Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Keep. Store. Toss.

I just finished consolidating my two-bedroom apartment into two bedrooms. This meant as I packed up the last couple of years I had some tough decisions to make: what am I absolutely going to need over the next (I hope) few months, what can I put into storage for the time being, and what should I just get rid of all together?

As I considered which box to put everything into I couldn’t help comparing it all to writing. When we first start a project we have a lot of room to spread out. We get to pick setting, mood, themes, and design. We choose how to furnish our world. We play with moving one line to another spot. And we’re free to let our imaginations run wild.

Inevitably that means we also collect a lot of clutter. We craft scenes that expand a character. We create backstory that reveals everything about our world. We add thoughts that tie into the overall theme of an article, and then take us on a related tangent. Then, just when we hit the final period in that last sentence and step back to admire and enjoy our finished project, we discover it’s time to pull out the recycle bin.

I find it fitting that my move came at the same time as I was embarking on a serious rewrite in preparation of sending a book proposal to an editor. As with my packing, I’ve had to consider my entire story and evaluate what is immediately needed to carry the plot, what information could be stored away for later use, and what dialog, subplots, and flat characters needed to be tossed all together.

As adept as I’ve become with it, I abhor moving. I’m one of those writers who loves the creative part that initially comes when writing a story. I cringe when it’s time to rewrite. It’s difficult, yes, but I can now see exactly how it has served to strengthen my writing overall and give my book a more defined purpose and meaning.

At the same time, I get to see how true this is of my overall life as well.

1 comment:

  1. So true, Jen. I also find writing a novel is, for me, a bit like cooking. Right now I'm at the point where I've pulled out every pot, laid out every spice, and opened up every cookbook I have in order to make some decisions about how I want to combine things (and indeed just what it is I'm trying to create). All this is scattered across my notes, brain, and office at this point and looking a bit like nothing more than a mess. The day is coming soon (gulp) when I'll have to start sorting and organizing.