closet Changeover. (This sounds boring. It is. it is also incredibly awkward and involves a lot of dust and hauling of large boxes. Truly, my life, it is like an opera). Sorry, where was I?
Ah yes. I was in Dante’s fifth ring of hell, surrounded by the enormous bins of summer shoes-hats-purses-gear. And the task is fairly simple: take everything out of said enormous bins, then put all winter boots-shoes-scarves-hats-purses-gear in. Leaving aside the size differential of winter gear to summer, or the fact that my Sorels alone take up the better part of one bin, this job is miserable for one major reason.
We have too. Much. Stuff.
Too much. Just too damn much. As I empty Small Daughter’s winter bin I put in no fewer than six adorable knitted wool hats. There was the strawberry hat, the rainbow hat, the cheetah hat, the flowered hat…I could go on. And then there were the scarves. Many of them knit by her grandmother, and all lovely. But…she doesn’t wear scarves. Pretty much ever. And when she does, she needs ONE. Not nine. But they are all so great, and why would I throw away these wonderful things?
So I shoved all five bazillion scarves-hats-purses-boots into the bins, sitting on them to get them closed, and put the six bazillion pairs of sandals-espadrilles-sunhats-straw-bags in their place. Because I just couldn’t deal. It’s all good stuff, I rationalize. And I hope I can get the closet door shut before it falls back out.
And this brings me to writing. (You knew I was going there, didn’t you?) I have too many words.
Too much good stuff is a problem, especially at the revision stage. The classic writer advice is to “kill your darlings,” to be able to ruthlessly delete the precious sentences that ring like bells when read but serve no purpose. But this shizz is HARD. I recently went through a round of revision which involved writing high stakes new action scenes that put the main character in serious peril, and had him push to save those he loved. Sounds kind of like the climax, doesn’t it? Well, yeah, except I then had another 20,000 words or so, then ANOTHER climax. My wonderful critique partner Kate wrote me amazing notes and suggestions, then, using the words “crazy” “suggestion” and “maybe” several times in a row, she suggested that maybe possibly kinda-sorta I could cut…ya know…that whole second climax thing.
Actually, and I’m not proud of this, but I whined pretty hard. “But I love that scene!” I whined. “But that’s some really really good writing!” I sniveled. “But it’s so cool with the fire and the hog farm and medic tent and all that!” I moaned. (No, I’m not making this up, there was a fire, and pigs). Then, (and this is even more embarrassing), I said, “Well, here’s the thing. It’s pretty close to the end. If an agent reads that far she’ll probably keep reading. And if she tells me to cut, I will.”
Thank god Kate does not back down easily. They grow ’em tough in Edmonton. Ultimately, she has convinced me that rank laziness and wishful thinking will not endear me to the publishing industry. I cut the scenes. They were good, but they were just too much.
But I’ll be honest. Those scenes? They’re all saved in another document. Kind of like the scarves I can’t seem to bear to give away. You never know when something so pretty might come in handy.