First off, thanks to everyone who hung out here for Positive Waves Week, and a special thanks to those who spread the love on their own blogs: MattDel, Stephanie Thornton, and Renee Pinner. I had fun. Next time I feel like crap, I'll do that again.

Now, those of you who follow the Works In Progress section on my sidebar* will notice I'm at chapter 12 of my "2nd Edit" of Air Pirates. Here's context for what that means:
  1. Brainstorming/Outlining/First Draft, in which I wrote the dang thing.
  2. 1st Edit, in which I identified the parts I wasn't happy with and fixed them.
  3. Beta Phase, in which my friends told me what they didn't like about it.
  4. 2nd Edit, in which I fix major problems and rewrite whole chapters.
  5. 3rd Edit, in which I fix minor problems and read through it again to make sure I didn't break anything.
  6. Beta Phase II (or as my mom would call it, the Gamma Phase), in which folks read it again, most hopefully for the first time.
  7. 4th Edit, in which I fix it yet again.
  8. Query, in which I discover how much I've learned since the last time.
So far, I've rewritten 1 chapter and a significant percentage of 7 others. I have at least one more scene and another chapter to rewrite, after which it's mostly tweaking the document for continuity.

It's hard work, but I'm learning firsthand how malleable my story really is. Like the other day, I had to delete a chapter. This was really hard for me because every chapter was originally there for a reason. But I was staring at this chapter for 2 days, and had attempted a couple of rewrites already, when I finally realized that (1) the chapter did nothing that couldn't be done elsewhere and (2) with the exception of 2 or 3 lines, I just didn't like it.

Once I did it (i.e. pressed the Delete key), I freaked out for a minute. Had I done the right thing? Did the chapter have some purpose I forgot about? What if deleting it broke something else?**

But it was also kind of liberating. I don't have to keep anything I don't like. I've come across scenes since then and recognized the same feeling: I don't like it, or something's not working with it, or I'm trying to force it in there because I like bits of it but those bits aren't worth bringing the rest of the story down. Those scenes have been rewritten.

All that said, I hope I never have to delete a chapter again. I mean, it's nice to know I can, but it will mean I didn't plan properly. And that... well that just doesn't happen.

Shut up, it doesn't.

* Which is none of you, I know. But I bet you're scrolling down to look for it now.

** Yes, I realize that the chapter was just an Undo away -- and in older saved versions, on backup drives and e-mails, on the hard drives of all my beta readers... Whoever thinks writers are sane doesn't know any.


Matthew Delman said...

I refute the first addendum, sir. I sometimes ... glance ... at the WIP bar on here. Mostly because I'm scrolling down to read other comments.

But it still counts!

Adam Heine said...

Ha, it definitely counts, sir! And to be fair, I must admit that I didn't update it at all for a month or two while I was writing short stories.

But rest assured, it will be updated regularly from here until at least Beta Phase 2.

Sara Raasch said...

I love this:

"I like bits of it but those bits aren't worth bringing the rest of the story down."

So true. I tend to forget this when I write a particularly snappy piece of dialogue, then find out that the entire scene should be cut. But you're absolutely right -- one snappy piece isn't worth bogging everything down.

Natalie Whipple said...

I'm so proud of you:) I know that sound dorky, but I remember being at that point—when I cut my first chapter. It's scary! But then it's all for the best too.

I'm actually going to be cutting another chapter in another WIP today...sigh. It still sucks, but I know it'll be okay.

L. T. Host said...

Hi Adam :)

Found you because of Renee and MattDel! Interesting post. I always like to see other people's process. Makes me feel more sane.

writtenwyrdd said...

Years ago, I recall being TERRIFIED of deleting stuff. What freed me from the terror (and incidentally allowed me to edit without freaking out) was copying the scene I was changing or the cut section(s) to a Precious Purple Prose file for that work in progress. Poof! No more anxiety.

Glad you are making progress.

Renee Pinner said...

Nothing need be lost forever in this world of electronic files. I too cut out my precious words from my WIP once I decide they're out of place and paste them into a new file to visit later, when I take those long walks down memory lane.

Maybe I'm just not brave enough for the delete key yet.

AM said...

I feel your pain.

My manuscript was complete at 132,000 words. Yikes! I didn’t think I could cut anything.

But I had to cut dozens of chapters. Every deletion seemed to cut a little deeper, sniff, but in the end, the chapters were not missed. It’s like magic. Now my ms is down to a leaner, meaner, and faster 108K.

Malleable. Good word.

Joshua McCune said...

Definitely appreciate this process... takes lots of dedication, patience, and restraint.