In the Hole

Last week, I reached a place in my manuscript where I didn’t like the conversation my characters were having.  It was trivial boy-girl chatter, and nothing was happening: no trouble, no relationship development.  It bored me.  I stepped back to question if the scene was worth revising or if it needed to be in the book, and it didn’t.  So I read ahead to see where danger in the story made me excited again, and it was a good twenty pages further along.

How, I wondered, had this dud section ever been tolerable to me?

I cut out a chunk of manuscript and looked into the hole.  It was a dark, shadowy place, this hole.  Now I needed to get from point J to point N, but I needed a new K-L-M to get me there.  First-drafting the patch meant bringing forward part of the story I’d kept at the edge.  It required developing a routine in my fictional world, developing backstory for the main character, and complicating her relationships.  Even with all these changes, my main character still ended up in a dud conversation over dinner, and the dialogue was murder to write.  I would advance through a couple of exchanges, delete them back, and advance forward again.  Even as I was writing the scene, I suspected I would end up cutting it, but I needed to write it anyway, like I needed to torture myself.  It took me hours to get just a few pages, and they were bad.  Painfully so.

The next morning, when I started again, I saw I could make problems worse (the plot better) by cutting the entire dinner conversation scene.  Yay, and I saw how to go forward, too.

Writing is the strangest process.  Somehow I have to work on the stuff that will be cut in order to reach the stuff that will develop.  It’s true on so many scales right now, in the over-arching shape of the novel, and within an act, and within a scene.  I am fascinated by this project, and lost to it.

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