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.