It’s not often that you can gleeful hack apart your best friend, tossing various parts here and there, and recombining them to make a new and even better friend. At least, I hope it doesn’t happen. If you find yourself wielding an axe for that purpose very often, I think it’s better that we stay (at best) good acquaintances.
However, if you love the stories you write (and I hope you do), revising them can be just as painful as choosing to rip that nice arm out of a socket of someone you dearly love.
A few years ago, I wrote a novel. I had a lot of fun with it. Fantasy setting, epic characters, end of the world threats… you know, just fun. Then I decided to revise it and attempt to publish. Yeah, that didn’t work out so well. Back to the drawing board. I revised it a few times, and after a few more attempts at publication, decided the entire thing needed an overhaul. The novel required a pretty complex analysis and a lot of time, so it sat on my shelf for a few years.
This weekend, my wife decided it was time to get the axe.
She made a few observations. We conferenced for a while. And now I’m wrewriting at least a third of the novel from scratch. With her observations, we’ve rearranged plot points, repurposed characters, and trashed a long and slow beginning. And as we’ve talked, I’ve decided for the good of the novel, I’ve had to say goodbye to some favorite scenes. The scenes themselves were well-written, but they didn’t serve the novel itself, so out they went.
My writing time is now going to be devoted to pursuing the novel.
But wait! Just Tuesday I posted part one of a new story! Does this mean it will languish in the purgatory of unfinished tales?
No! That story is part of my pre-writing as I get into the novel again. For a while, I suspect any fiction I post here will be bits and pieces that I’ll use to refamiliarize myself with characters and settings. Badani’s story impacts the novel in a major way, but it’s all backstory. I’m hoping to keep the stories here independent enough from the novel that you don’t need to know the novel itself (which will likely never be posted here, sorry). Let me know if I succeed or fail on that!
And in the meantime… take out an old favorite and see what might end up on the dirty, bloody floor as you hack it to bits in the attempt to make it better. Revise stories, not friends.
And keep that axe away from me.