Tuesday, February 2, 2010

WRT: Revision Roadblocks - Sentimentality is a Dead End

Last month, the cassette player in my truck died. That's right, I wrote cassette player (yes, my truck was built in the last century). For the analogue-challenged MP3 generation, cassettes are those plastic things about the size of an iPod Classic that your parents used to record music on... from their vinyl LPs. (What are LPs? Oh, never mind.) Anyway, the point is, for weeks I mourned the passing of that player. Call me sentimental. I went through the same angst when my 8-track boombox died in high school.

The reason I'm bringing this up is because my reluctance to replace the cassette player with a CD player (or, better yet, a Bluetooth-enabled 4G networked XM-ready satellite radio/MP3 player with Bose electronics), is the same reluctance I struggle with in removing what doesn't work in my WIPs. But there's no denying it: There's no place for private sentimentality in a novel.

For the last week, I've been tweaking Chapter 9 of one of my YA novels. I thought it was because it contained some of the best writing I'd ever done, and while that may be true, it's not the reason I was spending so much time stalled out there. It was because it didn't work. I was engaging myself too much in adoring my lovely words and sentences, that it blinded me to the fact that what I'd written didn't add anything to the story. In fact, it detracted. Once I realized this, you know what I did? I went and ripped out the cassette player from my truck. It felt like I was ripping out my guts. But it made deleting Chapter 9 that much easier.

You've got to do the same with you revisions. Sure, if you're writing for yourself, keep everything. Who cares.But if your aim is to publish your work, you've got to be brutally honest with yourself when revising. Rip out what doesn't work, no matter how much you like it or the way it sounds.

My carpool mates are breathing a sigh of relief. Now, if I can just figure out how to download and make a Lynyrd Skynyrd/Journey/Chicago mix and get it transferred to my iPod, we'll be back in business.

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