Progress Report, Week 1:
After finishing that last section of Kindred, thus bumping my 217,000 word count up to 286,000, I’ve faced the challenge of trimming it back down again to something remotely publishable in size (which is far less than 217,000). It’s a major challenge, but I’m hopeful. After finishing that last section of the story relatively quickly, I’ve learned a thing or two about pacing (and from my uber-helpful beta reader, Lauri). The first half of the book is very s-l-o-w paced. Line by line as well as in the over all story telling.
So, line by line I’m trimming it up, and here and there I’m yanking out Big Chunks that, while interesting for whatever reason (to me, anyway!), they aren’t moving the story forward enough to warrant their inclusion. I cut out a chapter and a half after the first scene, and a large chunk of another scene a little further in. I’m looking at the rest of that latter scene, wondering if it should all go, and there’s a chapter I trimmed down today, just under 2000 words, that also may end up on the cutting room floor eventually. I’ve edited through what used to be the first 9 chapters (now reduced to 7 chapters), and have lost 10,000 words.
Each morning begins with prayer for insight and inspiration on how to better tell this story, where I need clearer focus, where something is only muddying the waters, and for the steel it sometimes takes to cut out passages I’m fond of. It also begins with thanksgiving for the work of the previous day. If God has a plan for this novel beyond the blessings I’ve received in writing it, then I want Him with me every step of the way, in every word I put in and every word I take out. I want Him to be pleased, first of all.
During this edit I’m looking for themes to emerge, or symbols, or deeper layers that can be focused and strengthened. I’ve been reading a writing craft book, Word Painting by Rebecca McClannahan (link to Amazon’s listing over in the side bar). In the chapter titled Figuratively Speaking, she talks about symbols.
A symbol means more than itself, but first it means itself. Like a developing image in a photographer’s tray, a symbol reveals itself slowly. It’s been there all along, waiting to emerge from the story, the poem, the essay–and from the writer herself. Symbols are powerful figures, capable of bearing the weight of a hundred lesser metaphors. When a symbol grows organically from its source–character, setting, conflict, plot, language and from our own passions–it can enrich our writing. But when it feels forced, self-conscious or merely placed over a piece of writing, it brings the whole house down with it.
Just this week I’m seeing a symbol cropping up in Kindred, maybe because I have stripped so much clutter away it’s finally clear: an arrow. A literal arrow. An arrow of geese. An arrowhead a character finds and keeps, and eventually treasures. Someone’s determination likened to an arrow. Not sure if it will end up being the uppermost symbol, in the end. Maybe so, maybe no.
Water is also a symbol. Rivers and creeks (and crossing them or not) play a part in this story. As does the symbolic River Jordan, on the far banks of which lies freedom.
Starting word count: 286,598
Current word count: 276,569
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