Monday, November 08, 2010

Between the Black

We were blackening pages, all of us, covering them with charcoal, leaving no traces of white showing, turning them black as Con Edison smoke, as abandoned subway station platforms and third rail rats. As black as vacuum-packed blackness between stars. (LIFE GOES TO THe MOVIES, Peter Selgin)

I think of my friends doing NaNoWriMo this month, of the frenzy of blackening their pages with words, a rabble of courier and times roman and georgia fonts. The beauty of the first draft of anything, be it a novel or poem, a song or a script, is the building up. The thrill of mounting word count, of sentences bleeding into paragraphs, and paragraphs seeping into pages.

I miss the blackness.

My quest these grey November days is to create white space. To cut wide swathes through my story and leave scenes that make the reader fill in between words. When you cross a river, do you remember the water or the stones? I think of each scene as a river rock, the water raging below the page, full of unwritten tension.

I am committing surgery, rather drastic cutting that might qualify for an episode of Nip and Tuck, on BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT. My first novel, one I thought 'finished' over a year ago. I have murdered many darlings, including the opening scene which won me a very nice monetary prize two years ago. But the opening was cliche, dwelled overmuch in backstory, and, as one esteemed small press who actually read the first 50 pages put it, "tried to create empathy for Ben before he had earned it."

Only in hindsight. And yes, the best rejection I have ever received, as it came 16 months after I'd submitted and the house noted emphatically in it's submission guidelines that it does not respond to manuscripts it is not interested in.

So my quest is to create more white space. I have parsed 2,800 words from the first 77 pages. I have miles to go.

Peace, Linda


  1. I like how you have counted the words you have deleted, just as enthusiastically as those who have written 2,800 new words. Well, maybe not as enthusiastically, but at least with as much maternal love.

  2. that is a lot of words!

    and I know what you could do with some of 'em

    Write a poem or two or five.

  3. I love your analogy of a scene being like a river rock and the white spaces being like the river raging under the surface. That's exactly right.

    That is a pretty good critique from that query letter. It's nice, in a way, that they read book proposals that carefully.


  4. This is a beautiful post and so true. Polish, shape, and mold that pottery Linda and don't forget to be proud. It is a beautiful piece of work. Thanks for the update. I was wondering what you were up too.

  5. I tend to do a lot of cutting too when I'm editing my novels. Cutting scenes can be a difficult decision, but it's also strangely freeing.

  6. Editing is its own arduous process. Best wishes on your progress, Linda. You know you have the talent to do it, not that the fact makes the work any easier.

  7. Even your posts about writing are lovely.

    Creating that white space is often times harder than blackening the page. Wishing you all the best in your endeavor, and looking forward to seeing the finished product.

  8. It's more than just hard work. In my opinion it's the real work. Anyone can blather on and on. Writing isn't about the words written, it's about the words NOT written. You know this. You will create a work of art. I feel fortunate to witness a part of the process.

  9. Chin up my dear friend.

    Your blacknesses and your white spaces are in a superlative sphere that I envy. Your writing is a true delight, no matter the word count.

    I do love the brevity and un-ness of the new opening.

    Re: the visage of stepping stones across a river. It is beyond odd that you used that exact image. I have a scene in STEAL AWAY involving Pete, a river, and manufactured stepping stones.

    Anyway -- keep on keeping on.
    I wish you success.

  10. Less is indeed more, especially when it is us who do the cutting. I used to dread the edit pen but have found that it truly is my friend. I do admit however to a certain amount of remorse in the cutting, but for the good of all out they go. Happy murdering.

  11. Thank you dear friends and fellow journeyers -- you give me such courage!

    Lovelyn, thank you for visiting and commenting -- cutting scenes/chapter/characters IS oddly freeing. After the cut, which is itself quite fraught.

    Mark, your words always make me feel so amazingly good. Thank you.

    Kim, re the river stones -- goosebumps!


  12. It takes a staunch heart to cut away words that clutter up our writing. When I was teenager, I felt that editing was like cutting off limbs, one after another, and that the pain of their removal would come back to haunt me like phantom limbs.