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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Whittling Away Words

I'm working on entries for the Kansas Authors Club contest, which are due postmarked on Tuesday. I've got a handful of pieces I've been working on for a few months now, but the problem is that all of them are way over word count. I seem to be in the rambling, generative phase of my writing process rather than the tidying, making things readable phase. I've spent much of today on a piece that was somewhere around 4,000 words, unfinished, when I started. I've pulled it apart and reconstructed it in a couple of different ways. I can usually find three or four essay topics among the first words I spill onto paper, and in the end maybe only one or two of them are worth writing about. Even then, the finished product is rarely anywhere close to what I imagined I would be writing when I started out.

Each time I've tackled the piece--from start to finish--I saved it in a new file marked with a revision number as a way to save my heart the anguish of actually throwing words away. There is no place for sentiment in editing. I know this to be true, yet struggle with it every time. Falling in love with a line does not make it fit. The mood or meaning may belong in an entirely different piece, to be tackled later, or forgotten entirely.

This last revision, marked only #2, netted 1,800 words. I have been known to write 4,000 words an hour on a productive day, and it seems I can whittle about half that in six hours when I'm under the gun.

I needed this deadline. It feels good to be writing with my own voice, topics purely of my own choosing, words I can afford to tuck away and save for a later day.


Anonymous said...

Tracy in the zone!

Anonymous said...

Tracy in the zone!

Frank said...

Wow! Historically, I'd be happy to produce 4000 finished words in a week. However, you are inspiring me because I have lately been trying to stop myself from infinite editing and rewriting in an effort to simply put the basic thought out there in a timely fashion. Power to ya!

LoryKC said...

Hey, we are in the same zone, aren't we? ;)
Good luck!
A deadline is exactly what I need...