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Chiseling On Through, Y’all

I have just completed another rewrite of Jazzy and the Pirate. I created a document to hold the cuts I made, in case I wanted to add them back in.

The document is 31,252 words.

That’s 124 pages.

The finished version of this draft is 48 pages shorter than my last draft. (I read once that you don’t have a first draft until someone reads it; I had a paid editor (first draft) then a Beta reader (2nd draft), then another handful of Beta readers, so although I’ve been working on this since God was a toddler, this is my third draft). If you do the math, I wrote 76 new pages and cut 124 pages for a tighter manuscript that’s 50 pages shorter than the most recent draft. I also cut five family members, changed the names of most of the remaining members, demoted a pirate to non-named status, eradicated two plots, and eliminated three entire pages as I slogged through the most tedious chore known to womankind: cutting overused words (“like,” appeared over 240 times, y’all—240 times; I got it down to 58).

That’s why I call it a rewrite: it’s too massive to call a revision.

(It’s also why I go incommunicado for long periods of time—sorry about that.)

The “Hogwarts” library at Rhodes College where I’ve been doing this filthy work

Those are mechanical measures. The question is, do I like the new draft better? Of course I do—I wrote it. I’m being facetious. More often than not, I have to delete chunks of new scenes because they make my skin crawl. This is the strangest process. I write and write, working on a scene to make it perfect, then when I see it in my mind, it makes my skin crawl, and out it goes. Sometimes I can condense what I’ve written into summary, and I’m okay with it. Other times, I highlight the whole thing and zap! I cut it. Same thing with narrative: I write an “amazing” piece of narrative then have to slash it by two-thirds or delete it altogether. In a concession to a slash-happy knife, I do rake through the 124 pages of cuts and reinsert bits and pieces that shine.

In other words, I overwrite my later drafts (whereas I underwrite my first drafts—readers always want more). Then I must sift through the crap to find the diamonds, the same way my mother had to sift through our dog’s crap when he licked her earlobe and swallowed her diamond earring. I also tend to “tell” too much in the rewrites—as in, dammit, you whiney readers don’t get this point, then let me hit you over the head with it. “Chiseling” might be a good word for my later drafts, where I lump on stony sections then have to carve away to leave only elegant lines.

It’s a very herky-jerky, forward and backward, inefficient way of proceeding.

But, obviously, it’s my way.

Now I proceed to “Mr. Computer Reads Aloud.” 🙂

Fun times.

My heavenly nook in the Rhodes College library

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Comments (8)

    • A friend is doing a writing sabbatical, and she inspired me to go to the Rhodes library, which I have always wanted to do. It’s amazing space, and if I go on Friday afternoons, it’s vacant. 🙂 Thanks for the support on Jazzy—I am determined to produce a final version!

  • When did you start writing Jazzy, Ellen? I’m in awe of this process and your tenacity.
    I must try writing in the library. Its been years since I did that.

    • Funny you should ask. I went back and looked (which I’d avoided doing because I didn’t want to be depressed.) The first document I found was an outline in August 2015. I was pleasantly surprised by how short it had been—I rehabbed an existing novel (Jazzy, which was a Southern novel with no fantasy elements) plus I did a lot of research, so it feels longer. The Rhodes library had been calling to me for years, ever since a friend told me that as the wife of an alumnus I could use it. It made me feel professional. 🙂 Do you have a good near-by library?

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