Monday, May 11, 2009

Cutting Off The Dead Limbs

This past January we experienced a mega ice storm. A half inch of bone chilling ice covered the roads, the power lines, our driveway (I love sliding down the hill to the mailbox) and our trees. I woke up the next morning to see half our very large pear tree laying across our fence. It had split almost entirely down the middle. That afternoon my poor husband got out in the cold and doctored the tree. It looked so forlorn with half of it gone and unfortunately, we can now see straight into our backyard neighbor's kitchen (which means they can see into ours and my baby boy's butt when he gets a bath in the sink). We were sure the tree would have to come down in the spring. How could it survive the ice damage? 

Well spring is here and as I sit at my kitchen window and look out, the pear tree is alive with green, green leaves and tiny but beautiful sprigs of white flowers. Sure, half of it is still missing but I can see a little tiny branch making it's way out. The tree has survived and it's here to stay. 

Like the tree, my current manuscript has suffered some damage. A rejection, the tearing apart of chapters, the deletion of characters and most importantly I (oh God, deep breath) have decided to chop off the entire last half. Yeah, I'm doing it. Because it needs to be done. The third and fourth acts are like those dead limbs - covered in ice, black and deadened - and they need to be removed, put out to the curb for the city to come and pick up. It hurt to do it - to literally highlight 200 pages and hit delete - but wow do I feel good about it. It's like getting a really good haircut and your head just feels so much lighter. The first half of my book was so good, I am so proud of it. When I looked at the second half, the spirit of the book had dimmed. My characters didn't seem like the same people and my voice was just off. But I've fixed that. Now I am going to go back into those first two acts, widen them out, add scenes, people, places and make the book into what I originally envisioned. Make it LIVE. 

I feel good.

Sometimes we need to sit back, identify the dead branches and cut them down. Sure, we're left with half a tree, but that's half a tree ready to grow. 


JenB said...

Congratulations. :) You've discovered something many authors never learn (or never accept), and you've done it early in your career. It may be painful, but it will be worth it in the end. It'll also save you lots of heartache and frustration when it comes time to pass the ms on to your editors. It's less painful to discover your own weaknesses than to have someone else point them out to you. I'm so glad you also recognize your strengths when you see them, and you're able to see that your story is still great, even though it might've had a few "dead limbs".

(Yeah, I'm an editor.LOL)

Keli Gwyn said...

Wow, Emily. I admire you. It's taken me five books to reach the point you're at. I'm glad you took the step and wielded that axe, er, chainsaw and are happier with your story as a result. Here's hoping the end flows as freely as a mountain stream during the spring runoff.