Writing my 18th century highwayman novel has been a bit of a strain lately - what with looking for affordable housing (no such thing, by the way) and thinking about the process of moving. It's not that I have writer's block, but it's a complicated project and it's been difficult to keep all the balls in the air at the same time (ie: plots and subplots interacting seamlessly), not to mention keeping my mind on my work. Also, the 30,000 plus words are going to have to be pruned a little. At least that's what my brilliant editor has tactfully hinted at. So I'm leaving that story alone for the present. I'll get back to it soon.
Meanwhile, I decided to re-think another story. Same century and same neighbourhood, but different topic. It was going to be the same length too, but ... well that's where the re-thinking comes in. Has this ever happened to you, dear writer? You write page after page of wonderful stuff, and create some great characters and lots of suspense, and yet ... How many 30,000 word books can a person finish whilst holding on to a full time job, a part time job, and dealing with a family that needs to be moved? And don't forget, I'm 62. Time is not on my side.
Yeah, sure, Charles Dickens could have done it, but don't forget Chuck had a Victorian wife who slaved away all day so he could confer with his muse. My husband is a great cook, and he's the only one in the house who understands the vacuum cleaner, but he too has a life outside of work and domestic drudgery. And if I told him I needed to spend a few days alone with my muse, he'd say 'Muse Shmooze.' Actually, he'd probably say, "Okay, go for it," but I'd never do that to him.
So, I don't want to drown in a sea of unfinished stories.
By the way, did you ever read 'Haroun and the Sea of Stories' by Salman Rushdie? Wonderful book.
So ... I ignored all the notes and the gripping chapters etc. and decided to keep only a fragment of the outline, and try to turn the story into a 6,000 word masterpiece. Hmm. Easier said than done, especially the masterpiece part. I'd written about 4,000 words before I realized I wasn't even halfway to where I needed to be. Trimming shears were sharpened. Snip, cut, slash. That was last night. Today on my lunch break I went to the cafeteria, sat alone with my manuscript and a coffee, and - more snips, cuts and slashes. It was as if the three musketeers were editing my story. However, it just might be possible to keep the story interesting without adding 6,000 more words. And it's an exercise in 'less is more,' which we are always working on, right?
It takes enormous discipline to cut out chunks of a story - chunks to which I was so attached. But I am filled with determination.