Monday, February 21, 2011
I have reached the point with revisions that there is now so much changed/new material alongside so much old material that does not match it that the story is what I think of as "broken." The new material is superior to what it replaces and I have a plan for how to rewrite the old material that doesn't properly match it, but even so this is the point during revisions that I traditionally panic, when I've got a narrative that no longer hangs together properly. It's not quite either fish nor fowl just at the moment; the patient is on the table and I seem to have a bunch of spare parts and I'm short a spleen and possibly one kidney as well. Write your own metaphor.
This is my unhappy place and I'm suffering all the usual worries. What if I can't fix it? What if the experiments I'm trying don't actually work? Can't I just cut all the new material and see if the novel still works without it? Wouldn't that be easier and a lot faster? Why in God's name have I been reading Beckett while revising? Who thought that was a good idea? Now that the novel has an added layer or two of complexity and ambiguity, is it actually a better novel, or is it just more complex and ambiguous? Is further muddying the waters as a way of refusing to moralize in my fiction a good choice or is it a form of cowardice? Is the rewritten/new material so much better than the 70,000 or so words of writing I've left alone that I need to rewrite the entire fucking novel from start to finish now? Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. But this too shall pass, and all I need to do is keep working. The book's better now than it's ever been and will only improve with these rewrites and that's all that matters.
Mostly I wrote this post so I'd have an excuse to put up the photo of the MS spread out on the desk in the Designated Writing Room. Mighty Reader is in the living room, messing about with photos of the red-tailed hawk we saw this afternoon while following the trails through a wetland. A red-tailed hawk will tell you that no bird is so fine as a red-tailed hawk. It was some fun. There were also a great many goldfinches, red wing blackbirds, ducks, cormorants, wrens of various sorts, sparrows in a plethora of styles, hummingbirds, gulls, Canada geese and more robins than I care to count. A robin will tell you that no bird is so fine as a robin. Don't let me forget to mention the western scrub jay, too, as well as hundreds of European starlings. A European starling will tell you that no bird is so fine as a European starling, but he will be lying to you. In the late afternoon, just as we were leaving the wetland, we saw about 18 great blue herons taking to the air a hundred yards to our east, the birds' immense wings shining hot like brass and hammered steel in the golden sunlight. A great blue heron will tell you that no bird is so fine as a great blue heron, and he will be telling you true.