Thursday, August 16, 2007

It's Just Words, or The End of the Beginning - Round 6

Late last night I pushed the 'upload files' button and the penultimate section of BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT whizzed through cyberspace to my on-line writing group, the NUDGE-NUDGE COLLECTIVE. Three chapters away from 'The End'. In my mind, those two words taste like 70% cacao extra fine dark chocolate, the sweetness melts on my tongue, replaced by a faint, smoky bitterness.

The End. But is it ever really over? Does a story ever really end? I have typed 'The End' five times and sometime in the next month or so I will key those words in for the sixth time. Mark Spencer, my writing instructor in Advanced Novel Writing (WOW Online) tries to console me: "Do you know how many times Ernest Hemingway rewrote the ending to A FAREWELL TO ARMS? I think the number was 19." Arghhh.

This particular round was different from the first five. In this revision, I dumped the Swiss Army knife and picked up a chainsaw. This time, I didn't simply excise adverbs, elevate prose, futz with dialogue tags. Uh-uh... round six was major cosmetic surgery: liposuction to the tune of 40,000 words, scenes implanted to flesh out the voice of my second protagonist, tummy-tuck a dreary and overlong section where the first protag wallows in a psychiatric hospital. It was bloody.

I'm not sure where this courage came from, but I remember one morning late Spring, after tossing all night worrying about people and events who only exist in my imagination, I woke up and my first thought was: "It's just words."

How liberating.

Years ago, when my preferred creative medium was clay, my frustration with working with the soft and temperamental porcelain began to exceed my joy. A clay friend and mentor uttered a similar sentiment when I sobbed as we unloaded a kiln and discovered every single vessel fractured with large cracks: "It's only clay."

Now I view my editing as I do my clay work: tucking and nipping and smoothing and dabbing. Building and shaping the armature. Sometimes huge chunks require excision. Other times, handles and feet and other parts need adding. But in the end, I sculpt my story in the shape and form I choose.

Three chapters left. Then back to Chapter One...

My mind tugs me back to the cool, morning haze. Legs pump hard, push through a sea of lanky, shin-guarded limbs. Someone kicks, the ball rolls out from our tangle of boy bodies. My feet follow, bound down the still dewy field smelling of sweet hay and mud. Whistles pierce the murmuring tide of excited yelling...

Yes, back to the starting line... I can barely wait. Peace, Linda


  1. If you're novel is any reflection of your brilliant use of metaphors, albeit some to the tune of a serious horror flick, I'm looking forward to its release. Bless the mind that can weave a fictional world as vivid and intense as the complex "real" world. I look forward to following your journey.

  2. Mark Spencer was my writing mentor for my novel and many of my short stories. There is no one better. Good luck with your writing.